General Question

spendy's avatar

Do you believe in "accidents"?

Asked by spendy (1444 points ) April 4th, 2008

Isn’t that really just a conscious or subconscious decision not to pay enough attention or be responsible for your actions? Do you believe people are victims of circumstance or do they make a series of poor decisions that result in what is later called an accident, when refering specifically to their actions? I believe an accident can happen to you…but I sometimes question whether someone at fault has the right to claim that their actions resulted in an accident.

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43 Answers

delirium's avatar

Yes. I believe in accidents.

spendy's avatar

But do you believe that an accident only happens to someone…or that people can also cause accidents and actually claim that their actions were accidental? Is is really an accident if you knew you weren’t paying attention, even on a subconscious level?

El_Cadejo's avatar

Hmm you put forth a very interesting question. Hmm like say if i accidently knocked a can of soda off my desk. I didnt really mean to do it, but my previous actions led to the can of soda falling therefore it is all really my fault. But then again isnt that just an example of the definition of accident
“an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap”

“any entity or event contingent upon the existence of something else.”

Zaxwar91's avatar

Sure. What they said.

skwerl88's avatar

Of course someones actions can result in an accident. How does an accident happen to you otherwise? an accident is “any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.”

Furthermore; for the lack of attention to something—It can’t possibly be expected of someone to pay attention to everything… You can accidently step on something because you’re busy with something else, something more important. You can cause an auto accident because you’re avoiding another. Of course, accidents are often used as scape-goats for poor decisions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Randy's avatar

I think what your looking to say is that people use the excuse of an accident when they shouldnt. Sure accidents can happen to AND because of people. A lot of times, which I think your saying, is people who did somthing use the term accident because it more easily gets them out of trouble. Now that, I believe, is very true.

spendy's avatar

I guess I’m truly questioning the way we commonly use the word. My problem is when the person who causes harm immediately shouts, “Oh, that was an accident!”

It just seems irresponsible to cling to the word “accident”. It’s like batman said, either it’s your fault or not. You did it, or not. The definition does state ‘an unfortunate happening…’ but I debate whether or not the intentional actions that result in an unintentional outcome can also be refered to as accidental. I don’t think we can call something an accident just because our intentional actions caused something harmful to happen that we didn’t anticipate or calculate. That’s human error, of course, but something we should, as humans, be responsible for. The problem is that people always lump these actions/outcomes together and seldom have to take responsibility unless faces with legal action.

Say you’re rushing through a crowd in a hurry and push someone into the street. Your actions resulted in an accident for someone else…but can you say that you were “accidentally” rushing without paying attention? We make a conscious decision to rush and place our focus solely on ourselves, don’t we? So, while an accident happened to someone else…were our actions really an accident?

El_Cadejo's avatar

I like the way you think spendywatson and i completely agree. It wasn’t an accident at all, we through the decisions we made caused that to happen. Though not our original intention, it is still completely our fault and people often just use it as an excuse for their ignorance.

spendy's avatar

…or lack of willingness to take responsibility. Who ever says, “You have my sincerest of apologies. I decided not to pay attention to anyone but myself and spilled coffee in your lap.”? Nope. It’s always, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. That was a total accident! I think I must have stumbled over that tile that was poorly installed last week by the flooring company guy who has no idea how to do his job. We’ll sue him for this.” lol

Zaxwar91's avatar

Sometimes, unexpected things happen that we dont expect to happen. Sometimes we ourselves dont take the blame

shared3's avatar

I think people are overthinking this question. To me, its just a matter of semantics, and the way the word accident is defined is as uberbatman said. (“an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap”). Though it may ultimately be your fault, the proximate factor is that you unintentionally did something.
To me, this is reminiscent of an argument I had with someone about what constitutes lying, and whether if you were wrong about something, but didn’t know it, were you lying or not?

It all boils down to semantics (though i will admit interpretation also plays a part).

bassist_king1's avatar

well if you get injured playing sports and u wernt intending to get hurt or hurt yourself then that would be an accident. if u didnt intend on doing something, and it happens anyways, than I would call it an accident.

Zaxwar91's avatar

but thats an accident caused by whoever hurt you. It could have been an accident from your perspective, but maybe not from the other persons

trainerboy's avatar

I believe there are no accidents and that we are never victims. What we call accidnets are lessons we call forth. We may not call forth “how” these lessons come, but we do call them forth.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@trainerboy how do you figure we are never victims? If say someone were to be murdered are they not a victim?

trainerboy's avatar

Nope. Not in my experience.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Victim-One who is harmed or killed by another:

if i were to hypothetically meet you in life and kill you would you not be a victim of my murderous ways?

