Car Accident Stats: What Are the Odds of Dying in a Car Crash?

A Car Accident

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: March 10, 2024 11:07am CDT

A Car Accident

Motor vehicle accidents account for a disproportionate number of injuries that occur worldwide.

Despite there being driving laws to improve safety for those on the road, many people still end up in traffic accidents that directly impact their health and safety, not to mention the safety of others on the road.

Motor vehicle collisions are so common that seldom a day goes by where one is not witnessed on the streets in major cities.

Car crashes are a universal issue and are far from being limited to urban areas. Even small towns can experience many motor vehicle accidents daily. In 2019 there were over 6.7 million traffic accidents reported in the United States alone.

That large number makes it so that a day does not go by during which thousands of people and their loved ones will experience a car crash.

So inevitably, modern Americans’ should have significant concerns about the risk of injury due to a motor vehicle accident.

While it has been established that car crashes and the associated injuries are not uncommon, the average American is unaware of the likelihood of actually having a fatal crash where someone involved in the accident dies.

So we seek to answer questions about what are the chances of an accident being deadly, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and CDC refer to as car accident mortality rates.

Although death is an inevitable reality that all living things face as part of the natural order of life, the average person does not want to die early or suffer unnecessary injuries.

Therefore they take reasonable precautions not to endanger themselves by avoiding risky situations to prevent injury and death.

Still, no matter your mentality about taking risks, life and death, people’s injuries in motor vehicle accidents can vary in severity.

It’s not all or nothing. Not all accidents cause injuries, and each safety adjustment you make to your driving habits can help keep you safer.

Fatal car accident collision diagram

There are many insufficient car accident attorney blogs out there talking about car accident statistics and fatality rates. They gloss over the topics and fail to teach you anything of substance.

We understand how that can be annoying and a waste of your time.

So that is why we continue to write articles like this one to answer the questions you have found without being bothered by the car accident lawyer promotions.

Whether you want to learn if you should be concerned about the odds of you suffering a fatality in an accident or if you fear dying in a car accident that is keeping you out of the driver’s seat, this article can help you.

We will go through the facts about the odds of fatal crashes, accident statistics, and how you can use a wrongful death lawsuit when a fatal car accident occurs.

What Are the Odds of Dying in a Car Crash?

Motor vehicle ownership is a constant need for most American households. Except for the presence of financial restrictions or impractical locales, it is almost expected to have access to a drivable car.

Since virtually everyone has a vehicle they use to traverse long distances, motor vehicle accidents are easy to encounter. With this saturation of car ownership and how the local news reports fatal car accidents, it’s understandable that you may be inclined to believe that motor vehicle accidents are constantly killing people.

The fear for many is genuine, as the thought of a car accident fatality is enough to keep them from operating a motor vehicle, especially given how severe some accidents look as they pass by. So much so that people can have Amaxophobia, which is the pathological fear of driving.

Your Chances of Dying In a Car Accident Are Low

Fortunately, this level of fear is irrational. Your chances of a traffic death are much lower than you might have thought initially. According to the NSC (National Safety Council), motor vehicle collisions are the 8th leading cause of death in America. On average, an accident only has a 1 in 101 chance of killing you.

While you will likely be injured in a collision, you will almost always survive. The survival rate for auto accidents is remarkably high, given modern vehicle safety standards like seat belts and airbags, so there should be little reason to fear driving. That means there is only a 0.99% death rate for car crashes.

To put those odds in perspective, we can look at the leading cause of death to act as a contrast. The average American has a 1 in 6 odds of dying from heart disease, which equates to a 16.67% chance.

So in comparison, the risk of dying from heart disease is much more significant than having a fatal motor vehicle accident.

