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An accident is a sudden, determinable time and place and acting from the outside event in which a natural person involuntarily a body damage (up to the death suffers) ( personal injury ) or a thing is inadvertently damaged ( damage ).


The most common accidents for physical harm are falls , traffic accidents , household accidents , sports accidents and burns, as well as penetrating injuries (primarily stab wounds and cuts) and electrical accidents . Cause of the accident is in most cases human error or human faulty action . Other accidents for physical injury include machine accidents, construction accidents (differentiated into building construction accidents and civil engineering accidents), mining accidents, mountain accidents, offshore accidents, water accidents, electrical accidents (electrical accidents) , fire accidents, compressed air accidents ( e.g. when diving ) and radiation accidents .

While the German Insurance Contract Act (VVG) does not provide a definition for property insurance , the accident within the framework of (personal) accident insurance is defined as follows in Section 178 (2) sentence 2 VVG: “An accident occurs when the insured person has an event that suddenly affects your body from the outside involuntarily suffers damage to your health. ”In the context of property insurance, the term“ accident ”is defined by the insurers in their general insurance conditions. There are also deviations in the formulations, which can result in a different scope of insurance coverage.

Limitations on personal injury

The demarcation between minor accidents and injury is not clear. The German Insurance Association also speaks of accident when a joint by an increased effort on limbs or spine dislocated is or muscles, tendons, ligaments or capsules dragged to or torn. In contrast to illness, the event that damages the body only has a limited impact in an accident . In common parlance, an accident is also used when there is no personal injury. A thing cannot suffer an accident, but can only be damaged in an accident.

An accident is based on a cause of the accident , namely force majeure , technical or human failure . According to the model conditions of private accident insurance , an accident occurs when the insured person involuntarily suffers damage to health due to an event that suddenly affects the body from outside (accident event). According to case law, this also partly excludes cases in which the insured person's own movements are the cause of the injury (e.g. increased physical exertion during sporting activities). The accident research has to reconstruct the target sequence and cause an accident. In addition to aspects of insurance law, knowledge should be gained from this that can be used to develop regulations and approaches for accident prevention . Trauma surgery and the trauma hospital specialize in medical treatment, and accident insurance in legal and financial processing.

An omission (for example, is a snowy sidewalk not cleared), the probability of an accident ( accident rate ) increase. However, the failure to do so cannot be described as the cause of the accident , because a passer-by might have fallen even if the person responsible for road safety had carried out the winter service as prescribed (see causality ).


An accident is the "sudden, unintended damaging effect of an unusual external factor on the human body, which results in an impairment of physical, mental or psychological health or in death".

Delimitation of property damage

The accident with property damage is differentiated from an operational damage in which the cause of the damage did not occur from the outside, but solely due to an internal process. This delimitation is relevant for the obligation to enter into comprehensive insurance , which basically only regulates accident damage. Operational damage occurs when a component belonging to the vehicle or machine causes consequential damage to the vehicle or machine. The insurance does not cover damage caused solely by the vehicle or the machine itself. Damage caused by general wear and tear is also not an accident. They lack the criterion of suddenness, even if the immediate failure of the machine due to wear and tear occurs suddenly. Wear and tear are calculable for the insured and therefore not a particular risk. A sudden collision with a strange part that does not belong to the vehicle or the machine speaks for an accident. Incorrect fueling of a vehicle and the resulting engine damage are counted as operational damage. Choosing the wrong fuel can be compared to installing an unsuitable spare part and thus an internal operating process.

In addition to operational damage caused by an internal operating process, damage due to operating errors or overuse without external influence is also separated from the accident. Operating errors are present if the damage was caused solely by the operation of the driver. Operating errors with a moderate or low degree of negligence must not lead to the exclusion of the insurance obligation, since without a strict interpretation of the term operating error there would hardly be any area of ​​application for fully comprehensive insurance. This corresponds to Section 81 of the Insurance Contract Act , according to which only intent and gross negligence lead to the exclusion of benefits from the insurance. If the operating error is the cause of a subsequent accident, there is no exclusion of benefits. The decisive criteria are suddenness and unpredictability, even in the case of personal negligence, as long as there is no gross negligence.

Accident types

Combination of signs in front of traffic accident sites

The type of accident generally describes the location of the accident or the previous activity.

For example, an accident at work is an accident that an insured person suffers while doing a job, service or training relationship or another insured activity and which leads to damage to health or death. The term "work accident" includes internal work accidents (e.g. during activities in production and administration), external work accidents (such as assembly work and on business trips) and commuting accidents (on the way to and from the place of work).

Other distinguishing terms to identify the accident are household accident , Wildunfall , school accident , sports accident , climbing accident (mountaineering), hunting accident - these are mostly individual accidents. Mostly major incidents with several injured and affected persons are rail accidents , aircraft accidents , hazardous goods accidents , mine accidents (mining), accidents in rail traffic (rail vehicle accidents) .

