That is the 'classic' symptom of a bad bearing.
They will typically last "the life of the car" if repacked and resealed every 100k miles or so, but they will eventually wear out otherwise.
Collisions can cause premature failure (potholes, curbs, etc.), though the associated force required would usually bend an alloy wheel in the process, so a surprise failure is unlikely.
Not 100% sure of your model, but my bearings are conventional in every way- 2 tapered bearing sets with a seal at the rear.
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.