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Work losses from fatal vehicle accidents more than medical costs

According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, 30,000 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents each year. These fatal motor vehicle accidents cost billions of dollars in medical costs and work losses. In 2005, the national economic losses amounted to $41 billion. New Jersey's share of that total was $651 million. Only $9 million was in medical costs; the work-loss costs were a staggering $642 million.

The reason why lost work hours far eclipse the losses from medical costs is that work-loss costs are based on the sum total of all income, fringe benefits and household work an average person does over the course of a lifetime. The law assumes that a deceased person would have earned that amount over the remainder of a lifespan. This is why the economic costs from younger working people's deaths are higher than those from older working people's deaths.

Looking at the types of road users involved in New Jersey, car occupants totaled $190 million, or 29 percent of the total $651 million in losses. Motorcyclists accounted for $62 million, or 10 percent. Fatal bicycle and pedestrian accidents amounted to $141 million, or 21 percent. However, the largest individual category-$259 million, or 40 percent-is labeled as "unspecified" or "other." It is possible that original accident reports did not provide enough detail for researchers to assign accidents into already existing categories.

In the aftermath of a fatal auto accident, a wrongful death claim could include all financial losses in any request for compensation from parties deemed responsible for the death. Courts consider the same financial damages, and award compensation based on that.

Source:, "Cost of deaths from motor vehicle crashes," Accessed on Jan. 27, 2015

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