If you’re considering making a personal injury claim after an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, you probably want to know how much money you can expect to receive in compensation for your medical bills and other damages. To get an idea of typical settlements or awards in personal injury claims—and what makes a difference in the amounts—we surveyed our readers across the United States to ask about their experiences. Here’s what we learned.
The Range of Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
Less than a third (30%) of the readers in our survey received nothing for personal injury claims. Of those who did receive a “payout” (an out-of-court settlement or a court award after a trial), the overall average was $52,900. Payouts typically ranged from $3,000 to $75,000, but a few readers received considerably more.
When you’re looking at these results, keep in mind that the readers we surveyed had come to our websites to find information about a claim and to look for a lawyer. It may be that those with the most severe injuries (which lead to a higher settlement or award) immediately retained a lawyer elsewhere and therefore did not participate in our survey.
What Affects the Payout Amount?
The vast majority of payouts in personal injury claims are the result of an out-of-court settlement rather than a trial. (Only 4% of our readers with completed cases went to trial.) As most lawyers will tell you, jury verdicts are unpredictable. But there tend to be general patterns as to how much insurance companies will agree to pay in a settlement, with some variables having a bigger effect than others.
Injuries. Naturally, the nature and severity of your injuries will have the most impact on how much you can expect to receive for your claim. The more serious your injuries, the more likely it is that you’ve had substantial medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. All of that generally (and not surprisingly) leads to a higher settlement or award. (See our survey results on how medical treatment affects personal injury settlements or awards.)
Insurance limits. Insurance policy limits can keep settlement offers low—the insurance company isn’t going to offer a settlement that’s over the policy limits, even if the case might otherwise be worth more. (Learn more about how insurance coverage affects personal injury settlements.)
Our survey revealed a few other factors that significantly affect payout amounts: whether the injured party hires a lawyer, tries to negotiate settlement offers, and takes steps to involve the court.
Legal Representation in Personal Injury Cases
Hiring a lawyer can significantly affect the outcome of your personal injury claim. Readers with attorneys received settlements or awards that were $60,000 higher, on average, than those who proceeded on their own. Even after deducting the average fees charged by PI lawyers (32%), the readers with legal representation typically walked away with about three times as much compensation as unrepresented readers.
Legal representation also raised the chances of getting any compensation at all. More than nine in ten (91%) of the readers with attorneys received a payout, while that proportion dropped to 51% for those who pursued their claims on their own. (Learn about other ways PI lawyers make a difference.)
Negotiating Injury Settlement Offers
It may seem obvious that you’ll end up with a higher settlement by negotiating rather than simply accepting the first offer from the other side. This may not be true in every case, but it’s still one of the most effective strategies for getting more money. Most of our readers held out for a better deal, and as a result, they received settlements that were, on average, $30,700 higher compared with those who accepted the insurance company’s first offer (30% of readers, surprisingly).
Filing or Threatening a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Just over half of our readers settled or otherwise resolved their personal injury claims without filing a lawsuit or even notifying the other side that they were ready to do that. But readers who did take one of those steps were more likely to receive payouts compared to those who didn’t (81% compared to 67%). And the compensation they received was, on average, almost twice as much as settlements received by those who didn’t threaten or file a lawsuit ($45,500 compared to $23,000). So even though personal injury trials are rare, insurance companies are clearly more likely to make or improve a settlement offer if you (or your lawyer) show them that you’re serious by moving ahead toward lawsuit.
Protect Yourself and Your Personal Injury Claim
When it comes to getting the most out of your personal injury claim, our survey results show that there’s no substitute for standing up for your rights and fighting for the best result. For many readers, that meant putting their case in the hands of an attorney rather than leave thousands of dollars on the negotiating table. If you’re thinking about making a personal injury claim, your best first step might be to sit down and discuss your situation with an experienced attorney.