Legal Guide

Leading Causes of Accidental Death

Accidental deaths from preventable injuries have been on the rise in recent years. In 2017, tragic accidents of various forms claimed the lives of nearly 500 people per day, and accidental injuries remain the third leading cause of death. Among Americans aged 1-44, unintentional injuries remain the top cause of mortality.

The problem is that accidents are, by definition, unpredictable and thus difficult to avoid. However, that doesn't mean there's nothing people can do to prevent themselves from fatal accidents. Get a head start on improving personal safety by learning about the leading causes of accidental death defined below.

What Constitutes an Accidental Death?

This article has already established that accidental deaths are on the rise, but how is this category of mortality defined, and what are examples of accidental death? Let's start at the beginning with a definition.

In the insurance world, accidental death can be defined as the loss of life due to reasons other than natural causes, which includes intentional acts of violence. Legal scholars have a slightly different interpretation in which accidental deaths must be caused by unusual and unanticipated events.

The Top Causes of Accidental Deaths

Accidental deaths can occur due to any type of unforeseeable event that creates potentially fatal conditions. However, there are some types of accidents that are more often fatal than others. According to the CDC, the top 10 causes of preventable mortality are:

  • Poisoning
  • Car crashes
  • Falls
  • Suffocation by ingestion or inhalation 
  • Drowning
  • Fires
  • Suffocation by mechanical means
  • Excessive heat or cold
  • Being struck by objects
  • Machinery accidents

Some of these issues are much more common than others. Poisoning, which leads the pack, takes the lives of nearly 65,000 Americans each year, while machinery accidents kill under 1,000 people. Instead of worrying about all of these ten causes, most people focus on the more prevalent and preventable of them.

Deaths by Poisoning

The deaths by accidental poisoning that occur in America each year are largely a result of the ongoing opioid epidemic. However, this category also includes other common household poisonings from substances such as pesticides, cleaning products, lead, and carbon monoxide. Avoiding accidental poisonings is largely a matter of keeping controlled substances and household chemicals in a safe, secure location and purchasing a carbon monoxide detector.

Car Crash Fatalities

Until recently, car crashes were the number one cause of accidental death, and they remain the leading cause of fatalities for people ages 5 to 24. While car accidents are, by definition, at least partially unforeseeable events, most occur due to driver negligence. Examples of negligent or reckless behavior that often leads to car crashes include:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Unskilled drivers
  • Failing to wear seatbelts
  • Deaths From Falls

Accidental falls are the top source of injury-related deaths for seniors in America. They often occur as a result of not just health problems that cause frailty or lack of balance and coordination but also because of environmental factors. Slippery floors, uneven sidewalks, defective stairs, icy paths, and unexpected objects in the way can all make a person more likely to slip and fall.

What to Do When an Accidental Death Occurs

Dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one is always stressful. Deaths from accidental injuries can also bring along the added issues of large medical bills and lost wages, both of which must be managed by the surviving relatives. The best solution is to speak with a lawyer about filing an insurance claim against the responsible party's policy, so call to schedule a consultation right away.


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