According to data from 2016 to 2021, the average personal injury settlement is over $62,000 with a median amount of almost $53,000. Smaller cases with more minor injuries can result in much lower average settlements, but larger cases with more severe injuries have higher payouts and have sometimes resulted in million-dollar settlements. The wide range of situations and outcomes makes it difficult to pin down how much any one case might be worth with so many variables that factor into each situation.
Different Tiers of Injury Result in Different Payouts
One of the main things taken into account is the severity of the injuries themselves. There are three groups that these injuries are categorized into:
- Tier 1: Severe or permanent injuries such as spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, disfigurement, and wrongful death
- Tier 2: Moderate to complex injuries such as lacerations and broken bones
- Tier 3: Minor injuries such as sprains and bruises
These injuries can be caused by a myriad of incidents ranging from slip and falls to car accidents to medical malpractice. Each situation comes with its own complex circumstances which makes it difficult to allocate a singular monetary amount to each injury tier. The actual payout amounts will be determined by the severity of the injury, the impacts of the injury, and the negligence that may have caused an injury.
What Types of Injuries Pay the Most?
There is no set standard to determine how much certain injuries may be worth. Every person is different, and so every injury is going to be different. Generally speaking, more severe injuries result in higher settlements. These are usually cases involving:
- Permanent disabilities
- Loss of quality of life
- Injuries that require treatment that lasts years
There’s no real way to gage how severe any one type of accident may be. A minor slip and fall can still result in major injuries in the wrong circumstances, and a massive car crash might result in minor injuries. Every case has its own details that help determine what a fair settlement would amount to.
The Most Common Outcome in a Personal Injury Claim
Most of the time, personal injury claims can result in financial compensation, and most often, that compensation comes in the form of a settlement. It is very rare for cases to go to trial. Although it can happen, going to trial is the result of about 5 percent of personal injury claims. Trials take more time and money than negotiating a personal injury settlement. Trials also come with a greater risk, which is why lawyers and insurance adjusters often try to reach a settlement.
Some personal injury settlements are on the lower side, only up to about $75 thousand, while some injured parties receive much more than that. Higher settlements are generally due to more severe injuries, whereas the smaller settlements generally involve much more minor injuries. There are instances where a plaintiff was awarded millions, but this happens far less often are often require an injury that causes long lasting damages or disability.
What is a Settlement Agreement?
A personal injury settlement is financial compensation paid to the injured party by the one liable for the injury with the purpose of making the injured party whole again. The idea is to restore the injured party to where they were before the injury. While it may not be physically possible to fully restore a person to their previous condition, financial compensation is the system in place to make up the difference. This agreement can be reached prior to and after a lawsuit has been filed. It is an attempt by the negligent party to satisfy the damages to prevent the case from reaching trial.
A settlement agreement is also a resolution to the issue. Once the settlement is paid, the party responsible is absolved of that responsibility and the injured party can not take legal action against them for the same injury again.
Factors that Impact Personal Injury Settlements
There are many factors and variables that help determine how much a personal injury claim might settle for:
Severity of Injury
The main thing taken into account in a personal injury settlement is the severity of the injuries. Since the purpose of a settlement is to make the victim whole again, or as close to whole as possible, the amount should be fair compensation for the injury suffered. Reaching a fair amount for the injury is critical because once a settlement is reached, the individual who suffered injury is no longer able to seek additional recourse.
More minor injuries often have simpler solutions. The injured party may have a couple doctor’s visits, a pain medication prescription, a bit of time off work, and some short-term pain. These things may be easier to quantify and require less money to compensate. More severe injuries are more costly to treat, result in more time away from work, sometimes result in the inability to return to work at all, and sometimes lead to lifelong chronic pain. These injuries can often be settled for larger amounts.
The important thing to remember is that not every injury is the same for every person. Two people may suffer identical injuries in a car accident, but one could develop complications due to several differentiating factors and need extra treatment. Taking this into account, not all injuries of the same type are treated equally.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are much harder to quantify due to these factors being less tangible than measurable damages. However, these factors are often times just as important. When negotiating a settlement, personal injury lawyers can help calculate the right amount and take a few things into consideration:
- The way your injuries impact your daily life. Some injuries prevent a person from doing the things they would normally do or cause constant pain that make it difficult to enjoy those things.
