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
Our survey showed that for readers who received a personal injury “payout” (an out-of-court settlement or a court award after a trial), the overall average was $52,900. (Only 30% of readers received nothing.) 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. (For more details, see our article 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. (For more details, see our article on 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
Having a lawyer on your side not only makes it much more likely that you’ll get compensation for your damages; attorneys also help their clients get higher payouts. Readers who had lawyers received settlements or awards that were $60,000 higher, on average, than those who proceeded on their own—an increase of 340%. (For more details, see our article on how lawyers affect the outcome of personal injury cases.)
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 under half of our readers (or their lawyers) filed a lawsuit or notified the other side that they were ready to do that, and it made a difference in their payouts. Readers who filed or threatened a suit received average settlements or awards that were almost twice as high as those who didn't take one of those steps—$45,500 compared to $23,000.
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.