Nov 10, 2020 12:08:37 PM / Brooke Loeffler /

The Cost of A Car Accident

Unfortunately, this winter driving season has been a costly one. Extreme weather events across the country created the perfect storm for massive pileups, road closures, and hazardous driving conditions. The costs of these accidents are far reaching not just for the victims involved, but their families, communities, states, and even the nation. Let’s breakdown car accident costs and learn some helpful tips for dealing with the aftermath of a winter car accident.

The Cost of A Car Accident

Car Crashes By the Numbers

About once a decade, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts a study detailing the extent of motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The previous study, conducted in 2010 found that:

“the total economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the United States was $242 billion. This represents the present value of lifetime economic costs for 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles...When quality-of-life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $836 billion.”

In 2014, USA Today broke down those nationwide numbers to find out how expensive a single accident can be. They reported that:

“the average roadway fatality costs about $1.32 million in associated economic costs and the average crash with a critically injured survivor costs about $1.5 million, based on a 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculation adjusted for today's dollars.” 

Accident Cost Breakdown

These staggering numbers show how complicated and wide reaching car accident costs can be. The NHTSA further breaks down who/which organizations end up paying for these accidents.

who pays for a car accident, a breakdown of car accident costs

  • 54% - The majority of car accident costs are paid for by private insurance companies. However, when you consider the fact that drivers pay premiums and deductibles to those insurance companies, some of that money comes from the consumers' pocket.
  • 23% - Individual crash victims end up paying for the next largest percentage.
  • 16% - 3rd parties not involved in the crash end up paying as well. This group includes a wide variety of parties such as: charities, health care providers, and even the other motorists stuck in the post-accident gridlock (fuel, loss of work/productivity).
  • 7% - Public funds (3% state/local and 4% federal) are used for the remainder to pay for necessary police presence, incident management, traffic redirection, etc.

Factors That Affect Accident Costs

Car accidents can range from fender benders to pileups involving multiple vehicles and fatalities. There are many factors that influence how expensive a car accident can be.

factors that affect how expensive a car accident is

Insurance Coverage

The comprehensiveness of your coverage and how much you pay for premiums and deductibles has a huge influence on your out of pocket costs. Some insurance companies incentivize safe drivers with lower costs. In addition, insurance costs can range depending on where you live and the inherent risks of driving in your location.

Vehicle Damage

The severity of the crash (are repairs needed or are vehicles totaled), how many vehicles involved, and who is at fault in the accident will affect how much you pay for vehicle damage. In addition, the value of the vehicles involved will change the overall costs.  

Damaged Property/Infrastructure

Costs will vary if the accident damaged private property (homes, gardens, fencing, businesses) or public property (signage, lighting, road surface, utility lines, road barriers, etc.).  


According to the CDC, “about 38,000 people are killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes each year in the United States. Traffic crash deaths resulted in $55 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends in 2018. 


If you, your passengers, other drivers/passengers, or pedestrians are injured in the crash, then there are short and long term costs to be added. Some vehicular injuries result in long lasting rehabilitation and therapy to heal properly.

Loss of Work/Productivity

Every car accident involves some form of lost productivity, even small fender benders. Most small accidents only involve minutes to  hours of lost work/productivity, but larger accidents can present a real financial burden. Injuries and loss of a functioning vehicle can seriously impair our ability to work and provide for ourselves. Typically if an accident involves significant loss of work/productivity, legal assistance can help you calculate and ask for what you need. 

Location of the Accident

The liability laws where you live can also affect the cost of an accident. Municipalities can have varying contributory negligence laws that adjust how much you pay if you are found to be even partially responsible for an accident.

Legal Services

Most lawyers will take a cut of financial awards given to accident victims instead of requiring upfront fees. Be sure to consult your local BBB to make sure you find legal advisors that will provide you with high quality services.

Accidents During the Winter

When car accidents happen during the winter, there can be some extra hardships to be prepared for.

Increased Towing Demand

When a weather event hits a city, it can put a real strain on emergency resources because that weather hits an area's drivers all at once. So when ice and snow causes a rush of car accidents in a single area, it can take a lot longer for towing companies to reach everyone in a timely manner. 

Car Rentals 

The increased rate of accidents during the winter has a trickle down effect that affects many other industries. For example, car rental agencies will have lower selection and have been known to actually run out of cars when a bad snowstorm hits an urban center. So even though you have rental coverage through your insurance, be ready for possible difficulty finding a car and fewer vehicle choices during the winter.

Longer Repair Times

Car maintenance shops also experience higher demand during the winter as well. So be prepared to wait a little longer for repairs to be completed.

*Even experienced drivers should refresh their winter driving skills from time to time. Click here to get our helpful Winter Driving Guide. 

Deicers Reduce Winter Accidents

In their 2014 study, USA Today found that “wintry weather accounted for 40% of pileups.” Poor traction on paved surfaces makes maneuvering your vehicle more dangerous, and your car less responsive.

Deicers reduce car accidents and the lower accident costs

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI), operating out of Montana State University, has conducted many thorough studies into the economics of winter driving. They have found that:

“the common winter maintenance practice of deicing has been shown to reduce crash frequency by 88.3 percent, and to decrease the average cost of each crash by 10 percent.

Superior Deicing Power With Ice Slicer

Ice Slicer partners with many cities, transportation agencies, NCFOR (National Coalition for Open Roads), and other private and public organizations in our commitment to:

• Improve road safety

• Protect lives

• Reduce accident costs

• Restore open roads

• Keep our economy humming

Our unique deicer restores stabilizing traction to road surfaces 3 x faster and lasts up to 2.5 times longer than white salt. Click here to learn more about Ice Slicer’s natural benefits and how we improve winter road safety all across the country.

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