How Common Are Wrongful Deaths From Car Accidents?

By  //  January 18, 2022

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Wrongful death is caused by another’s negligence, recklessness, or wrongful action. Survivors of loved ones killed by another’s negligent acts may choose to file a wrongful death suit to seek damages as a recovery to their loss. 

The sudden loss of a family member is among the most painful life experiences. If the loss is from a negligent act that causes a car accident resulting in death, and therefore, preventable, the loss looms larger and more painful. 

Preliminarily, it is essential to note that federal data is collated to include all motor vehicles because each type of vehicle has the potential to cause severe injuries and even death. 

Motor Vehicle Accidents

The data includes these types of accidents –

Car Accidents

Car accidents are caused by speeding drivers or those distracted or impaired by alcohol or drugs. These actions can lead to a fatal automobile accident of a loved one. 

Truck Accidents

The trucking industry defines the United States transportation industry. Trucks come in all sizes and shapes and, when traveling at a high rate of speed, can easily cause a fatal collision.  

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcyclists ride with limited protection. As such, they are exposed to risky riding conditions, especially during inclement weather. A motorcycle crash can be deadly.  

Wondering how often, where, and why wrongful deaths occur from car accidents? The data shown below highlights the most salient motor vehicle statistics related to fatalities. 

Motor Vehicle Accident Statistics

(Note – Data extracted from source)

According to recent data collected by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA), in 2021, there were nearly 300,000,000 vehicles registered in the United States sharing the road with more than 8.5 million registered on-road motorcycles. In 2021, there were almost 229,000,000 licensed drivers in the U.S. who drove more than 3.2 trillion miles. 

Road Safety Statistics 

 Of the five million motor vehicle crashes occurring annually, more than half are caused by aggressive drivers, highlighted by the fact that speed was the predominant contributor to motor vehicle accidents. 

A study in 2016 revealed that even a 10 MPH speed over the limit increases the risk of a motor vehicle crash by more than 9%. 

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) noted in 2017 that speeding is the number one factor driver-related contributor to fatal crashes on highways. 

Source – Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) & United States DOT – FARS

Source – Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) & United States DOT – FARS

Accident Statistics

According to the NHTSA – the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2021, more than 6.7 million car accidents were reported to the police. Of these, approximately 1.9 million crashes involved some sort of injury and 33,000+ accidents that resulted in death. Further, it is estimated by NHTSA that roughly another 10 million+ car accidents go unreported. 

The most frequent type of car accident is the ‘rear-end crash.’ This type of accident accounts for about 29% of all recorded car crashes. 

Data from 2019 reveals that approximately 2 million drivers involved in car accidents experience permanent injuries.

In 2018, data revealed tailgating to be contributing factor to a car accident in more than 33% of all crashes occurring on the road. 

Aggressive Driving Statistics

According to, in 2019, about 2/3 of all traffic fatalities were due to aggressive driving. The same study revealed that more than 1/3 of aggressive driving events involved some sort of firearm. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, data from 108,000+ school bus drivers (across the United States) revealed that nearly 84,000 vehicles illegally passed the school bus when at a full stop. 

A survey of drivers 16+, by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, revealed that 45% of those responding admitted they had been speeding over the freeway limit during the last month. Another 23% admitted driving through a red traffic light during the same timeframe. 

A survey from 2019 notes that 2% of drivers admit to proactively trying to run another motor vehicle off the road at least once. 

Driving Fatalities Statistics

In 2019, SaferAmerica noted that on a global basis, there were an average of 3,287 deaths per day – or 1.3 million fatalities across twelve months. 

In 2019, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recorded 33,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes (police-reported) that resulted in nearly 36,100 deaths. Additionally, in the same year – 

There were 1.11 traffic-related fatalities per 100 million miles of travel. 

There were 11 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 population, down 26% from 2000’s data (14.9) – See graph below.

Source – Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) & United States DOT – FARS

There were 15.78 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers.

There were 12.06 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles. 

The population in the United States in 2020 exceeded 331,000,000, roughly 52% more than the United States population in 1975 – 216,000,000. Yet, the rate of deaths from motor vehicle crashes (per 100,000 people) is 50% less than the rate of death from crashes in the mid-1970s.

According to the IIHS – the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety since 1975, car occupant deaths have decreased by 46%. Conversely, SUV occupant deaths are now more than 10 times as high, and pickup occupant deaths are rising 25% than data from several decades ago. 

More than 50% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths resulted from a front-impact motor vehicle crash. Side impact crashes caused ¼ of all passenger deaths caused by an automobile accident. 

