After suffering an injury caused by someone else's negligence, you may be interested in finding out more about typical personal injury settlement amounts. Most personal injury cases settle for anywhere between $10,000 to $100,000. However, the exact settlement amount varies on a case-to-case basis.
Factors That Determine Personal Injury Settlement Amount
To further understand why personal injury settlements vary, let's discuss some common factors that influence the final settlement amount.
Type of Injury
All injuries lead to pain, but not all injuries are the same when it comes to personal injury law. Some injuries may attract higher compensation than others, depending on various circumstances. For example, if you suffered whiplash due to a car accident, the settlement amount won't be the same as someone who slipped and fell off a flight of stairs while at work.
However, this does not necessarily mean that each injury has its own predetermined settlement amount. Using the previous example, some people suffer serious brain injuries due to whiplash, requiring surgeries and other complex medical procedures.
So even though whiplash is generally considered a minor injury, it can also develop into something even more severe. On the other hand, a slip and fall case may only lead to minor bruises considered less severe than whiplash.
This is also because personal injury cases are never the same; one person's mild injury could be severe on another.
Loss of Wages
Additionally, some damages are more straightforward to calculate than others. For example, injuries leading to permanent paralysis usually attract higher compensation. The amount significantly increases if the victim is the sole breadwinner for the family. In that case, the plaintiff may claim compensation for loss of earning capacity. This implies that the injury has ruined the plaintiff's chances of earning a decent income in the future. And, if they were already employed before the injury, the plaintiff's lawyer could argue that their client's new condition prevents them from earning what they should have earned before the injury.
Some injuries require more medical treatment than others. In most cases, injuries that require more medical attention and treatment, such as surgeries, attract higher compensation. When calculating the exact amount you're entitled to as compensation based on your medical expenses, an experienced personal injury attorney considers the following factors:
- Did the client need any surgeries?
- How much was the client's treatment?
- Did the client request an ambulance after the injury?
- Did the client have follow-up doctor visits?
- Did the client spend their own money on medicine and medical equipment?
And many others.
The questions mentioned above should be accompanied by medical records. This is because the other party won't accept financial responsibility if you don't prove that you incurred such costs due to the injury.
You should always expect the defense to put up a strong fight when you file a personal injury claim. Such claims don't involve an open check where the plaintiff can write the amount they are entitled to as compensation. On the contrary, the defense will always try to find ways to avoid being held responsible for the injury, let alone your medical expenses arising from the injury.
This explains why it's always important to keep records of every expense you've incurred as a result of the injury. For example, most people don't know that they could be reimbursed for the money they spend on gas when visiting a doctor, physical therapist, or accomplishing any other task arising from the injury.
The general argument is that you wouldn't need to make such trips had it not been for the other party's negligence, which caused the accident. However, if you can't prove that you incurred such expenses, then you may not be able to claim compensation on such grounds.
Pain and Suffering
Most personal injury cases may attract compensation for pain and suffering. This refers to the physical and emotional distress you've endured due to the injury.
It's usually difficult to calculate the right compensation for pain and suffering. Part of the reason is that pain is not tangible. For fairness' sake, the jury usually assumes that the more severe, long-lasting, and traumatizing an injury is, the higher the pain and suffering. This means that injuries that lead to permanent pain and suffering often attract higher compensation than those with temporary effects.
Even though pain and suffering are not tangible, you will still need to prove to the jury or insurance company that you deserve compensation for such damages. Most insurance companies use the pain and suffering multiplier method, which involves adding up all actual damages and multiplying the result by a number between 1.5 to 5.
The higher the multiplier, the more severe the pain and suffering. So, for instance, a score of 5 means you've sustained serious injuries.
However, the multiplier method also comes with its own fair share of criticism. First, some plaintiffs argue that the numbers don't necessarily represent the true extent of pain and may provide misleading results. Secondly, this method doesn't usually consider the vulnerability of the injured person.
To prove pain and suffering, you must also provide supporting evidence, such as witness testimonies, doctor's notes, police reports, photos of the injuries, and so on.
Loss of Opportunities and Experiences
You may recover compensation for opportunities or experiences you were forced to miss out on due to the injury. For example, if you had an important meeting to attend, that would have resulted in a lucrative deal but could no longer do so due to the injury.
In some personal injury cases, especially those involving severe injuries or even death, the victim's spouse or immediate family members may be able to file a loss of consortium claim. This is usually a standalone claim seeking compensation for the loss of family relationships due to the injury. For example, suppose the injured victim becomes paralyzed due to the accident, preventing them from engaging in sexual relations with their spouse. In that case, the spouse can file a standalone loss of consortium claim.
Property damage claims are usually pretty straightforward. The plaintiff calculates the value of the damaged property and then files a claim seeking compensation for the damage. For instance, in the case of a car accident, the insurance company will calculate the extent of the damage and write you a check or have one of their experts fix the damage. If the car is totaled, you'll most likely receive compensation based on the car's actual market value at the time of the accident.
Stage of the Claim
The stage of the claim can also influence the personal injury settlement amount. Most cases at an advanced stage attract a higher settlement than those at the initial stage.
This explains why most insurance companies propose meager settlement offers at the initial stage, sometimes amounting to less than $100, because they assume you can't prove that their insured is responsible for your injury. And, even if it appears that you have a solid case, the case may seem solid on paper but not under the legal microscope.
Most low ball offers target individuals with no legal representation. Insurance companies assume that such individuals don't know anything about personal injury law. And if they do, it may not be good enough to force them to settle for anything higher than the initial offer.
But things take a dramatic turn when such companies realize that the plaintiff has secured the services of an established and experienced personal injury lawyer from a reputable injury law firm like Morgan & Morgan. This is because insurance companies love bullying clients unaware of their rights. So the presence of an experienced personal injury attorney changes the entire legal playing field.
When such cases pass certain important milestones, such as navigating past a motion to dismiss the case, the value of the settlement significantly increases. As a result, the defense knows they risk losing if it proceeds to court. A smart attorney will then take advantage of the situation to propose a settlement or force the case to proceed to court, which could mean an even higher settlement for the plaintiff.
Staring at the possibility of losing the case and writing a hefty check to the plaintiff, most insurance companies will choose to settle the case out of court when faced with such a scenario.
The jury may award the plaintiff punitive damages in some personal injury cases. These are damages awarded to punish the defendant, especially if the jury determines that they acted with gross negligence, causing harm to the plaintiff in the process.
In most cases, punitive damages don't exceed four times the amount awarded as compensatory damages. So, for instance, if you recover $1 million as compensation, you can't receive punitive damages worth more than $4 million.
Some personal injury cases may seek compensation for most or even all damages listed above. As mentioned before, personal injury cases vary from one victim to another, and the circumstances of the injury determine the final settlement amount.