Motor vehicle accidents that result in injuries can have long-term consequences, especially when the trauma is severe.
Estimating the lifetime costs of injuries is vitally important in a legal action because it provides the court and the jury with a comprehensive look at what financial burdens victims have already suffered, and what they are expected to encounter in future years. Because a claim can only be asserted once, it is crucial to present evidence that will allow a jury to award damages that will cover the cost of any necessary future treatments.
Attorneys draw on the expertise of economists to provide forecasts of future costs, so that a jury can make an evidence-based determination as to the appropriate amount of compensation to award in a personal injury case.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) takes a similar approach to determining the average lifetime medical costs of non-fatal car accidents.
Medical Costs of Vehicle Accidents
In a new report, which relies on the most recent available data, the CDC states that 2.5 million visits to emergency departments for non-fatal accident injuries occurred in 2012, with 7.5 percent of those visits resulting in hospitalization.
Regardless of whether a crash victim was treated and released or admitted to the hospital, the costs were high. According to the findings, the average lifetime medical costs for patient hospitalized in 2012 was $56,674. For an injured person who was treated and released, it was $3,372.
In creating its cost estimates, the CDC included costs such as:
- The initial emergency department visit
- Follow-up care such as doctor’s appointments or surgeries
- Ambulance and/or other medical transportation
- Prescription drugs
- Home health care
- Visual aids
- Cost of dental visits associated with the injuries
- Medical devices
- Nursing home and insurance claims costs.
Other Costs of Vehicle Accidents
The economic impact of traffic accidents is not limited to medical costs. In considering damages, one must also consider how a family’s quality of life is changed after the wreck. Often, that loss is directly tied to a person’s ability to work following the accident.
For example, a family can suffer tremendously if its sole breadwinner is severely injured in a wreck and is forced to stop working, or cannot work at the same capacity as he or she did before the accident. Where this deprives the injured party of the added value of the years of experience he or she has accumulated in a particular field that they can no longer work in, it is likely that the injured party’s earning capacity will be severely impaired as a result.
According to the CDC, the lifetime cost of work loss resulting from non-fatal traffic accidents in 2012 was $32.9 billion. That estimate included costs like:
- Lost expected employment earnings
- Lost fringe benefits
- Lost value of household work
How Can These Costs Be Minimized or Eliminated?
States throughout the U.S., including Georgia, have different types of laws in place in an effort to prevent car accidents. The CDC reports that states with primary seat belt laws, child safety seat laws and graduated driver’s licensing programs for new drivers have already made inroads in accident prevention.
There are also penalties in place for drunk driving, texting behind the wheel and other reckless driving behaviors. While these are critical aspects of prevention, the most fundamental step – and biggest challenge – is getting people to change their driving behaviors before they hit the roads.
Some of the common causes of traffic accidents are negligent actions such as:
- Irresponsible driving (running red lights, weaving between lanes or disobeying traffic signs, following too closely)
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Aggressive driving, or road rage
- Distracted driving.
Before getting behind the wheel, you can do your part to prevent accidents by doing several things:
- Take an honest assessment of your physical condition. Are you too impaired or too tired to drive? Have a designated driver or alternate travel plan set ahead of time.
- Is using your cell phone too tempting while driving? Put it out of reach or invest in hands-free technology to be a better driver.
- Keep your irritation in traffic to a minimum by listening to soothing music or loosening up tight muscles if you notice you are gripping the steering wheel and cursing at other, less courteous motorists.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid an accident. If you do your part to prevent a wreck, though, you will be far less likely to be found at fault for causing any accident in which you might be involved. Even non-fatal crashes can result in injuries that last a lifetime and lead to astronomical costs.