Personal Injury Claims: Small vs. Large Vehicles

Did you know that smaller cars are involved in more personal injury claims than are larger vehicles? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute analyzed data for model years 2009 through 2011 to determine which automobiles are involved in the most insurance claims.

In this investigation, the organizations considered the following categories:

  • Personal injury protection (harm to drivers and passengers)
  • Bodily injury liability (injuries to other cars' motorists and passengers)
  • Crashes (general property damage)

Vehicle models were ranked by how frequently they were involved in each type of claim.

Personal Injury Protection

Personal injury protection is a package of insurance benefits that includes medical expense benefits, income benefits, funeral benefits and death benefits. The extent of your benefits is determined by the law and by the coverage limits of your selected insurance policy. Personal injury protection claims are paid regardless of fault or liability. This means that you and the other passengers in your vehicle are covered under your policy, regardless of who is responsible for the car accident.

Recent data found that cars with the lowest rates of personal injury protection claims are larger in size. These vehicles include the larger Chevy Silverado and Jeep Grand Cherokee. While there are a few exceptions to the rule, overall, smaller or mini-sized cars are in more accidents involving harm to drivers and passengers. For example, the Suzuki SX4 (26.6 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years), Toyota Yaris (28.5 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years) and Chevrolet Aveo (26 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years) are among the top offenders.

Bodily Injury Liability

The data also confirmed that smaller cars are linked to more cases of bodily injury. For example, seven of the 10 models with the highest probability of causing injury to drivers or passengers in another vehicle are small or mini sized. The Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent are two examples.

Crashes: Property Damage

On the other hand, cars with the highest levels of vehicle or property damage tend to be larger pickups and SUVs, including the Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Tundra. As expected, bigger vehicles create larger quantities of damage.

Explanations

Why do the statistics differ between large and small cars? Sources suggest that people use smaller vehicles differently than larger vehicles. For example, people tend to drive faster in smaller cars. Also, experts note that small vehicles tend to be chosen by younger, inexperienced motorists.

Also, the vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute explains, "The smaller the vehicle you're in, the more likely you are to hit something larger than you." He adds, "And if you do, you're more likely to be injured."

While the released data may seem alarming to small car owners, there may be factors -unrelated to vehicle size - that help explain the statistics. The vice president also suggests that smaller vehicles are likely to be driven more often because they tend to be owned by single persons in given households. Conversely, larger cars tend to be owned by motorists who have a couple of garaged cars or more vehicles than people per household.

Ultimately, because a small vehicle is more likely to be driven by a motorist who is the sole owner, it tends to be used on a regular basis. This alone increases its odds of being involved in a crash. A car that is driven with less frequency is exposed to less risk.


If you are involved in a motor-vehicle accident, you should know what to expect. You may wonder about your potential for recovery. Furthermore, you may not be informed of the benefits to which you are entitled under New Jersey law. If you meet with an experienced personal injury attorney, you can learn more about your particular case.