Unintentional injury is a term that defines a large subset of areas such as falls, fires, burns, poisoning, aspiration, or drowning. According to Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the common factor between these specific injuries is that they are unplanned, occurred in a short period of time, and a harmful outcome isn’t sought.
In 2020 alone, an estimated 200,955 people suffered fatal unintentional injuries in the United States. Not only was this the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, but also accounted for approximately six percent of all deaths among the population.
Wrongful death is a legal term that refers to the death of one person caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party. In many instances, the circumstances resulting in fatal unintentional injury can still be attributed to the negligent or reckless acts of others. For example, unintentional injury deaths due to medical malpractice or workplace accidents can make a legal effort to hold the organization responsible.
Kentucky Law’s interpretation of wrongful death closely resembles the CDC’s own definition. It is stated that damages may be recovered for the death by the person or entity deemed responsible. Again, the death of the person has to be proven to be inflicted by the negligence or recklessness of the other party.
Unintentional Injury Data
Listed below is a combination of 2019 cdc.gov and kiprc.uky.edu data providing insight on unintentional injury death trends both nationally and locally:
US Ages 15-24:
- In 1980, 54% (26,206) of total deaths (49,027) were unintentional injury related
- In 2019, 40% (11,755) of total deaths (29,771) were unintentional injury related
- In Kentucky, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among ages 12-24 included motor vehicle traffic (88) and poisoning (62) in 2019
US Ages 25-44:
- In 1980, 25% (26,722) of total deaths (108,658) were unintentional injury related
- In 2019, 34% (48,586) of total deaths (142,164) were unintentional injury related
- In Kentucky, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among ages 25-44 included poisoning (646) and motor vehicle traffic (199) in 2019
US Ages 45-64:
- In 1980, 4% (18,140) of total deaths (425,338) were unintentional injury related
- In 2019, 9% (48,251) of total deaths (535,330) were unintentional injury related
- In Kentucky, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among ages 25-44 included poisoning (507) and motor vehicle traffic (197) in 2019
US Ages 65+:
- In 1980, 1.9% (24,844) of total deaths (1,341,848) were unintentional injury related
- In 2019, 9% (60,527) of total deaths (2,117,332) were unintentional injury related
- In Kentucky, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among ages 25-44 included fall (306), motor vehicle traffic (161), and poisoning (59) in 2019
Motor Vehicle Traffic
Across all the Kentucky age groups, motor vehicle traffic proved to be a major contributor to unintentional injury deaths. The NHTSA 2019 traffic fatality data reported there were 36,096 deaths from motor vehicle traffic in the United States alone.
These types of accidents encompass data from trucks, vehicles, and motorcycles. Together, motor vehicle traffic was responsible for the third largest number of accidental injuries for the United States in 2019.
As defined by the CDC, poisoning encompasses any substance that can cause illness or death. For adult poisonings, legal and illegal nonmedical drug overdoses are a common instance of this type of unintentional death. This aligns with the 2019 Kentucky injury data where poisoning deaths accounted for the overwhelming majority of reported deaths among ages 25-64.
Unintentional injury appears to be a generally larger contributor to the overall percentage of total US deaths, excluding the youngest age demographic. Ages 15-24 were the only age group that saw more total deaths, along with a larger percentage of deaths, due to unintentional injury in 1980. In Kentucky, the leading cause of unintentional death was falls and motor vehicle traffic. This is significant because poisoning contributed to the majority of deaths for citizens ages 25-64.
Moving forward, an area like Kentucky continues to implement statewide plans like KVIPP that support the implementation and prevention of priority areas of focus. This includes addressing vehicle crashes, elderly falls, as well as sexual assault violence.