- How long your recovery will take. Some injuries heal in a few months’ time, while others take years to recover, or may even be permanent and require a lifetime of treatment.
- Mental and emotional suffering. Things like shock and post-traumatic stress are difficult to prove and usually require evidence from a mental health professional.
One of the ways used to calculate a monetary value to these things is called the multiplier method. This involves adding up all of the economic damages of the injury and multiplying it by a number between one and five to account for the non-economic damages with five being used for the more severe injuries.
It is important to remember to always seek medical treatment after an accident, even if you don’t think you were injured.
Medical bills are also an important factor that require compensation in settlement negotiations. Pre-existing, planned, and possible future medical expenses are taken into consideration. There are many things that are categorized as medical expenses:
- Ambulance rides
- Doctor’s visits
- Equipment (crutches, wheelchairs, etc)
- Outpatient care
- Physical rehabilitation
Some of these expenses may be covered by insurance, but many are paid out of pocket. It is important to have detailed medical records and receipts of all expenses incurred due to the injury as the damages paid by insurance companies will cover the out-of-pocket expenses and not the full medical bills that are charged by medical facilities. A plaintiff could even receive compensation for the money they spent on gas going to and from the doctor, but only if they have solid proof.
As part of settlement negotiations, a plaintiff can ask to be compensated for time lost from work due to the accident. This can be time already missed as well as time that will be missed in the future. A personal injury attorney may also argue that the plaintiff’s future earning ability may be negatively impacted. If a person suffers an injury that permanently puts them out of work, they may claim loss of earning capacity. If a person has dependents, their compensation may be considerably higher.
Loss of Opportunity
While recovering from an injury, there may be many things that you may not be able to do that you would have done had the accident not occurred. A person may miss out on business deals and job promotions that they otherwise could have benefited from. In these types of situations, the monetary loss of that opportunity can often times be calculated into an amount that can be sought in the personal injury claim.
There are other circumstances that may warrant a reward due to loss of opportunity. One example of these circumstances is when a person’s family files for loss of consortium. If someone is killed in an accident or injured severely enough to diminish their capacity to provide companionship for their loved ones, their family may file a separate claim for loss of consortium.
Insurance companies have different policies for different situations. Each policy is worth a certain amount of money. The extent of the policy can affect the extent of the settlement and is determined by the limits of the policy that the liable party pays for. Large companies are more likely to have larger policies than individual people. If a person is uninsured, then the settlement comes out of their own pocket. This can sometimes be to the detriment of the injured party because an uninsured party may not be able to cover a judgment made against them.
A defendant can’t pay money they don’t have. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money a settlement should be if the defendant simply can’t afford it. Occasionally, the court may liquidate their assets and garnish their wages, but that is still limited by how much the defendant has. When negotiating a settlement, the extent of the defendant’s assets and insurance coverage can be a defining factor.
One of the most important things to consider when negotiating a settlement is how much each party is at fault for the accident. No one wants to pay for damage they didn’t cause, and so if the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident, the defendant will argue that they shouldn’t have to pay as much. Since California is a pure comparative fault state, the value of their claim is reduced by the percentage they were at fault. So, if their claim is worth $100k and the injured party was determined to be 25 percent at fault, they may only recover $75k.
About 95 percent of personal injury cases are settled out of court. But for the 5 percent that go to trial, it can be a stressful, lengthy, and expensive process for everyone involved. It also takes the final decision out of the hands of the parties involved and places it with a jury. Sometimes, the outcome of a settlement is determined by how much each side is willing to compromise in order to avoid a trial.
What is a Good Settlement Amount?
A good settlement amount is one that fully compensates the plaintiff for their damages. Ideally, the settlement should cover:
- Out of pocket medical bills
- Ambulance costs
- Medical exams & diagnosis
- Lost wages
- Pain & suffering
Each personal injury claim can include the existing medical costs in addition to any estimated costs of future treatment as well. Every case has its own variables that determine how much the plaintiff should seek in compensation, so it is important to leverage the expertise of a personal injury lawyer and a qualified medical team to determine an appropriate settlement.
