Average Personal Injury Settlements

WrittenJ. Hirbyand Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Civil complaints and lawsuits pertaining to personal injury constantly overload the dockets of courtrooms across the United States. Law firms that specialize in personal injury claims are part of a billion-dollar industry that produces tons of statistics, but this wealth of information is not exactly conducive to calculating average settlement amounts.

The problem with discussing or attempting to come up with an approximate personal injury settlement amount is the diversity of cases and the vast number of unique considerations that pertain to each situation. Plaintiffs who shop around for law firms to handle their cases often come away with sharply different estimates of the amounts that they can potentially receive as part of a settlement or jury award.

How Damages and Injuries Are Assessed

The basic rule of thumb in liability cases is that the amount of the settlement or award should be commensurate with the extent and intensity of damages and injuries. The most common type of personal injury claims filed in court are related to traffic accidents.

Insurance actuaries in the United States report that the majority of court claims that arise from automobile accidents end up in settlement agreements that are largely kept confidential. Still, results from internal reporting reveal an average of $24,000 per case in 2013.

Many law firms that specialize in personal injury cases tend to multiply the loss of income and medical costs times four when preparing claims. Let's say, for example, that a woman who was in a car accident ended up taking three days off work due to bruises and discomfort. Potential plaintiffs may think that there would be no lost income if there are sick days offered by the employer, and that insurance companies will cover the reasonable medical bills to treat someone who suffered bruises instead of fractures; however, this is not how the personal injury world works.

If the woman in this example could have earned $300 in the days that she was unable to work and her medical bills came up to $200, she could add $300 plus $200 and multiply the result times four. This means that $2,000 could be a starting amount to begin her settlement negotiations with the insurance company; should there be a disagreement and the parties end up going to court, the plaintiff could double the amount of the claim.

Settlement amount averages tend to vary by industry. For example, the classic slip-and-fall situations in retail establishments tend to yield averages of just $2,000. On the other hand, settlements of medical malpractice lawsuits averaged more than $300,000 in 2013. It is important to remember, however, that many physician malpractice cases are for wrongful death, which tend to be at the upper end of the settlement spectrum.

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