El_Cadejo's avatar

… im sorry i dont follow. How are you not a victim then? Or do you just not understand the meaning of the word?

trainerboy's avatar

I have taught and coached victim/accountable for years. I do not believe we are victims. That is the most powerless place to be. We are accountable for everything in our lives.
I don’t believe you would follow on this site, it woudl take a lot of pages to get across the message of accountability. I was answering the question asked, accountable that some people would not see it the way I do.
I will say that being accountable is one fo the most liberating concepts, if we grasp it. Being a victim is a powerless place to be.

spendy's avatar

@trainer…so what you’re basically saying is that we are constantly putting ourselves in specific situations, with specific people and in specific places. Those are all intentional actions (in one way or another). Being accountable demands that we take the responsibility for those actions/decisions, correct? How much more is there to it than that?

trainerboy's avatar

Sometimes it is through conscious choices, sometimes unconsciously but everything comes into our life for a reason, to assist us to learn and move forward. Part of the challenge is that we go into judgment of how the lesson comes, so instead of learning the lesson that we have called forth, we choose to be vicitms. Life in its loving way continues to serve up the lesson we call forth so that we can learn.
A key to accountability is there is NO BLAME for anyone, including myself. That is a tough one sometimes to swallow but if we blame in any way, we are victims and therefore powerless, even over ourselves.

shared3's avatar

I think that the theory that everybody is always accountable for things that happen to them is pretty bad, especially for coaching victims…What about for example, a rape victim? Going through life thinking you’re responsible for being raped would be pretty depressing.I can see that the reasoning in using that kind of thinking to teach addicts or something, but definitely doesn’t hold up to many situations.

trainerboy's avatar

@shared. All I can tell you is that I have coached many women through accountabilty who had been raped and where once was pain, guilt and judgment, they found peace and healing within. I am ok with that. Once they get what accountability means, taking blame out and breaking through their anger and belief that they are victims, they have found freedom.
I believe you are asociating accountability or responsibility with blame. Their is no blame in accountability.

spendy's avatar

@trainer, so we need, according to your accountability philosophy/beliefs, to accept the things that happen to us in our life and understand that they have happened for a reason, as a lesson of life. We treat these situations, whether good or bad, as a stepping stone toward what is to come and how we can better live our lives from there, having digested the lesson brought forth. The emphasized key to this philosophy would be that everything happens for a reason and we are not victims of the situations in our life. If I am kidnapped and held hostage, whether freed or killed, people will learn from this event or situation and possibly grow stronger and more aware. Is this along the lines of your thinking? I’m looking for clarification and don’t believe that our lines of thinking are terribly far removed from one another. My belief regarding accidents (aside form having a terrible struggle in accepting the symantics of usage) is that people are never accidentally involved in anything. I’m taking this to a greater scale than just what I believe to be the irresponsibilities behind the usage of this word. There are more to chance happenings than meets the eye. I believe that coffee being spilled in your lap shouldn’t be written off as an accident by the person who made the decision not to watch his/her step. In this case, I view the person who caused the situation as someone who is also adopting a victim role by even saying/thinking the word “accident”. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. That said, the person with the hot, wet lap need not say to themself, “Man…I can’t believe this happened to me.” That would also make them a victim in the situation, and in being the victim there arises a serious identity with self and the ego. In their mind, it has become a situation involving them, something that happened to them and no one else. The greater lessen is lost. I see things like that as an opportunity to exercise understanding, compassion and, more importantly, (as you would say) accountability. The event that took place may likely change the course of their day, put them in different places than had it not happened. They chose to sit in the coffee shop, and with that comes the responsibility of accepting that they are accountable for what happens within the dwelling and how those events will carry on through the day/week/etc. Every decision affects the next, etc. Even on this small (and what might seem to be silly) scale, in regard to spilled coffee, there is a greater purpose…and there is nothing “victim” about that.

spendy's avatar

…sorry, semantics, not symantics of usage. Caught it late…

trainerboy's avatar

@spendywatson…I would say yes basically to what you are saying.
Believe me, I considered whether to answer this or not knowing that even when I am face to face with people, learning accountability for our life is a challenge. I have spent a lot of time and I am still learning this. I probably will for the rest of my life. However, the more I learn, the more I realize that I am in control of my choices, my circumstances and my life and that is far more liberating than when I embraced the idea that I am a victim.
It can be very gratifying to see someone who for years, for one reason or another, believed they were a victim of something, realize that they can be free of that belief if they will embrace the lesson of it and how it was created. I have literally felt a huge weight being lifted from them, and in fact, they were the ones who were letting go of the weight! By letting go, they were setting themselves free.

spendy's avatar

@trainerboy, your words resonate with my beliefs. I was one of those people who, for a long time, longer than I like to admit, chose to identify with being a victim. Life is funny though, and the struggles and challenges I faced throughout my life somehow brought me to this grand revelation that there are no victims in this world…or at least, no one should claim to be. There is so much power in taking responsibility for your life, your actions and how one and/or the other can affect one or both in someone else or even the masses.

trainerboy's avatar

@spendywatson…I could go on. As I said, I am still learning myself and always will be. The real challenge, the thing that is key to learning from lifes lessons is to eliminate blame for anything or anyone, even from yourself. To blame is to be a victim of something, so it is not about blaming . So a woman who is raped, in being accountable, it is not about blaming herself, but learning, especially if she does not desire this to happen again.
What we focus on expands so if we believe we are victims, we will simply create new ways to be victims and be stuck in a pattern. Our consolation prize of blame may get us pity and sympathy, but these are very shallow payoffs compared to the freedom of accountability.

