“Accidents happen” is an expression we often hear when a person is attempting to make an excuse for causing harm to another person. There seems to be an implication that, if the resulting harm was not intentional, the person who caused the “accident” should be off the hook, legally speaking.
This simply is not true, at least not in most cases. While accidents do sometimes happen without it being anyone’s fault, such as when a child runs out into traffic unexpectedly, accidents usually happen when someone does not behave in a reasonably prudent or careful manner. This is where the civil law of negligence comes into play, and the injured party (or the family of a deceased person) pursues a claim against the responsible party and, if successful in proving the traditional negligence elements of duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation, can receive compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Sometimes, a driver’s carelessness or recklessness can result in not only money damages being owed to the victim of an accident but also possible criminal prosecution. A recent incident here in North Carolina illustrates this point.