The National Center for Statistics and Analysis, a branch of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), data shows that fatality numbers are increasing over the past 10 years and increased by about 7.2% between 2019 and 2020. There were an estimated 38,680 crash deaths in 2020.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motor Vehicle Crash Data of Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2020 - Bar Chart Graph
Data Sources: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS): 2006-2019 Final File and 2020 Annual Report File (ARF)

Yet it is important to note many of these car accident deaths were passengers of non-single vehicle accidents. So there were much fewer than 38,680 fatal car accident events that took place in 2020. The breakdown of the car crash includes the following:

Fatal Car Accident Statistics – Latest Update

  • Vehicle passengers: Number of deaths – 23,395
  • Pedestrians: Number of deaths – 6,236
  • Motorcyclists: Number of deaths – 5,458
  • Bicyclists: Number of deaths – 891

That said, we realize you might still be hesitant to drive for fear of being that 0.99%. Even with those lifetime odds, the remaining 99.01% of car accidents lead to injuries of varying severity.

Injured Car Crash Victim

With all the risks involved in operating a motor vehicle, it is easy to want to throw the keys away. Unfortunately, in an era where large cities and long commutes are the primary conditions, motorized transportation is essential.

Although the odds of dying in a car crash are slim, it is possible. It is significantly more likely that you will survive but suffer some injuries. It is rare that you will come out of a motor vehicle crash completely injury-free and unscathed. Car accident injuries always bring financial losses to those involved.

That is why it is crucial to ensure that those who cause these traffic accidents are held accountable for the harm they have caused to others.

This process is generally in the civil legal system and is reserved for those injured or killed in car accidents.

If you are under the impression that fatal car accident victims have no civil recourse and the at fault driver who caused the deadly car crash is safe from a civil case, you will be surprised to learn this is not the case.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

The civil law term “wrongful death” applies to any tortious injury that caused someone’s death and someone else who can be held liable through civil action taken against them.

While the phrase and concept are relatively straightforward, some details can alter whether the situation was wrongful death or something else. Wrongful death is exclusively used in civil proceedings rather than criminal cases. Meaning no one will ever be arrested and then tried as an alleged murderer, a part of a wrongful death case.

Nevertheless, wrongful death applies to any motor vehicle accident where someone is killed due to another person’s negligent, reckless, or intentional driving behavior. As a result, wrongful death can apply to accidents and homicide. While the term might seem trite, it bears significant value to the family of those killed in car accidents.

Car Accident Damage

Wrongful death is the legal basis for lawsuits filed by family members against the person or party responsible for the death of their loved one.

This ability to seek civil legal action is essential since the victims of wrongful death cases cannot seek compensation for the harm caused to themselves. The question is what kind of legal action the victim’s family can take.

What Legal Options Exist If You Die In a Car Crash?

While the mortality rate of car crashes is virtually negligible, it is still a risk that can impact anyone who uses motor vehicles for transportation. The risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident is present even if you drive safely and stay under the speed limit. You are at the mercy of the other drivers’ behavior on the road.

So when someone else is driving dangerously, increasing the risk of a car crash, you typically will not be held responsible for paying for the costs incurred from the accident.

Unfortunately, this absolution is a cold comfort if you are injured or pass away due to a traffic collision you could not avoid, as it was not your fault.

In cases where the driver who was the victim of the accident dies, they cannot seek justice for themselves. When drunk drinking and DUI situations like this occur, law enforcement officers will typically arrest the liable party and bring charges against them for causing the other driver’s death.

Depending on the specifics and the existence of prior offenses, it can lead to manslaughter charges being brought. Manslaughter charges are severe and can bring some prison time.

Criminal charges like manslaughter can bring criminal justice. However, it does not provide justice for the family of the victim who wrongfully died beyond knowing the driver who caused the car crash is behind bars.

Fortunately, this is where wrongful death claims come into play. There are options for filing a civil claim to seek financial compensation for the victim’s wrongful death.

The victim of the situation traditionally carries out civil lawsuits, but this is impossible when the victim dies from the collision. Fortunately, this does not mean a civil case is impossible.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

If the victim is survived by family members directly impacted by their passing, immediate family members can file a civil lawsuit against the negligent driver. While civil claims will not bring your lost loved one back to life, the civil claim can ensure the loss is addressed, and if successful, the wrongful death claim can compel the responsible party into legally having to repay the family for their losses.

These claims serve as the primary tool that families of car crash victims can use to seek closure and financial justice for their lost loved ones. Unfortunately, wrongful death cases are lawsuits, which also means they are not guaranteed to end the way we hope. 

Is Wrongful Death a Criminal or Civil Suit?

