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Unintentional injury in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

In 2020, unintentional injuries or accidents were the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for around six percent of all deaths. An estimated 200,955 people died from unintentional injuries in 2020, with the highest death rates from unintentional injuries found among the elderly. The most common types of unintentional injuries that lead to death involve poisonings, motor vehicles, and falls.

Occupational injury

Accidents in the workplace, or occupational injuries, have decreased since the early 1990s, but remain a serious danger within specific occupations. Leading causes of disabling workplace injuries include overexertion, falls, and being struck by an object or equipment. Occupations with high fatal work injury rates include logging workers, fishers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and roofers. In 2019, there were approximately 5,333 occupational injury deaths in the U.S., with the largest portion involving those aged 45 to 54 years.

Motor vehicle injuries

Motor vehicle injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death, with 36,096 such deaths in 2019. Rates of death from motor vehicle injuries have decreased significantly since the 1970s as technology has improved the safety of motor vehicles. In 1970, there were 27.6 deaths from motor vehicle injuries per 100,000 population, but, by 2018, this rate had decreased to 11.7 per 100,000 population. The risk of motor vehicle injury can depend on the vehicle type, make, and model. In 2019, the number of crashes involving motorcycles was around 81 thousand, compared to 119 thousand injury crashes among large trucks.

Spinal and head injuries

Some of the worst unintentional injuries involve spinal cord or head injuries, or more specifically, brain trauma. These types of injuries can lead to permanent physical or mental disability and even death. Motor vehicles resulted in the largest share of spinal cord injuries between 2015 and 2020, accounting for 38.2 percent of such injuries. As of 2020, there were around 17,900 spinal cord injuries every year and about 30 percent of people with such injuries were re-hospitalized in any given year. The estimated lifetime cost of a patient who is 25 years old and suffering from paraplegia in the United States was around 2.5 million dollars as of 2020.


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