What is the Average Personal Injury Settlement?
Calculating The Average Personal Injury Settlement Amount
You've been injured in a traffic accident and deserve financial compensation, but you have no clue how much your injuries are really worth. Personal injury case valuation and settlement amounts vary greatly—they can range anywhere from a few hundred bucks to hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars.
Why is there such a wide range? Average personal injury settlement amounts aren't just pulled from a random chart or spreadsheet. Each and every traffic accident is different. The injuries, damages and expenses in each individual case must be calculated distinctly for that particular case. And there are additional factors that most people in accidents don't think about when they try to determine the average personal injury settlement amount.
Past Jury Verdicts Are Often Used to Determine the Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts... But Be Careful!
Jury Verdict Research can give you the outcomes of dozens of court cases in your specific area and hundreds of outcomes in all of California. Attorneys will often go to this site and and try to use these jury verdicts to form an average personal injury settlement amount for a particular case in a particular jurisdiction. And although this jury verdict information can be relevant, it should be used with caution.
Rule #1 is to have reasonable expectations when considering what might be an acceptable personal injury settlement amount. This is something any truly experienced personal injury lawyer should tell you during your initial discussion with them.
Remember that when you look to California jury verdicts for help in valuing your case, you are looking at cases that have involved filing a lawsuit, years of litigation and a full jury trial - not cases that settled out of court. Also important to note is that only about 2-3% of all California personal injury cases end with a jury trial.
Most people choose to move on from their case by accepting a reasonable settlement instead of putting their case in the hands of an unpredictable jury. So, if you are looking at jury verdicts to evaluate your traffic accident case for settlement purposes, you may be looking at the wrong data.
Average Personal Injury Cases Do Not End up in Trial
The average personal injury settlement is NOT the result of a trial. Most cases that are clear-cut are settled out of court. However, cases that are "messy" and complicated usually end up going to trial. These cases typically have various issues that simply cannot be worked about between the parties. (California law allows 2 years in most cases for you to resolve your claim before you have to go to court.)
Take two scenarios:
Scenario One: If you have been in a motorcycle accident where someone ran a red light and hit you causing a broken leg. Well, that's a pretty cut and dry case, because the motorist is at fault for running the red light and you suffered a serious injury that was obviously caused by the accident.
Scenario Two: On the other hand, let's say you were in a car accident driving your car on the freeway at 75 MPH. You were weaving in and out of cars in a hurry and clipped a car that changed lanes without looking. As a result, you suffered an injury to your neck that exacerbated a pre-existing neck problem you've had all your life. Well, this case is now complicated - liability is questionable and the causation and extent of your injury is also an issue that can be dissected by the insurance company and other motorist's attorney.
This second scenario is much more likely to end up going to trial, because it's not "cut and dry." This example is simply meant to show you that the "average" case doesn't really end up going to trial in California. It is typically the more complicated personal injury cases that end up going all the way to a jury trial. Therefore, when calculating the average personal injury settlement, using jury verdict amounts may not be the best indicator of what you can expect for a reasonable settlement of your case.
Because it is the complex cases, not the average ones, that end up going to trial, this is another reason that using jury verdicts may not be the best way to determine what you can expect as a settlement for your case.
Defense Verdicts Also Need to Be Factored into the Calculation of the Average Personal Injury Settlement Amount
Although, as we've seen, jury verdicts aren't the best way to calculate the average settlement for a personal injury case, if you do use them, you also must include the defense verdicts. Defense verdicts are those where the plaintiff fails to prove their case and receives nothing ($0.00, zilch, nada) as the verdict in their personal injury case.
Sadly, a large number personal injury trials in California end with defense verdicts. The main reason is because most cases that are decided by a jury trial typically have complicated issues of who was at fault and whether the injuries were even the result of the accident. So, when you add in the defense verdicts to determine the average personal injury settlement amount, that average goes way down.
Just Looking at Other Settlements and Verdicts Isn't Enough
Determining the value of your own personal injury case by looking to the "average" injury settlement or verdict may be a futile task. While this may produce a certain number, that number is unlikely to have any bearing on your case at all. Each case has a variety of factors that need to be calculated to determine the range in which you can expect your case to settle. There are dozens of factors that can increase your case's value and dozens more that can diminish its value.
Understanding which factors can minimize or maximize your settlement amount and how to calculate each of those is crucial when you're trying to determine whether you need a qualified personal injury lawyer or can handle your case alone. So let's take a look.
What Factors Should You Consider in Estimating Your Personal Injury Settlement Amount?
There are a number of things to bear in mind when attempting to calculate the total value of your personal injury settlement. Here, we’re going to go through a number of the factors that can impact what your settlement will look like.
It’s important to understand that no respectable personal injury lawyer will guarantee a specific number. Those who would are simply not being honest. Make sure to ask a lot of questions when interviewing personal injury lawyers to make sure you are getting a straight-shooter. In addition, some of the personal injury calculators that you see on attorney websites are wildly inaccurate and deceptive.
WARNING: If you speak with a personal injury lawyer who tells you how much your case is worth (or what they think they can get for you) during your first or even second conversation with them, be very cautious! This is often just a tactic to get your business.