You might be curious about what a wrongful death civil suit accomplishes that a criminal case does not. The main difference is that the criminal case determines what crimes they owe penalties to the government, like fines and prison time, while the civil claim determines what they are responsible for paying you.

Also, even wrongful death claims that have an associated criminal suit can have other parties which can be sued.

For example, in drunk driving cases, most US states have Dram Shop laws allowing wrongful death claims to be filed against the restaurant or bar that overserved alcohol to the other car’s drunk driver that caused the car crash.

So wrongful death suits make it possible to hold more parties responsible in addition to the person that directly caused the car accident that took the life of your loved one.

Filing a wrongful death claim requires some restraint since you might be tempted to file immediately rather than waiting for the criminal case to end. (Criminal cases for car accidents are not the norm, but they do happen when the accident involves drunk driving.)

Aftermath of a Car Crash

While there is no one right way to file your claim, waiting until the criminal case resolves can improve your chances of winning. If the jury found the driver guilty in the criminal case, it shows that the death was wrongful and should never have occurred in the first place.

Civil lawsuits have a lower burden of proof, which makes it even easier for you and your wrongful death lawyer to prove.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

Regardless of the timing, you will always have to prove that wrongful death occurred. If you can’t prove the existence of the tortious injury that led to the death of your family member, you will have trouble getting the claim off the ground.

Fortunately, wrongful death does not apply only to whether the car crash collision was intentional, so you can prove a wrongful death claim even if the defendant only caused the accident through their negligence. That said, you will need to prove the following after a traffic fatality:

Breach of Duty of Care and the Culpability of the Party Responsible for Causing the Fatal Car Crash

  • Duty of Care: You will have to prove that the defendant had a duty to keep your loved one safe in some way. In motor vehicle collisions, they had an obligation to pay attention to the road and remain sober while operating their vehicle. If you prove that the other driver violated this duty of care and was negligent, your odds of winning will increase drastically.
  • Culpability: Proving that the other driver breached the duty of care is insufficient to win a wrongful death claim. You must also prove that the breach in question was the cause of your loved one’s death. It’s not always enough, even if the other driver was inebriated at the time of the accident.
    For example, if your loved one was driving distracted, talking on their cell phone, and then rear-ended the drunk driver before they could make a dangerous maneuver, the drunk driver might not be liable to pay you in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Proving that the driver breached their duty of care is another term for proving fault in a personal injury claim. Both concepts are used to prove that the defendant had a responsibility they failed to uphold, and your loved one lost their life.

Now that we have established wrongful death claims are brought by the immediate family and spouses of dead loved ones, we need to discuss these civil legal action benefits for those that bring the suits.

What Do You Gain From Wrongful Death Claims?

Wrongful death claims are civil claims set up to financially compensate the victim’s surviving family for their loss.

That means wrongful death claims, like personal injury claims, are filed to seek a settlement or trial award from the defendant.

Monetary settlements in personal injury claims are designed to compensate the victim for the cost of their past and future medical expenses with a little left over as compensation for their emotional and mental damages.

The settlements from a wrongful death claim are similar. Although they will not benefit the victim, they should help the wrongful death victim’s decedents, and the family left behind.

While a settlement will not dull the pain or bring your loved one back to life, it can help you with certain financial obstacles you would have avoided before. Additionally, while there might not be medical expenses, there will be funerary expenses that can be expensive when someone else causes your loved one’s death.

As bleak as it might sound, wrongful death lawsuits can provide the funds needed to finance your loved one’s funeral and burial costs so you can ensure they are respectfully laid to rest in the way they would have wanted.

A Wrongful Death Settlement

How Much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?

One of the main questions people ask about wrongful death settlements is how much they stand to win from the claim. Unfortunately, that question is not so easily answered without knowing the specifics of each case since several variables affect the settlement amount, like with a personal injury claim.

Despite the significant difference between personal injury and wrongful death claims, an estimated settlement amount can’t be determined until the case is properly negotiated and the defendant makes an offer.

