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How Much Do Auto Accidents Really Cost?

The costs of an auto accident often go well beyond what you pay the body shop for fixing your dents or the costs of your emergency room treatment. They may include a variety of other costs that impact you and society as a whole.

Both the National Safety Council and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have made efforts to arrive at estimates for these individual and societal costs.

However, you must keep in mind that there is really no “average” cost of an auto accident. The actual costs of a crash differ from case to case and depend on many different factors.

The NSC’s Estimates

In adding up all of the expenses of an accident, the National Safety Council (NSC) analyzed wage and productivity losses when someone is hurt and unable to work. The NSC also looked at medical expenses, administrative expenses, employers’ uninsured costs and damages to the automobiles involved.

According to the NSC, the average cost of a non-fatal disabling injury resulting from a motor vehicle accident is $78,900, while the cost per death is $1.41 million. In accidents where no injury or death has occurred but merely property damage, the cost is $8,900, according to the NSC.

The NHTSA’s Estimates

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report that underscores how auto accident costs are shared by all. You can refer to these as “societal costs.”

The study looked specifically at accidents in 2010 and found they cost Americans $871 billion in economic loss and societal harm. This is the cost of the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal accident injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles that resulted from auto accidents that year.

Costs included in the NHTSA’s study included productivity losses, medical and rehabilitation costs, property damage, legal and court costs, emergency services, costs to employers, insurance costs, traffic congestion costs and more.

Many of these costs are paid through taxes and insurance premiums, the NHTSA noted in its report.

The $877 billion figure arrived at by the NHTSA took into account $277 billion in economic costs. In other words, auto accidents in the U.S. cost an average of $900 per person living in the U.S.

The NHTSA also found $594 billion in harm related to loss of life, pain and decreased quality of life directly attributed to car accident injuries.

Making Sense of the Numbers

When you look at these figures tallied by the NSC and NHTSA, you can see that society, as a whole, feels the financial burden of auto accidents. However, the individuals who are involved in these crashes feel the strain even more.

This much is clear: One accident can dramatically change the financial landscape for a victim and his or her family members. However, if another party is at fault for the accident, the civil justice system allows for these victims and their family members to pursue just compensation for their losses.

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