Personal injury advertisements often highlight local law firms’ biggest cases and most favorable settlements. These ads often leave injured claimants wondering if they have six or seven-figure accident cases.
While many claimants seriously injured in falls and car crashes can demand substantial compensation, the vast majority of personal injury claims settle for much less, such as between $15,000 and $60,000. However, these numbers vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, insurance coverage, injury severity, and the accident’s impact on your daily life. Experienced injury lawyers can typically estimate your case’s overall worth based on past settlements with similar circumstances.
Economic Damages Available in Civil Personal Injury Cases
Motor vehicle collisions, dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and dangerous product claims often occur due to negligence, which leads to civil liability. These tort claims allow plaintiffs to demand financial reimbursement and injury compensation from the negligent parties responsible for causing the accident.
When they file an injury claim with an insurance company or in civil court, accident claimants may seek compensatory damages from liable defendants and insurers. These damages must correlate to injured claimants’ past financial losses and future anticipated needs stemming from the careless conduct.
Most personal injury claimants may demand money for:
- Initial ambulance and emergency room expenses
- Doctors bills
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Prescription medications and medical equipment
- Home nursing care and household help
- Medical transportation
- Lost income
- Lost workplace benefits
- Lost career opportunities (expected promotions and raises)
Importantly, injured claimants may request damages for both past losses and future anticipated needs related to the injuring event. Lawyers often retain medical and economic experts to calculate expected damages using their client’s medical records, testimony, and paystubs. This is a complex calculation, and you do not want to risk losing the compensation you deserve for future losses, as then you will be responsible for covering those losses yourself.
Non-Economic Damages Recoverable After Accidents
Many claimants report that the pain, frustration, family stress, and emotional anguish caused by their injuries outweigh the value of their direct economic losses. As such, the law permits injured parties to demand non-economic damages from liable persons or entities.
These incalculable damages often include:
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Daily frustrations
- Lost enjoyment of previous recreational activities
- Changed personality due to depression
- Lost spousal companionship
Claimants should keep a journal chronicling the daily hardships associated with their injuries. These entries could include anything from sleep deprivation to the inability to sit without pain. These damages also encompass the inability to perform past activities, including cooking, exercising, driving, dancing, or playing golf.
Insurers calculate the value of pain and suffering damages in one of two ways. The first and most popular method is multiplying the claimant’s direct economic damages by a seriousness factor.
For example, common accident injuries such as whiplash, knee pain, and slipped discs may increase the claimant’s settlement value by 50 percent. More serious injuries, such as multiple herniations and fractures, may convince insurers to double the value of your economic damages. After disabling accidents, including paralyzing injuries, full-thickness burns, and severe brain trauma, insurers may settle cases for five times the claimant’s direct damages.
Alternatively, adjusters may assign a daily pain and suffering value to the case. Insurers use this daily method of calculating pain and suffering settlements for serious injuries, such as miscarriages, that do not result in substantial economic damages but cause substantial emotional pain and suffering.
Estimating the Value of General Accident Injury Claims
Claimants might estimate their injury claim’s value by adding their medical expenses, lost wages, and additional out-of-pocket costs together and doubling this number.
For example, broken arms typically cost $15,000 for initial medical expenses, $5,000 in lost wages, and $2,000 in rehabilitation expenses, totaling $17,000. By doubling this number for pain and suffering (which could include the inability to work out, swim, or shower without help), claimants may reasonably expect appropriate cases to settle for about $34,000.
However, these numbers can change quickly if the claimant needs additional surgery or her employer accommodates her medical needs. The value of pain and suffering damages may also increase if the claimant broke her leg or jaw, as these injuries come with additional hardships.
Complications arise when claimants suffer from chronic injuries after accidents. Some conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, require extensive rehabilitation and have an unknown prognosis. Likewise, serious injuries often cause medical complications, including infections, organ failures, fibromyalgia, and mental illnesses.
Courts and insurance adjusters should account for these foreseeable conditions and associated medical expenses. Typically, estimating the value of these chronic injury claims requires expert help.
If you or a loved one suffered from one of the following serious injuries following an accident, your settlement should be much higher due to the lasting and varied effects of your injuries:
- Brain trauma and hemorrhaging
- Spinal cord and nerve damage
- Fractures necessitating surgery
- Third-degree burns or permanent scarring
- Visual impairment
- Difficulty walking
- Chest, lung, or heart damage
- Any injury preventing claimants from continuing in their chosen careers
These cases take time to settle. Personal injury attorneys commonly work with a team of medical, economic, and occupational experts to calculate their clients’ risk factors and future needs. These calculations include accounting for the claimant’s lifetime lost wages, lost retirement benefits, increased healthcare premiums, and at home nursing costs. This critical expert evaluation process protects claimants from settling their cases without considering their conditions’ long-term impact, thereby waiving all future compensation rights.
Depending on the claimant’s career and disability level, serious injury cases often settle for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, depending on available insurance. Accidents resulting in permanent disabilities, including paraplegia and severe traumatic brain injuries, generally settle for millions of dollars.
