Author Photo
Written by: J. Todd Tenge

What is the Difference Between an “Accident” and “Negligence?”

| Read Time: 4 minutes
accident vs negligence

There are times when injuries happen due to unexpected occurrences that are entirely out of your control, like a natural disaster causing you to lose control of your car.

Then, there are situations where your injuries result due to another person’s negligent behavior. If you suffered injuries in an event, you may wonder whether it classifies as an accident or negligence.

Understanding the difference between negligence and an accident is essential, as it can affect your path to collecting financial compensation for your losses. Read on to learn more about an accident vs. negligence and what you can recover.

If you have questions, or would like to speak with a Denver personal injury attorney, please contact us today.

What is Negligence? 

Negligence in a personal injury case occurs when a person fails to act as a reasonable person would have in a similar situation.

Negligence may also constitute doing an act that a reasonable person would not do under the same or similar circumstances to protect themselves or others from bodily injury.

If you believe you suffered injuries due to another person’s negligent conduct, Colorado law requires you to establish and prove four essential elements.

The four required elements of negligence are the following: 

  • Duty. An injured plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care. For example, all drivers owe everyone else on the road a duty of care to operate their vehicle reasonably to avoid injury or damage.
  • Breach. Once a duty is established, the victim must prove that the defendant breached this duty of care. In the driving example, a driver may breach this duty of care if they were texting while driving, and their failure to pay attention to the road ahead caused a collision.
  • Causation. The plaintiff must prove that their injuries resulted from the plaintiff’s negligence. For example, if a defendant texted while driving, their inattention resulted in them colliding with the plaintiff. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff suffered severe injuries – this causation element would likely be satisfied. 
  • Damages. The plaintiff must show that they suffered damages due to the defendant’s negligence. Damages include losses due to medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, and pain and suffering.

While the elements of a negligence claim appear straightforward, successfully proving these elements requires the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney. 

What is the Difference Between Negligence and an Accident? 

Accidents usually occur due to unavoidable reasons and not due to someone’s actions. For example, a tree falling on your car during a storm or other natural disasters would represent accidents by definition. 

Negligent behavior can happen at any time. Below are common examples of negligent behavior in personal injury cases.

  • A driver fails to use their turn signal while merging and forces a motorcyclist to drive off the road, leading them to suffer catastrophic injuries. 
  • A distracted driver looks at their phone while approaching an intersection, hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk. 
  • A customer slips and suffers injuries in a grocery store because of a liquid spill that wasn’t cleaned up in a reasonable amount of time. 
  • A doctor fails to recognize an illness’s symptoms, which results in a delayed diagnosis and causes a patient to die because they did not obtain treatment in time. 
  • A consumer uses a product as intended, but the parts were manufactured incorrectly and caused injuries. 

Your attorney investigates how your injuries occurred to determine whether it was negligence vs. an accident and hold the correct party responsible. 

How is Liability Determined in Colorado? 

There may be situations where your injuries occurred due to a combination of another’s negligence and your negligence. For example, a driver may have collided with your car after failing to yield to stop signs.

However, you may have been looking at your phone and couldn’t stop in time to avoid the collision. Despite your own negligence contributing to the crash, this does not prevent you from recovering damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Colorado operates under a modified comparative negligence system in personal injury cases. Under this system, any party involved in an accident and suffering injuries can recover compensation if they are less than 50% responsible.

The total amount of recoverable compensation for injuries and other losses is reduced based on their percentage of fault.

What Damages Can I Recover? 

If you suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, Colorado law permits you to recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages represent calculable losses, including: 

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings, and
  • Property damage. 

Documentation supporting these losses may be found through invoices, pay stubs, and receipts. Your attorney also uses this documentation to calculate an accurate value for these economic losses. 

Noneconomic damages include subjective losses, usually resulting from the psychological and emotional effects of your injuries. These damages include the following: 

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional distress, 
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, and
  • Permanent disfigurement or injury.

Recovering noneconomic losses is vital to moving forward with your life. However, due to their intangible nature, these damages are difficult to prove without a qualified personal injury attorney. 

Contact a Denver Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At The Tenge Law Firm, clients contact us when they have experienced something truly terrible and life-changing.

Our mission is founded on the profound responsibility to prioritize our client’s physical and emotional well-being during one of the worst times of their life.

We provide support in more than just the law but also serve as a confidant, advocate, sympathetic ear, and friend. Our goal in every case is to achieve the best possible result for our clients as quickly as possible.

In the last ten years, we’ve recovered $50 million on behalf of our clients. We know that each case and client is unique, so we always work directly with our clients to meet their specific needs.

The Tenge Law Firm has been recognized in the community for its professionalism, legal experience, and client care in personal injury cases.

Contact us by phone or email to learn how we can assist you. Even if we can’t represent you in a lawsuit, we can offer guidance for your best possible path forward. 

  • Contact us now. *Required Fields