Economic and Societal Impact of Car Accidents [New Study]

close up of car accident damage

For more than 130 years, the automobile has remained one of the greatest inventions our society has ever created. Sadly, this invention has also come with a horrific number of accidents, which have left a major impact on the United States economy in several different ways. Modern technology has made very low accident rates a realistic goal for the future, but what should  you do if you do end up in a car accident? Let’s dig deeper into the economic and societal impact of car accidents and how you can handle your accident claim.

The High Costs of Car Accidents

Across the United States, there are millions of drivers operating heavy machinery every day, which makes crashes inevitable. In 2019, car accidents appeared to be on the decline, with 38,800 fatalities in the U.S. that year. But after the pandemic-related shutdowns of 2020, Americans took to the road again in 2021, with car accident fatalities climbing to nearly 43,000 that year.

Depending on the area of the country, different factors may contribute to car crashes. These include, but are in no way limited to weather hazards, poor road maintenance, improperly functioning traffic signals, and distracted or impaired drivers.

Not only can car accidents lead to fatalities, but the monetary costs for even relatively minor accidents can be staggering. According to Safer America, the total economic cost of car accidents in the United States each year is estimated at around $242 billion. About $99 billion is due to medical care and productivity losses. The average accident claim includes more than $3,000 in property damage and over $15,000 in bodily injury claims.

Reducing Accidents & Costs

Whether it be a multiple-vehicle pileup or a small fender bender, many accidents on the open road can be prevented beforehand. In fact, speeding and drunk driving are among the most common and most preventable car accidents causes.

Speeding is the cause of many car accidents. Such accidents cost the United States around $52 billion in straight costs or over $200 billion in total costs (including loss of productivity) each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2020, these crashes accounted for about 29% of total highway fatalities.

Drunk driving accidents are also an incredibly common problem. About 20% of fatal accidents in 2020 involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. Economic losses to the United States annually from these crashes are about $44 billion in direct costs or more than $200 billion in comprehensive costs.

Motorcyclists are also at heightened risk, especially if they neglect to wear helmets. In 2020, 82,528 motorcyclists were injured in a collision, and 5,579 lost their lives. Of those who perished, 40% were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

It’s important to remember that the people who are injured or killed in traffic accidents are not just statistics or economic costs. They leave behind a hole that can never be filled, not only in their families but in their communities. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, community activists, school teachers, firefighters, and more. And some of them are children. In 2020, kids younger than 15 accounted for nearly 1,000 fatalities and more than 139,000 injuries in traffic accidents. Young adults are also at risk. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of death for young people aged 16 to 20.

High Hopes for the Future

Thankfully, the functionality and design of what the automobile industry is providing is increasingly progressing toward enhanced safety for all. As these safety measures move forward during the creation of the vehicles, driving laws are also updated to make sure that the driver (and their passengers) get to their destinations safely.

Many experts are pinning their hopes on self-driving vehicles, especially in the wake of a survey by the NHTSA. The survey shows that a stunning 94% of crashes are caused by some form of driver error. The hope is that self-driving vehicles will someday be able to eliminate driver error, although headline-grabbing recent accidents show that these cars are not yet ready to take over the mainstream market. Still, many of the technologies are improving safety, even if the artificial intelligence (AI) still needs further development and testing.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Car Accident

With any luck, future technologies will make car accidents largely a thing of the past. But if you are involved in an accident, there are immediate steps you need to take to ensure that your rights are protected:

  • Call 911 and secure the scene. The first step is to make sure everyone is all right. Call 911 immediately and do what you can to create a safe environment until the authorities arrive. Give first aid if needed.
  • Document everything. Exchange insurance information with everyone else who was involved. Write detailed notes of exactly what happened, including what you and other drivers were doing in the moments before the crash. Note any unusual circumstances, such as a malfunctioning traffic light or heavy rain. Take time-stamped pictures of all involved vehicles, as well as the scene of the crash. Get names and contact details from as many witnesses as possible.
  • Seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine, you should be checked out as soon as possible. Some injuries take a few days to show symptoms, and you will need medical documentation if you decide to pursue a claim for injuries.
  • Contact your insurance company. Start a claim within 24 hours, even for a minor accident. Repair bills can be surprisingly pricey, and you don’t want to lose your right to recover your costs.

How to Know if You Need a Car Accident Lawyer

If the accident was minor, with little damage and no injuries, and both parties have insurance, you may be able to settle your claim on your own. But more complex cases, especially those involving significant property damage or major injuries, or an uninsured motorist, call for a lawyer. Insurance companies want to settle as fast as possible, for as little as possible. In addition, some states have comparative negligence laws, which means that your damages will be reduced by whatever percentage you are found to be at fault for the accident. You need an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you understand both current and future damages, ensure that your at-fault percentage is fair, and fight for every dollar you deserve.

Call Cooney & Conway toll-free at 800-322-5573 to speak with an attorney for complete information about your legal options. Or fill out our free case evaluation today and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Be sure to have all documentation regarding your case ready for our review, including a copy of your doctor’s report. We look forward to helping you resolve your car accident claim!