One day, you’re just a guy cleaning his gutters on a rickety ladder. The next, you’re a victim of trauma, and of the physical and monetary penalties it imposes on your life.

According to the National Trauma Center, trauma accounts for 42 million emergency department visits and two million hospital admissions in the United States every year. By way of comparison: cancer accounts for 16 percent; heart disease for 12 percent; and HIV for 2 percent.

Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that trauma is the number one cause of death for Americans age 44 and younger. It accounts for 47 percent of all deaths in this age group.

People who survive trauma must carry the physical and financial burdens for the rest of their days. Take traumatic brain injury (TBI), for one. Of the 1.4 million Americans who suffer a TBI every year, only 50,000 die as a result. That leaves a sizeable portion of the group to deal with massive expenses.

The High Cost of Trauma

People who experience trauma may undergo long-term behavioral and personality changes, chronic pain, and a potentially diminished quality of life. But they have to pay in other ways too. From minor bumps and bruises to life-threatening injuries, the economic burden of this medical category is significant.

The CDC reports that at least 1.7 million TBIs occur every year. The direct and indirect costs associated with those cases totaled an estimated $76.5 billion in the United States in 2000, the latest year for which such figures were collected. A study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that victims of gunshot injuries cost the US government $174.1 billion in 2010.

All told, the National Trauma Institute reports that some $406 billion is spent in the United States every year to pay for medical expenses related to traumatic injuries, including health-care costs and lost productivity. That includes the cost of doctor visits, hospital stays, and productivity lost to the trauma.

A 2012 study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that trauma-related disorders are among the five most expensive medical conditions. The study pinned the average per-person cost for trauma care in the Northeast United States at $14,022. 

Such unexpected expenses can double trauma’s impact in a flash for folks with limited or no insurance. The injury often prevents a person from returning to work indefinitely, and the financial toll of such an outcome is considerable. According to an aggregation of statistics from the CDC, U.S. Census, and the federal court system, medical bills are the top causes for U.S. bankruptcies today. This is just one grim fact that heralds the critical state of Americans’ abilities to cover their healthcare costs.

Crowdfunding to the Rescue

Crowdfunding is an emerging and attractive alternative for victims of traumatic injury struggling to squelch the flow of medical bills. In this innovative model, as in the Healthline example, individuals in financial need establish online campaigns that describe their plight. A financial goal is set, and outsiders are invited to contribute to the cause. 

Technology has made such acts of generosity not just possible, but easy to perform. Concerned friends, family, community members, and even perfect strangers can harness the pleasure that comes with easing another human being’s suffering with just the click of a button.