How are Personal Injury Settlements Paid Out?
There are generally two ways that a personal injury claim might be paid out; a lump sum or structured settlement. Which one an individual chooses depends on their situation.
A lump sum is when the entire settlement is paid all at once. For people who need the entire amount right away, this may be the better option. However, it is important to remember that the check doesn’t get handed over the day the settlement is agreed on. It can take weeks or even months for the payment to be received.
A structured settlement is when the settlement is paid out bit by bit on a set schedule. The parties agree on a specific amount to be paid in regular interval for a predetermined length of time. This can be beneficial for a number of circumstances:
- To give the parties more options when setting terms
- To ensure the money is used properly
- To provide financial stability over a set period of time
Similar Accident May Result in Different Payouts
Because of the wide range of variables involved in each case, similarities in injuries or accidents don’t necessarily mean a similar settlement amount. If a singer and a painter both slip and fall and break their hand, the painter is likely to need more compensation for loss of income. Even people involved in the same accident may receive vastly different settlements. If four people are in the same car involved in a truck accident, they may each have different injuries and personal situations that affect the amount of each settlement.
The Advantage of Qualified Legal Representation
Personal injury lawyers are beneficial in many ways that are important to winning a personal injury claim and getting an appropriate settlement. A qualified personal injury lawyer can assist with:
- Collecting evidence
- Determining the value of your damages
- Filing a personal injury claim in time
- Keeping track of deadlines
- Negotiating for a fair settlement
- Protecting a victim’s rights
While it is not legally mandatory to have a lawyer in order to file a personal injury claim, it is definitely helpful to have someone with the knowledge and expertise to help you. Most people who hire a lawyer for a personal injury case end up receiving a much more appropriate level of financial compensation for their damages. Of the people who do receive compensation, those with lawyers generally end up receiving much higher payouts, often three times as much, even after factoring in the attorney fees. This is opposed to individuals who choose not to enlist the support of a personal injury lawyer which results in only 51% of non-represented injured parties receiving a settlement.
The Advantage of Negotiating Settlements
While it may be tempting to take an initial offer and just be done with it, those settlement offers are usually far less than what the claim is actually worth. Settlement negotiations are one of the best ways to get fair compensation. People who negotiate generally receive settlements substantially higher than those who accept initial offers. On average negotiating a settlement vs accepting the first offer resulted in a $30K increase in personal injury settlement.
Contact Mesriani Law Group if You Have Suffered a Personal Injury
Personal injury settlement negotiations can be a stressful and complicated experience. No one should have to face that alone. Our personal injury lawyers are dedicated and experienced and can help you get the compensation you deserve. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the accident or the discovery of the injury. If you have been injured in an accident, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.
Personal Injury Settlement FAQs
What percentage do most personal injury lawyers take?
Contingency fees are the portion of the settlement used to pay the attorney. This is a way of financially protecting the client and minimizing their risk in pursuing a claim, as the attorney only gets paid if the client gets paid. The average contingency fees for personal injury lawyers can range from 33 to 55 percent. It depends on the particular firm and variables such as whether the case goes to court.
What is the highest personal injury settlement?
Personal injury settlements vary so widely that it is difficult to calculate an actual average or predict what any one case might result in. There are some smaller cases that result in modest settlements, but there are also those that have been in the millions. The largest slip and fall settlement was for $15 million and the largest car accident settlement was for $80 million.
What is the usual result of a settlement?
When a case reaches a settlement, an agreement is signed that lays out the terms of the settlement. After this, the checks are issued to the attorney who then disburses the money between the client, themselves, and any lien holders. After a case is settled, the defendant is released from their responsibility and the plaintiff can not sue them again over the same matter.
How much are most car accident settlements?
A car accident settlement amount depends on the specific details of the accident, the severity of the injuries, the impact on the plaintiff’s life, the defendant's insurance coverage, and the negotiating skills of the attorneys. Any averages calculated may be misleading due to the vast array of possibilities.