In road traffic accidents , the type of accident can specifically describe the course of the accident in the sense of a collision or departure from the road, for which ten types of accidents (1 to 10) have been defined in more detail in Germany. This can be an individual accident with only a few people involved, but it can also be a major accident.

Initial measures in the event of an accident

After an accident occurs, general initial measures are recommended, which should also be carried out by laypeople, but which are often not taken. As such apply u. a .:

  • Securing the scene of the accident, with self-protection taking precedence over assistance
  • First aid measures
  • Alerting the rescue workers and clearing an escape route with briefing the arriving rescue workers.


The ISO 45001 standard requires certified companies to identify hazards and, on the basis of this, to evaluate occupational health and safety risks. The identification of hazards must take into account "incidents" that can endanger the health and safety of employees in the company. An incident is defined in the standard as "incident (s) that occur outside of the workflow or in the workflow and lead / lead or could lead to injury and / or illness". The focus of OHSAS 18001: 1999 , on the other hand, was still mainly on accidents in the sense of technical occupational safety, which could mean that, for example, long-lasting psychological stress that led or could have led to mental illnesses was neither systematically recorded nor investigated.


The WHO estimates 1.2 million fatal accidents worldwide (2003). Injuries are predicted to become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2020, replacing communicable diseases. In the adult age group under 45, accidents are already the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. In the USA up to 150,000 people died annually as a result of accidents in the early nineteen eighties, and another 400,000 were permanently disabled. The annual costs totaled 469 billion euros.

In Germany, 8.5 million people suffered an accident in 2004, that is over 10% of the population. This frequency has remained constant over the years. In 2000 inpatient hospital treatment was necessary for 17% of the accident victims, with an average length of stay of 10 days. In 2000, 19,715 people died as a result of an accident (1.2% of all accident injuries), which corresponds to 2.4% of all deaths. Accidents caused almost 57 million days of incapacity to work (13% of all incapacity days ). This results in a production loss of 5.2 billion euros annually in Germany, corresponding to 0.2% of gross national income .

According to the GEDA health survey, 8% of those surveyed in 2010 received medical treatment for an accident injury. Men are at greater risk of having an accident. When looking at the places where people have an accident, the most common report of an accident at home or during leisure time.

See also


  • Matthias Bickenbach, Michael Stolzke: The speed factory. A fragmentary cultural history of the car accident . Kadmos, Berlin 2014.
  • Christian Kassen (ed.): The disorder of things. A knowledge and cultural history of the accident . transcript, Frankfurt / M. 2007.
  • Rainer Fritz Lick , Heinrich Schläfer: Accident rescue. Medicine and technology . Schattauer, Stuttgart / New York 1973, ISBN 978-3-7945-0326-1 ; 2nd, revised and expanded edition, ibid 1985, ISBN 3-7945-0626-X , pp. 5–23 and 253 ff.
  • Clemens Niedenthal: accident. Portrait of an automotive moment . Jonas Verlag, Marburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89445-383-1 .
  • Paul Virilio: The real accident . Passagen Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-85165-874-3 .
  • About the concept of an accident in comprehensive insurance . In: Journal for Damage Law , Issue 08/1016, pp. 424–428.

Web links

Commons : Accidents  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Accident  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Accident occurrences  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. General Accident Insurance Conditions , accessed on January 26, 2016
  2. Coordination Switzerland: Social security and coordination law
  4. Judgment of the Swiss Federal Court K 136/06 of January 18, 2008 E. 2.2 (BGE 134 V 72)
  5. ^ Federal Court of Justice, judgment of June 25, 2003, IV ZR 322/02
  6. Regional Court Stuttgart, judgment of February 17, 2012, 22 O 503/11, No. 43
  7. Stomper in: Halm / Kreuter / Schwab, AKB A.2.3. Rn 698
  8. OLG Erfurt, judgment of March 24, 2005, 4 U 812/03
  9. Federal Statistical Office (ed.): Traffic, traffic accidents (=  7th series . Special series 8). Wiesbaden 2011, chap. 1.6.2 Type of accident, p. 12 ( [PDF]).
  10. See point 3.35 and paragraph 6.1.2 in DIN ISO 45001: 2018
  11. ^ JP Cobb, GE O'Keefe: Injury research in the genomic era . In: Lancet , 2004, 363, pp. 2076-2083.
  12. White Book Care for Severely Injured People (PDF; 247 kB) German Society for Trauma Surgery. July 2012. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  13. fact sheet accidental injuries. Results from GEDA 2010. (PDF) Robert Koch Institute; Retrieved September 12, 2012.
  14. ^ Saß AC (2010) Accidents in Germany. Results of the telephone health survey Gesundheit in Deutschland aktuell (GEDA). 2009. Robert Koch Institute Berlin. GBE compact 1 (2)