Experiences of causing an accidental death: An interpretative phenomenological analysis study.

Sara B. Rassool, Pieter W. Nel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Accidentally killing or feeling responsible for another person’s death constitutes an event that is different from many typical traumatic stressors in that the responsibility for causing the trauma is located in the person themselves, rather than another person or persons. Research exploring the perspective of those who have accidentally caused a death is extremely sparse. This study aimed to gain an insight into the lived experiences of people who have caused an
accidental death. Five participants were recruited through an on-line advertisement; all were drivers directly involved in a road traffic accident that occurred unexpectedly, without intention and resulted in a person’s death. An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to analyse data collected through semi-structured interviews. Three main themes emerged from the participants’ accounts: trying to make sense of a life changing moment;
struggling to cope with the trauma of causing a death, and a changed sense of self. These findings highlight the considerable and enduring trauma associated with causing an accidental death, and emphasise the need to develop appropriate interventions to help alleviate this psychological distress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-857
JournalDeath Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


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