Guide to Calculating Costs

Costs of Motor-Vehicle Injuries

The calculable costs of motor-vehicle crashes are wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor-vehicle damage, and employers’ uninsured costs. The costs of all these items for each death (not each fatal crash), injury (not each injury crash), and per-damaged-vehicle were:

Average Economic Cost by Injury Severity or Crash, 2017

Death (K) $1,615,000
Disabling (A) $93,800
Evident (B) $27,100
Possible (C) $22,300
No injury observed (O) $11,900
Property damage only (cost per vehicle) $4,400

Estimates are the costs by severity of injuries, as defined in sections 2.3.4 through 2.3.6 of the Manual on Classification of Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents (7th Edition) ANSI Standard D16.1-2007.

To estimate costs of motor-vehicle crashes that occur on the job, click on the “Costs of Other Injuries” tab.

Expressed on a per death basis, the cost of all motor-vehicle crashes (fatal, nonfatal injury, and property damage) was $10,770,000. This includes the cost of 1 death, 52 nonfatal disabling injuries, and 263 property damage crashes (including minor injuries). This average may be used to estimate the motor-vehicle crash costs for a state provided that there are at least 10 deaths and only one or two occurred in each fatal crash. If there are fewer than 10 deaths, estimate the costs of deaths, nonfatal disabling injuries, and property damage crashes separately.

Cost-benefit analysis. These figures are appropriate for measuring the economic loss to a community resulting from past motor-vehicle crashes. They should not be used, however, in computing the dollar value of future benefits due to traffic safety measures because they do not include the value of a person’s natural desire to live longer or to protect the quality of one’s life (what people are willing to pay for improved safety). Work has been done to create the necessary theoretical groundwork and empirical valuation of injury costs under the “willingness to pay” or comprehensive cost concept. Estimates are based on the comprehensive cost concept and should be used for cost-benefit analyses wherever feasible.

Comprehensive costs of motor-vehicle crashes. In addition to the economic cost components, the following comprehensive costs also include a measure of the value of lost quality of life, obtained through empirical studies of what people actually pay to reduce their safety and health risks. The average comprehensive costs on a per injured person basis were:

Average Comprehensive Cost by Injury Severity, 2017

Death $10,562,000
Disabling $1,155,000
Evident $318,000
Possible injury $147,000
No injury observed $48,700

Since the lost quality of life figures, included in the comprehensive costs calculations, do not represent real income not received nor expenses incurred, they should not be used to determine the pure economic impact of past crashes.


Costs of Other Injuries

Because obtaining information on the number and severity of nonfatal injuries for home, public non-motor vehicle, and work is difficult, the best approach is to estimate total costs on the “per death” basis using the following averages. These averages are based on their respective injury/death ratio:

Average Economic Cost of Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries by Class of Injury, 2017

Home injuries (fatal and nonfatal) per death $3,500,000
Public nonmotor-vehicle injuries (fatal and nonfatal) per death $4,300,000
Work injuries (fatal and nonfatal) per death:
     without employers’ uninsured costs $34,500,000
     with employers’ uninsured costs $37,300,000

Multiplying the number of deaths by these average costs provides an estimate of the economic loss due to both deaths and injuries in these categories.

The work injury figure with employers’ uninsured costs includes the monetary value of time lost by uninjured workers who were directly or indirectly involved in injuries. Losses due to fire are the only property damage costs included in the work, home, and public figures. No satisfactory estimates of other property damage costs are available.

While multiple-fatality incidents, such as those discussed for motor-vehicle crashes, are not common, one fire, explosion, or other disaster may account for most of a small community’s annual unintentional fatality total. When this occurs, estimate the costs by: (1) counting only one death for the disaster using the cost from the above figures; and (2) adding to this figure the cost for other disaster deaths using the economic cost per death from the motor-vehicle section.

Even though a community generally will not be able to estimate the number of disabling injuries that occur in work, home, and public non-motor vehicle injuries, it may be useful to know the approximate economic loss per death and per disabling injury in these three classes of incidents. The table below shows the per-case average cost of wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, and administrative expenses.

Average Economic Cost by Class and Severity, 2017

Death Disabling Injury
Home injuries $870,000 $9,100
Public injuries $730,000 $8,800
Work injuries
     without employer costs $1,130,000 $35,000
     with employer costs $1,150,000 $40,000

These figures do not include any estimate of property damage or non-disabling injury costs and should not be used to estimate the total economic loss to a community from these kinds of injuries.

To estimate the cost of a work-related motor-vehicle crash (motor-vehicle crash while on the job), use work injury costs, including uninsured employer costs, if there is reason to believe that uninsured costs resulted from the injury. If no uninsured costs occurred, use figures for either motor-vehicle crashes or work injuries, excluding employer costs.