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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And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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