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While we may think of traffic in terms of lost time and frustration, in its 2011 American Automobile Association (“AAA”) report called
“Crashes vs. Congestion – What’s the Cost to Society?”
, AAA points out that motor vehicle crashes have a far greater impact.
In the United States, motor vehicle wrecks remain the leading cause of
death among people between the ages of 5 and 34 in the United States.
Car accident injuries are even more frequent than deaths, and they also
exact a toll on the people hurt, their families, and ultimately, society.

AAA looked at the specific types of costs that our society incurs every
time a car crash occurs. Today I want to discuss the first two of the
eleven types of damages that AAA mentions. These first two costs are significant
to me as a
car wreck lawyer, because they are the types of costs an injured person could recover in a
car accident lawsuit. AAA also discusses costs that are spread across society, and are borne
by all of us, even if we were not involved in the accident.

* Property damage. In a car accident, by definition the cars and trucks involved in the wreck
are damaged. These vehicles are part and parcel of the lawsuit damages
that the victim of a car wreck occurs. The person who owns the car will
have to repair or replace the car. (In the meantime, the person may have
to miss work, or call on friends and neighbors to carry him around town.

Sometimes property damage extends to property other than the vehicles that
were involved in the car accident itself. Road structures (like guardrails)
often are damaged. I have repeatedly gone out to visit crash scenes on
highways where I was afraid I would have trouble finding exactly where
the wreck occurred – only to realize that I could find it easily
because of the evidence left behind: the crushed and twisted guardrail.
The damage also may extend to nearby buildings, or to vegetation that
is destroyed and has to be replaced.

* Lost earnings. When a victim of a car accident is injured, she spends time in the hospital,
visiting doctors, and then going through physical rehab to try to recover
the abilities she had before the accident. In the meantime, her job is
put on hold.

If she is lucky, she will have disability insurance – but that doesn’t
stop the loss, it just shifts it to someone else – her employer
and the insurance company. We still lose the services of a wage-earning
member of our society. [I will do a later blog entry about disability
insurance. Many people think that disability insurance is a bonus that
means the person never really loses any earnings. They don’t realize
that the insurance company expects to be paid back once the defendant’s
car insurance pays the employee.] But back to the point of this blog —
insurance just shifts around who shoulders the loss. It cannot do anything
to stop the loss.

When someone is killed in a car accident, the lost wages are even more
catastrophic. Society is deprived of many years of wages for someone who
could have been a productive member. A family may lose a breadwinner,
and the survivors may go through serious financial hardship.

As a
personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I work with people who have incurred both of these types of damages in
a car crash, and are trying to collect from the car insurance company,
and so I see the financial pressure that medical bills and lost wages
can put on an individual and his family.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.