Determining the value of a personal injury case takes a lot of dedicated time and attention to the details of your case. Unless you have a really small, simple case, no one can give you an accurate estimate right off the bat.
Make sure that the injury lawyer you choose is a straight-shooter who won't exaggerate the value of your case just to get you as a client!
Read more about the qualities to look for in a personal injury lawyer.
Factors that Help You Determine the Value of Your Expected Personal Injury Settlement
Insurance companies will generally offer injured parties a settlement that includes their medical bills and whatever the cost of replacing or repairing their property is. But you’re entitled to more including:
- Missed time from work - Lost earnings or wages (both those you suffered because of time away from work and those associated with a diminished ability to perform your job during your physical recovery and/or in the future)
- Pain and suffering + Loss of enjoyment of life - All the ways the accident and your injuries have negatively affected any aspect of your life such as your work, family, social life, sports, hobbies or activities, etc.
- Loss of consortium - The damage or toll the accident and your injuries has taken on your marriage and relationship with your spouse.
- Inability to do household chores - The cost you incur in hiring someone to "pick up the slack" because your injuries make it impossible or too painful for you to handle your normal household or familial duties. You can even be compensated if these chores are left undone (nobody is hired to replace you) due to your injuries.
- Property Damage - The cost of repairing/replacing any personal property (including automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles and even items like phones, computers, clothing, etc.) damaged in a crash
- Medical Costs - Every medical expense associated with injuries sustained in the accident (including documented long-term or future medical expenses)
- Out-of-pocket expenses - Costs directly related to the crash (such as tow trucks, cab fare, Uber rides, prescription costs and any other expenses you incur as a direct result of your personal injury)
- Hired Help and Caregivers - The cost of hiring someone to take care of any household or family responsibilities while you were recovering from your injuries -- In places like San Francisco or Los Angeles, where the cost of living is very high, this element of damages can be significant.
Each of these constitutes something that you’re entitled to be compensated for under California law, but that the insurance company representing the negligent client has little to no interest in paying out. One other crucial factor that can determine the value of your case is the quality of your lawyer. Make sure you find the best personal injury lawyer to ensure no expense is overlooked and the insurance company responsible pays for these damages. You'll want to include all case-specific factors which increase the concrete dollar amount and in turn the value of your case. That way, you can get better than the average personal injury settlement amount.
Recent Personal Injury Settlement Results
To get a better idea of the average settlement results in California, here are some examples of recent settlements obtained in various traffic accident cases in California:
Factors that Bring Down the Average Personal Injury Settlement
As you may have gathered, there are numerous factors that go into determining what your personal injury case is worth - and what the average personal injury settlement is. There are those factors that increase the value and then those that can slightly decrease it, or sadly reduce it to almost nothing.
Shared Liability Can Reduce Your Settlement Amount
Determining who caused your accident is a key factor in determining the value of your settlement. Even if you were partially at fault, you can make a claim, but your claim will be discounted. California is a comparative negligence state. This means that your settlement will be reduced by whatever percentage you are found to have contributed to the cause of your accident.
As an example, if your personal injury case would be worth $200,000 if you played no part in causing the the accident, but it was determined that you contributed 20% of the cause the accident, you would receive 80% of the value of the case or $160,000, not the full $200,000.
So, when determining whether you case should be valued the same as the average personal injury settlement we have to consider whether there was any shared liability in your case and those used to determine the average.
Insurance Policy Limits Can Really Decrease Your Personal Injury Settlement
In most California traffic accident cases, unless you are looking at a claim against Uber, MUNI, a trucking company or someone driving for their company at the time of the accident, you are filing a claim against another individual. Well, you don't really go after them personally, but you pursue compensation through their insurance coverage. If their insurance coverage limits are low (California only requires that we carry $15,000 in liability coverage - which can barely cover an ambulance ride and x-rays) you may be out of luck.
You can look into your own underinsured motorist coverage, assuming you have this coverage. Otherwise, your settlement amount may be much lower than you deserve, because there is simply no insurance coverage to pay for your damages.
As you can see, determining the "average" is really complicated and requires putting together a lot of moving parts. So, actually trying to find an average and base your own case on that average is probably a misleading path. The best course of action is to take the specific factors of your case and determine the value of each of those to determine what you might expect as a settlement in your SF injury case.
Hiring the Best Personal Injury Attorney is a Great Way to Increase Your Personal Injury Settlement
One element that can significantly impact the value of your settlement is the quality of your personal injury attorney you hire and the amount of interest they have in your case. Having the best personal injury attorney advocating on your behalf will ensure that the insurance company doesn't offer you a lower settlement than you deserve.
Having an Attorney Will Get You More!
The Insurance Research Council found that:
People who are represented by a lawyer receive an average of 3.5 times more for their personal injury settlement than people without an attorney.
Learn More to Increase the Value of Your Personal Injury Settlement
If you've suffered a serious traffic accident and want to find out more about your particular traffic accident type, check out our specific resources below. The traffic accident lawyers at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers focus all of our resources on only five types of serious personal injury cases:
Thinking about hiring an injury lawyer to beat the average personal injury settlement amount? Learn more here about whether we are the right attorneys for you.
Watch our video or read about how the process works if you choose Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers to get you better than the average injury settlement.