I feel it’s a basic truth that the most expensive car accident, in Bellingham, Whatcom County, or anywhere on the planet, is any car crash that takes a life. After all, how expensive is priceless? However, there is a dollar value assessed to the loss of life that comes from fatal motor vehicle accidents. Society pays the price of the many costs associated with these devastating events. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost almost $1 trillion in loss of productivity and loss of life, according to a study released in May 2014. The good news is the number of roadway deaths is at an all-time low – despite the increased number of people on the roads. The auto industry has constantly made improvements in design and safety features, a major factor driving the data. 

However, in the same breath, I must say that not all the news is rosy:

NHTSA reports the number of people killed on the road in the U.S. soared 7.2% to 35,092 in 2015, marking the deadliest year on the road since 2008. Though the increase was widely expected after NHTSA last month revealed a preliminary estimate of a 7.7% increase, the official figure solidifies 2015’s dubious distinction as the first year-over-year increase since 2012. In addition, roadway deaths of pedestrians and cyclists hit a two-decade high in 2015.

So the chance of dying in a car accident has decreased because cars are safer, but the chance of being in a car accident has risen. The culprit behind this is, of course, distracted driving. It’s a factor in nearly one out of five injury-generating motor vehicle crashes. That is especially dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians. Until cars drive themselves, we will have to rely on humans to not make this grave error.

But what of the dollars and cents of lost property and other damages that car accidents have cost? Like other medical costs, the price of injuries incurred from a car crash has risen. It’s not just the doctors’ bills, though they have become more costly as well. It’s lost wages, including lost productivity. Here’s some more news: 

New findings from the Insurance Research Council’s (IRC) Auto Injury Insurance Claims Study shows that medical expenses reported by auto injury claimants continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation, in spite of the fact that the severity of the injuries themselves remain on a downward trend. From 2007 to 2012, average claimed economic losses (which include expenses for medical care, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenditures) grew 8 percent annualized among personal injury protection (PIP) claimants. 

A couple more facts about these costs:

  • In 2013, the average auto liability claim for property damage was $3,231; the average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $15,443 (ISO, a Verisk Analytics company).
  • In 2013, the average collision claim was $3,144; the average comprehensive claim was $1,621 (ISO, a Verisk Analytics company).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2010 that you, as an average, licensed driver in the United States, will pay about $500 for motor vehicle crass injuries, assuming you don’t have one. This is based on the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with motor vehicle crash injuries that clocks in for a total $99 billion annually. Ouch.
  • And every 14 seconds, an injury-producing car accident occurs in the US. That figure was calculated from 2013 data, so chances are it’s higher now.

So, you’re probably wondering what this $30 million dollar car accident did to bump up the average? Well, not that much when it’s compared to a cool $99 billion, but even the very wealthy individual who owned this $30 million dollar car probably felt dinged by more than his few injuries. The car in question was a 1962 Ferrari GTO that millionaire Christopher Cox banged up in a three-car crash on a racing course. Oops. Neither he, his wife in the passenger seat, or the other drivers were as seriously injured as the car. You might be wondering what kind of auto insurance policy a driver might consider for a car like that. Apparently, not many insurers will cover it for run of the mill things like trips to the grocery store, or even on a commute to the salt mines. It would likely be covered under a “hobby” or “collector” policy, since the drivers of cars as rare as that ’62 Ferrari don’t tend to take them out too often, lest they end up getting dinged by a grocery cart at Wal-Mart. And yes, this accident didn’t happen in our City of Subdued Excitement here in Whatcom County. It was in France.




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