A New High for Accidental, Preventable Deaths
Accidental deaths have hit an all-time high in the U.S., at least since government agencies have kept records on the causes of death. About 466 people die accidental deaths every day in the U.S. – one every three minutes. It’s clearly bad news that highlights so many challenges Americans are currently facing, including an opioid epidemic and the persistent uptick in the number of vehicle crash-related deaths.
You might be wondering what makes a death accidental, and it’s a great question. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies accidental deaths as those that are unintentional and preventable. Accidental deaths don’t include deaths caused by violence or cancer, for example. They are the deaths that should never have happened, which is important for a reason we’ll get to shortly.
First, it’s worth tackling the label itself. “Accidental” isn’t the greatest word for these types of death. “Accident” implies that no one is at fault for something. To be fair, people use the word all the time. Attorneys even use it to describe the types of cases we handle – vehicle accidents, product liability accidents, etc. – so we won’t hammer the CDC or any other group too hard for using the term; but we should note that it is inadequate to describe deaths that can clearly be attributed to someone else’s fault, even if they weren’t intentional.
How are Americans Dying?
In 2017, approximately 169,936 people in the U.S. died accidental deaths. More than a third of those died from poisoning, which includes drug overdoses. Motor vehicle accidents caused more than 40,000 deaths, and falls caused more than 36,000 deaths.
Though the increase is fueled mostly by the opioid epidemic, it’s worth noting that motor vehicle accident deaths continue to hover around 40,000 annually, a total that had not been reached since 2007 in the U.S. The higher death rate on our roads has several contributing factors, including an improved economy (more people drive when they have jobs and money) and the increase in smartphone usage.
Falls are also a continuing problem in the U.S. They are a leading cause of hip fractures, traumatic brain injuries and death, particularly among older Americans. A study from the CDC looked at the arc of fall-related deaths in the U.S. among people 65 or older from 2007 to 2016. Researchers found that the number of annual fall-related deaths increased from 18,334 in 2007 to 29,668 in 2016.
Preventing Preventable Deaths
If there’s any good news in this bad news, it’s that these deaths can be prevented. The National Safety Council says the high number of accidental fatalities is the cost of complacency, which is absolutely true. When drivers fail to appreciate the consequences of distracted driving or a business fails to make sure their premises don’t present slip and fall risks, it’s complacency that is proving to be a killer to thousands of our fellow citizens.
We can make our roads, businesses, workplaces and homes safer so that these deaths don’t happen. It takes a committed effort by our lawmakers, businesses and private citizens.
At McNeely Stephenson, we believe in accountability. When someone is negligent and their carelessness causes someone else harm, we think they should be held responsible. We help injured people get the payment they need to deal with the costs of their injury. In doing so, we hold negligent people and businesses accountable.
If you or a loved one wants to speak to our Indianapolis personal injury attorneys about a claim, we encourage you to contact our firm today. We offer free consultations to help you explore your legal options, and we will never pressure you to move forward with a case if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to get started.