Fatalities By Location

The IIHS – the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s 2016 report notes that about half the deaths from motor vehicle accidents happened in rural areas, despite only 21% of the population living in those areas identified as rural. 

Vehicle Safety Statistics

Individuals who choose not to wear a seat belt are 30 times more likely to get thrown from a motor vehicle in the event of a car crash – increasing one’s chances of death.

In 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that nearly 15,000 lives were saved due to seat belt use in motor vehicles.

The use of airbags in motor vehicles has decreased driver fatalities by 29%.

Fatalities by Gender (Data Extracted from IIHS Yearly Snapshot – Fatality Facts)

The highest rate of crash deaths occurred in males who were 85+.

Females 12 or younger had the lowest rate of crash deaths.

Overall, in 2019, males had a higher per capita death crash rate. 

Impaired & Distracted Driving Statistics Related to Car Accident Fatalities

The National Center for Statistics and Analysis’s (NCSA) 2017 report notes that, on average, 3 of 5 people will be in a motor vehicle accident due to impaired driving sometime during their lifetime. 

USA Today, in 2016, noted that the percentage of deaths related to traffic in which a minimum of one driver tested positive for drugs has doubled over the past ten years. 

If driving while impaired (drugs or alcohol), the chance of crashing increases 36 times.

According to the Virginia Tech Transpiration Institute, in 2019, there were 3,142 fatalities attributable to distracted drivers. In addition, distracted driving incidents accounted for 15% of all police reported motor vehicle crashes. 

1 of 3 drivers admitted to texting while driving, according to Driver Knowledge’s 2019 report.

Your chances of a crash increase 23 times if texting while driving. 

The Odds of Dying in Your Lifetime as the Result of a Motor Vehicle Accident

According to the NSC – the National Safety Council, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash in 2019 were 1 in 107. This calculated risk factor is derived from data that includes population, mortality rates, and life expectancy rates sourced by federal agencies like the United States Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics & the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.

Simple math generates a .9% chance of dying in a motor vehicle crash as of 2019. (1/107=.0093)

By comparison, the chances of dying from cancer are 17%. And while the chances of dying in a motor vehicle crash remains among the leading causes of preventable death, the chance of dying from opioid overdose, a slip, and fall or suicide is higher

Source – National Safety Council 

Of course, risks vary by year because there are a variety of factors that contribute to the risk of a motor vehicle crash. In 2019, with 36,096 reported accidents and a population of 328.3, the risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash was 1 in 9,094 (328,240,000/36,096 = 9,093.53), or a .011% chance.

Comparatively speaking, in 2006, the risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident was 1 in 6,835 (292,805,000/42,836 = 6,835.49) or a .015% chance.

Proving the Other Driver Was Negligent 

A wrongful death claim mandates that the plaintiff (the loved ones of the victim of a wrongful death) prove the other driver’s negligence had been the primary cause of the accidental fatality. Working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer offers you the legal resources to –

Investigate the motor vehicle accident and the events leading up to and including the accident.

Gather evidence related to the crash.

Prepare a strategy to demonstrate others’ negligence in court, if necessary, as to who was at fault in causing the motor vehicle crash. 

Although the evidence and documentation will vary based on case facts, the typical paperwork and evidence that is required for a wrongful death lawsuit include –

Relevant police reports & other official documents.

Photos & video footage of the accident’s aftermath. This may include pictures or video taken by surveillance/traffic cameras, witnesses, and dashcam footage, if applicable. 

An expert’s reconstruction report of the accident.

Medical Records related to the loved one’s injuries & death. This includes medical expert opinions and the autopsy report. 

Physical evidence to be obtained from the crash includes the vehicle included in the accident. 

An experienced attorney can help survivors document the impact and depth of financial losses (current and future) due to the wrongful death. Damages can be recovered for the grief suffered by the loved ones of a victim of wrongful death. This evidence is collected and used to demonstrate –

The driver’s culpability

The reasonableness of the damages related to the loss included in the lawsuit. Together, this helps the legal team pursue maximum compensation for the wrongful death case. 

The Take-Away

Like any personal injury legal matter, having a solid understanding as to common causes of a wrongful death helps to understand where liability falls. Therefore, it is so helpful to have an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help investigate the facts of the tragic event that led to the wrongful death. 

If you have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident and you suspect that the motor vehicle crash or accident was the result of another person or entity’s negligence or recklessness, you could be entitled to recover damages through financial compensation. 

Damages awarded may include reimbursement for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, & more.