However, there are factors that attorneys look at when sending the demand letter and negotiating the wrongful death settlement. The following factors are considered when estimating a fair wrongful death settlement amount:

How to Calculate Damages for Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts:

  • Age: The victim’s age significantly affects the settlement the defendant will be expected to pay. This is the coldhearted factor of the worth of a wrongful death claim that does play a direct role in determining the settlement amount. Typically wrongful death cases regarding senior citizens are worth less because it is considered that they did not lose that many years of their lives.
    Defense attorneys and juries evaluate that the senior citizens already lived most of their life expectancy, so the number of years taken away from them was minimal compared to someone much younger. Along the same line, a child would get more than someone in their seventies as the family is suing on behalf of the child that had the majority of their life taken from them.
    Unfortunately, being young does not enable wrongful death claims involving children to produce the largest settlement amounts, as their passing has little impact on the family’s future financial situation. It’s the middle-aged victims who were in the prime of their lives, somewhere in the age range of 35-50, whose families typically have the wrongful death settlement amounts worth the most.
  • Gender bias: The unfair trend of A Woman’s Worth: Gender Bias in Damage Awards, not in favor of women. Studies have identified trends where gender bias appears to reduce the wrongful death settlement amounts and the amounts awarded by juries to the families of women wrongful death victims.
    The study states there is a gender bias that women make less or will not work as many years as men, so the jury awards the decedents less money as they assume the woman who died is not going to work as long as her male counterpart. It mirrors parts of the same logic behind the current gender pay gap and gender bias against promoting women to management positions.
  • Employment: The victim’s career directly affects the worth of their wrongful death claim settlement since their income is a significant part of their family’s financial resources. The higher the victim’s income, the higher the payment.
    So a victim’s family who had a salary of $1,000,00.00 USD a year will receive a much larger settlement amount than someone who made $35,000.00 USD. Although it may seem unfair, it points to how the core of employment and income affect wrongful death settlement amounts.
  • Family: The number of plaintiffs involved in the wrongful death claim also affects the settlement amount. If the victim only had a spouse when they passed, the settlement would only account for their needs. The amount increases if, in addition to the surviving spouse, they leave children that need caring for.

Other factors, such as state laws and insurance policy limits, will always constrain the settlement amount. For the most part, the above will play the most significant role in the settlement calculations.

Closing Statements on Wrongful Death and Your Chances of Dying in a Car Crash

Few things are as tragic and shocking as losing a loved one in a fatal car accident. Most people are fortunate to enjoy a standard life expectancy and spend plenty of time with their families. But that is not always the case, as fatal car crashes take away that possibility each time they occur, which can happen to any of us.

When that fatal car accident is due to someone else’s negligence taking our loved ones from us, it causes us, at a bare minimum, to lose valuable time with the ones we love most.

However, knowing that is not merely where our losses end means, we will likely need to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. The settlement from the wrongful death suit is intended to compensate the survivors for the expenses and the loss of future income result of the fatal car collision.

However, the settlements do not come until the end of a successful claim, making it all the more financially difficult while wrongful death lawsuit progresses.

Lawyer Reviewing Wrongful Death Claim

We at Express Legal Funding understand there is no pain worse than losing the ones we love, and the bereavement process is only made more difficult when financial strains are an issue.

That is why we can offer pre-settlement funding, a non-recourse cash advance made against the potential proceeds of civil cases, including wrongful death lawsuits for fatal car accidents.

Legal funding is a risk-free financial service specific to contingency-based fee lawsuits, which is the fee set up for wrongful death claims, as lawyers only get paid after you recover money from your suit.

Our pre-settlement funding service uses the same concept. We can essentially trade you some money now to use as you wish, and in exchange, you provide us, the lawsuit funding company, a portion of your potential settlement or trial award from the wrongful death claim.

We are taking on the risk by trading for a potential outcome that may never occur. You might not get a settlement or trial award from your claim.

It is always possible to go to court and lose. If that happens, since it is non-recourse, the money is yours to keep. It’s similar to if you and your attorney went to court to try your wrongful death case but lost, you would not have to pay your attorney their fee and the law firm its expenses.

So, as a lawsuit funding company, we only expect repayment if you win or settle your case. Call us today for a free consultation to learn more about pre-settlement funding is a good option for you during your wrongful death lawsuit or another type of car crash claim. We are here to help anytime, 24/7!

About the Author

Author profile

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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