Poser's avatar

Several years ago, the Naval Safety Center stopped using the word “accident” to refer to unintentional casualties involving personnel or equipment. The reasoning was that the word “accident” implies something without a verifiable cause; the result of some unknowable force. Instead they use the word “mishap.” It’s sometimes referred to as the swiss cheese theory: think of many slices of swiss cheese, with each hole being some measure of carelessness or inattentiveness. These things are impossible to eliminate entirely, and complications such as operational tempo, family issues, morale, etc. only work to increase the number of holes. Normally, the holes are few and far enough between that no mishap occurs. But when the holes align—somebody gets hurt or killed.

The idea is that there are no “accidents.” There is always a chain of responsibility, and you can work to overcome the complacency that are the swiss cheese holes. Hopefully, they won’t line up.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

@Poser , responsibility has nothing to do with it. Intent is what makes something an accident or not. My 2 year old spills her milk. She didn’t intentionally spill it so that makes it an accident. No one is denying she is responsible for the spill.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

I think those folks who are claiming there are no accidents, and are going into overly long explanations about responsibility are overly complicating a very simple concept.

Dutchess12's avatar

I think that real accidents CAN happen, but I also think that most of the time “accidents” can be avoided.

Dutchess12's avatar

@The_unconservative_one About your daughter spilling milk…sure it was unintentional, but if it was a big thing for you (for some reason) you could find a way to prevent that accident from happening….

The_unconservative_one's avatar

@DutchCat Yes, but I didn’t say that some accidents weren’t preventable. But they do exist. Some of the posters above are saying that accidents don’t exist. They assume (I guess) that because I didn’t give her a spill proof cup, I caused the spill to happen.

Dutchess12's avatar

No Anti—you didn’t cause the spill! My only point is, MOST accidents can be avoided. Like, car wrecks….most of them can be avoided if people would stop driving with their eyes closed and stuff.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

I agree Dutch that some accidents can be avoided. Even if they might have been avoided, they are still accidents, unless they were intentional.

Dutchess12's avatar

I agree witch you!

Poser's avatar

@The_unconservative_one

I don’t think we are in disagreement here. I’m not saying (nor is the Naval Safety Center) that accidents/mishaps can be avoided entirely. But since we in the Navy, by definition, do certain things that are inherently dangerous, it is beneficial to identify the causes of mishaps and apply lessons learned to help avoid future mishaps. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of these “accidents” can be avoided, simply by removing one or more of the human elements that went into causing them. Most mishaps are, in fact, due to human error. You can’t remove all risk, but you can minimize it to a more acceptable level.

If spilled milk is completely unacceptable to you, then don’t give your child milk. If it’s important that your daughter get her RDA of calcium, and spilled milk is unacceptable to you, then you’ll institute controls to mitigate the risk that she’ll spill it. Sippy cups, straws, supervision, etc. You may not prevent a spill, but you’ve minimized the chance of one happening.

My point from above was simply that, while there are “accidents” that have no preventable cause, most mishaps can be (and are) prevented. Calling every regrettable event an accident implies that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

@Poser I disagree. What determines whether or not something is an accident isn’t whether or not it was preventable. What determines accidents by definition is intent. Period. If you didn’t intend to do it, it was an accident.

Poser's avatar

@The_unconservative_one There is a difference between intent and negligence. Rarely is an automobile accident intentional. Usually, it is preventable.

When an airplane crashes in the Everglades because the entire flight crew was troubleshooting a burned out light-bulb and doesn’t notice that the autopilot is losing altitude, that is a mishap. When a perfectly maintained aircraft takes off in New York and takes a goose into the engine intake and the pilot sets it down perfectly in the Hudson without a single injury, that is an accident.

In neither case was there an intent to crash an airplane. But surely you can see the difference between the two. The former was entirely preventable, caused by negligence on the part of the entire flight crew. The latter was almost certainly unpreventable. Calling the first one an accident takes away responsibility.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

@poser you are comparing apples and oranges. Negligence goes with responsibility. Responsibility doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not something is an accident. Just because you can find out what caused an accident doesn’t make it any less of an accident. Whether or not something is preventable has no bearing on whether or not it is an accident. Why is that hard to understand?

Webster’s definition “1 a: an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance b: lack of intention or necessity ”

Poser's avatar

@The_unconservative_one The question asked whether we believe in accidents. I believe that there are certainly unfortunate events for which there is no identifiable cause. However, there are far more of what you would call accidents, for which there is a very preventable, very human cause. I don’t consider these things accidents.

You are correct, however, that negligence implies responsibility. IMO, everyone involved in an accident has the responsibility to prevent it, even if it was caused by someone else. I have the responsibility to prevent an automobile accident, even if the other driver is talking on a cellphone, or putting on makeup, or grooming their dog while driving. They may be at fault, but if I have the opportunity to prevent it, then it is my responsibility. They may not have the intention of running into my car, but they certainly had the opportunity (and responsibility) to prevent doing so.

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