What is the Average Cost of a Car Accident?

Content Reviewer, Attorney James P. Maniscalco
Created by our team of legal writers and reviewed by James P. Maniscalco. J.D.

A Vehicle Accident Costs More Than You Think

When most of us think about vehicle accidents, two things come to mind: our health and our car. One big question is, “What’s the average cost of a car accident?”

The cost of a car accident can vary widely, depending on the severity of the crash and a host of other factors. A minor accident could cost up to $3,000 but a major crash could cost much more — up to half a million dollars in medical costs, vehicle damage and lost salary.

If you’re involved in a car accident, the number-one thing you should take care of is your health, safety and well-being. After you’ve prioritized those areas, it’s time to look at the financial aftermath of the accident. What will your insurance cover? What about ambulance rides and hospital stays? Will I need physical therapy and rehab? These are all questions you’ll have to face as you tally the cost of a car accident.

Data experts estimate the average cost of a car accident in the U.S. to be as follows:

Type of AccidentCost
Accident with fatalities$1,704,000
Accident with a non-fatal disabling injury$98,400
Accident with non-disabling injuries$23,400
Property Damage only$4,600

It’s also important to keep in mind that car accidents don’t just affect individuals – they can also affect businesses. 40% of crashes happen during work-related activities, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Accidents that happen during work cost companies $66 billion, plus an additional $33 million when you consider lost work as a result of the accident.

If you add all that up, you’ll find that the annual cost of car accidents in the U.S. is more than $230 billion. Even though auto manufacturers have improved safety features dramatically in their vehicles (reducing the number of accidents and injuries), the costs associated with those accidents continues to rise.

There are many factors to consider when adding up the cost of an accident.

Being in a car accident is expensive. But do you know how expensive?

And after a car accident, should you have to spend one night in the hospital, depending on what medical procedures and tests are prescribed, you could easily see a bill of $10,000 or more!

What Factors into the Average Cost of a Car Accident?

  • Damage to Your Vehicle
    This amount can vary widely depending on the nature of the crash. Is the car damage just a few scratches or is the vehicle totaled. The cost of repairs and the cost of your vehicle both factor in to this amount.
  • Extent of Your Injuries
    The more serious the accident, the greater the injuries. Minor cuts and bruises won’t add up to big hospital bills but it’s still a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. A major crash is probably going to include ambulance and hospital bills as well as possible surgery costs. The costs could also be ongoing if physical therapy or rehab is required.
  • Extent of Your Passengers’ Injuries
    The same is true, of course, for any and all of the passengers who were in the car with you when the accident occurred. This is where the cost could go up in multiples, depending on the severity of the crash.
  • Location of the Accident
    The laws concerning what a driver is responsible for vary from state to state and in some places can be quite severe. For example, Washington, D.C. has a “pure contributory negligence” law, which says that if the driver is deemed to be just 5% at fault, they cannot recover any money from the crash. That means that as a driver, you would have to pay all of your own damages even if the other drive was 95% at fault.

As you can see, the average cost of a car accident can vary widely and there are many factors to consider, even lost wages. Each crash is different, and it could be overwhelming to try to figure it all out on your own. You may want to consult a car accident or personal injury attorney to see what your options are in terms of filing a claim.

Let’s say you don’t go to the doctor but start feeling pain in your neck a few weeks later. Another few weeks go by and the pain is still there. Finally, you go to the doctor. You’re told you have whiplash and should stay out of work for the next few weeks. Whoa. You never thought a vehicle accident would lead to this. How are you going to pay the bills if you take time off?

So, who end up paying for the cost of a car accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, private insurers pay about 50% of all vehicle crash costs, while the individual victims of the crash pay about 26%. Third parties, such as uninvolved motorists delayed in traffic, charities and health-care providers, pay about 15%. Federal revenues account for 6% and state and municipal entities pay about 3%. Overall, those who are not directly involved in crashes pay for nearly 75% of crash costs. Those payments come mainly through insurance premiums, taxes and travel delay.

Hopefully, if you’re in an auto accident, your injuries will be mild and you will quickly recover. Here’s another scenario. You get in an accident and your car is so damaged that you have to rent a car to get to and from work. Your insurance only covers so much, so you have to pay a ton out of pocket. Then you get the bill to fix your car. Ouch! You don’t have enough to cover it, and it’s going to take weeks to save up. Then you go to the doctor and find out your leg was actually hurt pretty badly and you’ll need rehabilitation therapy for at least six weeks. Your insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of therapy, so you’ll have to cover the difference each session.

Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always pay you all you need to cover your losses. There have been reports of insurance companies routinely denying and delaying payment of claims in hopes you’ll accept any amount of money they offer, no matter how small.

How Do Car Accidents Impact Insurance Rates?

Feeling hesitant about contacting your insurance company after an accident is understandable. Most drivers make the assumption that filing any kind of claim with their insurer will automatically result in higher premiums. While this is true in some cases, how car accidents impact insurance rates really depend on specific state and provider rules.

According to Insure.com drivers could end up paying an about 26 to 32 percent more for their car insurance after an accident – this is usually the case for single claims of $2,000 or higher. The average annual U.S. auto insurance premium is $1,674 for full coverage and this would equate to an increase of $435+ per year.

Fortunately, minor accidents and fender benders may not automatically cause an increase, especially if you have a long history of safe driving. This may also be the case when it comes to fault. If you were not at fault in the accident, there is the possibility that your rate could remain the same.

Some insurance policies include accident forgiveness for your first violation or claim. If you’ve just had your first accident and your insurer provides accident forgiveness, you do not have to worry about a rate hike. Review the details of your policy or call your provider to find out if you are protected by this clause.

In general, states with stricter insurance regulations seem to have larger rate spikes after an accident. This is because laws mandate that insurance premiums be based solely on a handful of factors. In California, for example, a driver’s premiums are based on driving safety record, miles driven per year, and years of driving experience. If you get into an accident, your driving record does not help you, leaving insurers only two factors for determining your rates. However, states like Maryland allow insurers to include many factors in deciding rates such as gender, age, occupation, credit score, etc.

When it comes to how long drivers will have to pay increased premiums, there is no exact answer. These payments also vary by insurers and state, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Minor tickets – Moving and non-moving violations aren’t likely to impact your premiums too much. However, if you receive a second ticket, you could see a 3 to 10 percent increase to your premium. A third ticket could result in an additional 10 to 15 percent increase. Repeat offenders with a history of bad driving can expect to see the worst penalties. Traffic violation tickets will usually stay on your record for three years from the date that you are convicted.
  • Major tickets – One major ticket can cause a big increase to your monthly payment, possibly for the next two to five years. It is not uncommon for one major ticket to result in a 10 to 50 percent increase, while subsequent tickets will result in even higher percentages.
  • Car accidents – If you have an at-fault accident within a six-year period, your rates are unlikely to be affected, but you should consult with your insurer to confirm. If you get into a second accident, you could experience increased rates lasting between three to six years.

A Vehicle Accident Lawyer Can Give You The Protection You Need

Insurance companies are smart! To reduce their operating expenses, sometimes they will offer you a settlement check right away for a “full and final release.” While you may think they’re providing great service, what they’re really trying to do is buy you off before you discover how serious your car’s damages or your physical injuries are. Generally speaking, once you accept their settlement check, you can’t go back for more money. Clearly, with so much money at stake, it’s critical for you to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Time is money – especially in relation to an auto accident.

A personal injury lawyer works for you. He or she is on your side and will work to protect your legal rights and your best interests.

A personal injury lawyer can help get your doctor and hospital bills paid, while your insurance claim is being reviewed. An attorney can help get your car repaired and your auto body shop bills paid prior to settlement of your case. Life without a car is challenging, imagine having to wait weeks or months for your claim to be settled before getting your car repaired. Nobody in Southern California should be forced to wait that long!

A personal injury lawyer will deal with the insurance companies and their adjusters so you don’t have to, saving you time and frustration.

Your personal injury lawyer will work to maximize the monetary compensation you receive for your pain and suffering.

There’s one additional cost of being in an accident that no dollar figure can be put against: the impact it has on your family and your quality of life. An accident that happens in the blink of an eye could affect you and your loved ones for life.

These are just a couple of ways the costs of a vehicle accident can quickly add up to thousands of dollars that you don’t have. If money is tight, it can start to feel like a car wreck is wrecking your life in more ways than one. The good news is you could avoid a catastrophe with one quick call to us. You need not go thorough this traumatic experience alone. I encourage you to get help by immediately retaining an attorney you feel comfortable working with. Everyone has the right to get justice after a car accident. Hiring an attorney is step one to making sure you get it.


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