What’s Your Life Worth?

Societal Cost Components for Fatalities, 1972 NHTSA Study

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Here is a chart from a federal study showing how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has calculated the value of a human life. The estimate was arrived at under pressure from the auto industry. The Ford Motor Company has used it in cost-benefit analyses arguing why certain safety measures are not “worth” the savings in human lives. The calculation below is a breakdown of the estimated cost to society every time someone is killed in a car accident. We were not able to find anyone, either in the government or at Ford, who could explain how the $10,000 figure for “pain and suffering” had been arrived at.

COMPONENT 1971 COSTS
Future Productivity Losses
Direct
Indirect
Medical Costs
Hospital
other
Property Damage
Insurance Administration
Legal and Court
Employer Losses
Victim’s Pain and Suffering
Funeral
Assets (Lost Consumption)
Miscellaneous Accident Cost
$132,000
41,300

700
425
1,500
4,700
3,000
1,000
10,000
900
5,000
200

TOTAL PER FATALITY: $200,725

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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