The National Safety Council provides a table with the odds of dying from various injuries. One column lists the number of U.S. deaths in 2003; the next lists the odds of dying from that activity in a year; the third lists the lifetime odds.
[Update (Sept. 16, 2012): That link is broken. A graphic from 2012 is here. The National Safety Council invites you to purchase its book, Injury Facts, in order to get the detailed table. Or you can use the Internet Archive to view the 2004 stats here. And a page from Learn Stuff based on the NSC stats is here. Thanks to Hannah Edwards for pointing out the broken link and offering the Learn Stuff link. Even old blog posts can be interesting and useful, so it doesn't hurt to fix the broken links.]
This is all based on the raw numbers. For example, to compute the odds of dying for "Animal rider or occupant of animal-drawn vehicle," take 101 deaths in 2003 and divide by the 2003 population 290,850,005 -- 1 in 2,879,703 . Of course, most of us don't spend much time riding animals or riding in animal-drawn vehicles. If you were a jockey or rodeo rider, your odds of dying from an injury related to riding an animal would be much greater than the average American's.
There's a cool graphic from National Geographic (Aug. 2006) that presents the lifetime odds in a series of circles, dwindling as the odds get smaller. The graphic includes non-injury causes of death: heart disease (1/5), cancer (1/7), stroke (1/24), motor vehicle accident (1/84) ... fireworks discharge (1/340,733). The largest circle: "Total odds of dying, any cause: 1 in 1." (I'm not copying the graphic here because I'm cautious about copyright, but do take a look. It's a good example of the visual display of information.)
Here are selected lifetime odds of injuries that are often litigated in one way or another:
- Motor vehicle accidents: 1 in 84
- "Fall on same level from slipping, tripping, and stumbling": 1 in 6,278
- Bitten or struck by dog: 1 in 117,127
- Assault by firearm: 1 in 314
- Assault by sharp object: 1 in 1,829
- Complications of medical and surgical care: 1 in 1,313
Filed in: statistics, National-Safety-Council, causes-of-death, accidents, beSpacific