What is the real cost of traffic accidents? No matter how you try to figure it, it’s a cost that simply cannot finally be calculated. We do, however, know that the costs of traffic accidents are increasing, and concerns about those costs are growing. According to the World Health Organization, the best estimate is that the annual, direct monetary cost of traffic collisions around the world is about $518 billion. The true cost is probably far higher, and the figures that are available are disturbing, to say the least. According to World Health Organization statistics:

  • Around the world, about 1.25 million people die every year in traffic accidents, and about fifty million more people reportedly sustain injuries.
  • Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among young people ages 15-to-29.
  • Half of all the world’s traffic fatalities are pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
  • Traffic crashes cost countries about three percent of their gross national product.

In developed nations like Canada and the United States, traffic fatalities have been declining since the 1960s because of seat belts and seat belt laws, air bags, better public education and enforcement regarding drinking and driving, and better vehicle design. Traffic deaths dropped by 27 percent in the United States and by 63 percent in Canada from 1975 through 1988. Yet at the same time, traffic deaths rose sharply in most developing nations. In those very same years, for example, traffic fatalities increased by 44 percent in Malaysia and by 243 percent in China.

THOUSANDS ARE INJURED ANNUALLY

While the streets and highways here in Texas are far safer than they were years ago, far too many traffic accidents still happen, and every year, thousands of Texans and visitors to our state are injured severely in those accidents. About 30,000 people are killed every year in traffic wrecks in the United States. Thousands more are injured catastrophically or disabled permanently. We can be almost certain that 2016 will be no different. If you are injured in a crash with a distracted, impaired, or otherwise negligent driver, you need to speak at once with a personal injury attorney, and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer. In Texas and in every other state, you are legally entitled to reimbursement for your injury or injuries when a negligent driver is responsible, but you have to fight actively for that reimbursement by pursuing a personal injury lawsuit with a knowledgeable attorney’s help.

According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States in 2012, just the medical expenses alone for traffic collisions and injuries surpassed $18 billion for both immediate and long-term care. The “average” accident victim ran up emergency and long-term treatment and hospitalization costs of more than $57,000, but for plenty of accident victims, the costs are far higher. Many spinal cord injuries and brain injuries, for example, can initially be difficult to detect or may at first seem insignificant and easy to ignore. Over time, however, those brain and spinal cord injuries may slowly become serious and even disabling medical conditions requiring costly and sometimes life-long care. Always have yourself and any passengers examined by healthcare professionals immediately after any traffic accident. Even if you don’t believe that you’re injured, it’s the way to protect yourself, and it’s the right thing to do.

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CONSIDERING THE COSTS

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, private insurance companies now cover about half of the medical costs of traffic accidents in the United States. The other fifty percent is paid for directly by the accident victims themselves or by third parties, charities, health care providers, or by government programs and agencies. Everyone, of course, ultimately contributes to paying for the total cost of traffic accidents – with our taxes and our insurance payments. Precisely what are the factors that must be considered when seeking to determine the “real” cost of traffic accidents and injuries? The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland looks at the role of injury victims and their families, employers, and co-workers, the role of government and especially the courts and social services systems, and the greater role of society at large. The economic costs of traffic accidents include but certainly are not limited to:

  • Productivity losses: In the United States, all auto accident victims combined spend about a million days a year in hospitals or in rehabilitation – and away from work and school.
  • Healthcare costs: Obviously, an accident victim’s final medical costs will depend on the severity of the injury or injuries. Some accident victims need a band-aid; others need a lifetime of extensive and costly treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Administrative expenses: Consider what it costs just to investigate traffic accidents. Law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, insurance companies, the Social Security Administration, and other businesses and government agencies spend staggering amounts to investigate traffic accidents. The fraud associated with traffic accidents also costs millions, and it’s also on the rise.
  • Insurance costs: Compensation payments to accident victims by insurance companies amount to millions of dollars annually.

Everyone, of course, would like to see trends turned around, see a reduction in the costs of accidents, and see lower numbers of accidents, injuries, and fatalities globally, nationally, and here in Texas too. Still, the first question most people are going to ask about traffic accident costs is basic and close to home: What is a traffic accident going to cost me? The Insurance Research Council (IRC) reports that the medical expenses of auto injury claimants continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation. From 2007 to 2012, the average claim for economic losses generated by traffic accidents increased by eight percent among personal injury protection claimants and by four percent among bodily injury claimants. In 2013:

  • The average auto liability claim for property damage was $3,231.
  • The average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $15,443.
  • The average collision claim was $3,144.
  • The average comprehensive claim was $1,621.

THE HIGHEST COST WE PAY

Of course, the highest price that we all pay for car crashes is in the loss of human lives, especially when we lose friends and loved ones. That cost can’t be measured. Nevertheless, if you are the survivor of someone who is suddenly and unexpectedly killed as the result of another driver’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation by law, and you should speak at once with an experienced wrongful death attorney about filing a wrongful death claim. It may be difficult immediately after a loved one’s death, but you must act promptly. While everyone realizes that no amount of cash can truly compensate anyone for the loss of a family member, a wrongful death claim can reimburse the survivors for the medical and funeral expenses, lost future earnings and retirement income, loss of consortium, and the emotional distress linked to any startling, accidental death of a loved one. Wrongful death compensation helps many surviving family members move forward positively and constructively with their lives.

If you’re injured, the cost of any traffic accident will be high, and if your injury is severe or catastrophic, that cost will be even higher. If you are injured by another driver’s negligence, you are entitled by law to complete reimbursement for your medical care and for all of your injury-related expenses. Being “entitled,” however, doesn’t mean that your compensation is simply handed to you or sent to your mailbox. You’ll have to fight for it by proving that you were injured, and you’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. How can you help your own personal injury case and work to obtain the reimbursement for medical bills and the related expenses you will incur if you’re injured by negligence in a traffic accident?

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AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT

After any traffic collision, always obtain the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the other driver or drivers, the passengers, and any witnesses. Call the police, but don’t count on the officers to gather those details for you. Always be certain to get the other driver’s license plate number, driver’s license number, and complete insurance information. Take or have someone take photographs of your injuries, the damage to the vehicles, the license plates, and the surrounding accident scene. Today in personal injury cases, sometimes having the right photographs can make all the difference. Keep and make a copy of every document generated by the collision and injury: medical test results, hospital invoices, the police accident report, and anything at all that might be pertinent. Be certain to keep your medical appointments too, or it might look like you’re not really injured. Keeping the medical appointments also creates the medical documents you’ll need to produce to prove your personal injury claim.

If you are injured in a traffic accident anywhere, seek medical attention immediately, and do not sign any insurance papers or agree to any settlement before consulting an experienced personal injury attorney. Better than anyone, personal injury attorneys understand what the genuine, complete, and long-term costs of a traffic accident really are. If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, or if you simply need more information about traffic accidents and the law, speak promptly with an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer.