$18.4 billion is the estimated lifetime medical cost for the 2,519,471 people who were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, according to the CDC. The findings were published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report*, a CDC publication.

The CDC study looked at emergency department records for people with nonfatal crash injuries. The purpose of the study was to get an estimate of the medical and work loss costs associated with nonfatal crash injuries.

Of the 2,519,471 patients who were seen by emergency room personnel, 7.5% of them were hospitalized. The average hospital stay in 2012 was 5.6 days for a total of 1,057,465 hospital days. Some of the accident victims hospitalized in 2012 were not released in that year.

Emergency Department Visits for Nonfatal Crash Injuries that Result in Hospitalization

“Previously, the CDC has focused on traffic fatalities,” said Fred Pritzker, a Minnesota lawyer who represents clients throughout the United States in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. “The most recent CDC statistics are for 2012. In that year, 22,912 motor vehicle occupants were tragically killed on our nation’s roads. The emotional and financial cost of this loss is immeasurable, but the CDC estimated that the medical cost of such fatalities was $226 million.”

 

Of the $18.4 billion estimated lifetime medical costs, $7.7 billion was estimated for treated and released patients and $10.7 billion, hospitalized patients. This works out to $3,362 for the treated and released patient and $56,674 for the hospitalized patient.

The CDC estimated lifetime cost of work loss because of crash injuries in 2012 to be $32.9 billion: $9.4 billion for treated and released patients, and $23.5 billion for hospitalized patients.

“These numbers seem low to me,” said Fred. “We have had clients with medical bills in the hundreds of thousands and work income losses over a million.”

CDC Study Analyzed Emergency Room Data

The CDC study looked at Data from the 2012 National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and from the 2012 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The data gathered was used to estimate the number of patients seen at emergency departments after a crash and the number hospitalized.

Both federal and state databases were used to estimate lifetime medical and loss of work costs associated with crash injuries. The medical estimates included costs of the following:

  • cost of initial ED visit
  • cost of initial hospitalization
  • follow-up visits and hospitalizations
  • ambulance transportation
  • ambulatory care
  • prescription drugs
  • home health care
  • vision aids
  • dental visits
  • medical devices
  • nursing home
  • insurance claims administration costs

The loss of work estimates included the following losses:

  • expected employment earnings
  • lost fringe benefits
  • lost value of household work

 

“We look at a number of variables when estimating future medical and loss of income compensation,” said Fred. “We also seek compensation for pain and suffering, which includes amounts for physical pain, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement and loss of quality of life.”

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