Case Worth by Accident Type
Some accident cases command higher settlement values than others due to various liability and insurance laws. Accordingly, how claimants sustained their injuries often impacts the average case value. Consider the most common settlement ranges in the following cases:
Car and Motorcycle Crashes
Most passenger vehicle accidents involve two cars and result in soft tissue injuries. Some states no longer permit claimants to recover civil damages for soft tissue only injuries, including whiplash and tendon damage. Instead, claimants must recover compensation from mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) policies. These no-fault insurance policies cover drivers’ and passengers’ necessary medical expenses and lost wages up to the policy limit, typically between $10,000 and $25,000.
In traditional fault-based states (or following serious injuries in no-fault states), claimants may demand compensation from the negligent driver and vehicle owner. This process typically includes filing claims with negligent drivers’ auto insurance policies. Most passenger vehicle policies provide between $25,000 and $100,000 of liability coverage. As such, the majority of car accident cases settle within policy limits. Sometimes, attorneys can help drivers trigger their underinsured motorist policies to cover damages exceeding the liable driver’s policy limits.
In many cases, lawyers also file personal injury litigation to maximize their clients’ settlement awards and challenge insurance denials. However, most negligent drivers do not have the assets to pay high-value personal injury claims. Substantial verdicts could force defendants into bankruptcy proceedings that can eliminate injury judgments. This is one reason why many car accident victims accept settlements within applicable policy limits, but this is something you should always discuss in detail with your attorney.
Many states have specific laws addressing corporate liability for rideshare accidents, such as accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers. Rideshare companies typically maintain umbrella insurance policies worth $1,000,000 to cover drivers, passengers, and pedestrians injured in rideshare accidents. Attorneys can often demand higher settlements after rideshare accidents.
Truck and Commercial Vehicle Collisions
Crashes involving large trucks, busses, and other work vehicles often command higher settlements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires semi-trucks to carry between $750,000 and $5,000,000 in liability insurance. Similar limits apply to buses and construction vehicles.
Work vehicle accidents, including state-owned trucks and cars, also often allow for higher settlement values. In such cases, drivers typically cause accidents during the scope of their employment. Their employment status generally triggers the vehicle’s commercial insurance policy limits (often higher than personal vehicle insurance policies), individual driver liability, and employer liability.
Employers must compensate claimants for injuries caused by their employees’ job-related negligent conduct. This legal principle, called vicarious liability or respondeat superior, often allows eligible claimants to demand full compensation for their injuries in court without worry about bankrupting individual defendants. These cases often settle for more than those involving consumer policies, depending on the claimant’s actual damages.
Slips, Falls and Tripping Accidents
Recovering compensation after a slip and fall accident depends on state law and the accident location. Some states limit grocery store liability for slipping accidents, and others set specific requirements for bringing litigation against public entities.
Claimants may demand compensation for falls occurring on public or private property due to dangerous conditions. These cases may include claims for negligent supervision of children or nursing home residents leading to falls. Most property owners maintain liability policies, and commercial policies generally include higher policy limits, which means higher settlements if your losses justify it. State law caps liability for accidents on public property, including schools and sidewalks.
Sometimes, dangerous products cause serious brain injuries, burns, falls, fractures, or other injuries. When household items, motor vehicles, and medical devices fail to function as marketed, injured claimants may file product liability claims. Sellers, manufacturers, and product designers could all bear liability for these injuries.
Most major retailers and manufacturers maintain high-value commercial insurance policies to cover these unexpected injuries. In rare cases, claimants may demand punitive damages if companies knew of the potential danger but refused to warn consumers or recall the products. If a product causes harm to many people, they might file a class action, from which all injured plaintiffs would divide the total settlement amount.
Healthcare mistakes, including misdiagnoses, critical treatment delays, and prescription drug errors, often trigger medical malpractice claims. Most healthcare providers and facilities must carry seven-figure malpractice insurance policies due to the dangerous injuries and illnesses associated with healthcare neglect. Your attorney can help seek the full settlement you deserve for medical injuries.
Demanding Punitive Damages for Reckless Conduct
Accidents can also occur due to someone’s criminal or extremely reckless conduct.
These cases often include injuries resulting from:
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving (speeding while changing lanes)
- Knowingly distributing dangerous or toxic products
- Operating on patients while intoxicated
- Setting traps or spring guns on a property
- Pushing or assaulting claimants during chases
- Texting while driving in school zones
After these shocking accidents, claimants might demand punitive damages directly from liable defendants. Insurance companies do not pay these damages, as they exist to punish the defendant for extremely reckless conduct. In qualifying cases, juries multiply the claimant’s compensatory damages as appropriate.
Punitive awards could result in triple damages. However, many states cap punitive damages around $300,000. Most accident cases do not support punitive damage awards, but they may if authorities criminally charged the defendant. Local attorneys may help you understand the damages available in your state.
Benefits of Retaining an Accident Injury Lawyer
Accident cases have a much better chance at demanding maximum settlements when claimants retain qualified personal injury attorneys. Even after accounting for attorney’s fees and legal costs, most eligible claimants recover substantially more compensation with legal help.
Many insurance companies refuse to negotiate claims with unrepresented claimants or only offer nominal settlements (less than $5,000) to discourage you from seeking legal advice. Accident lawyers should provide free legal consultations and claims evaluations to qualifying clients. To get a fair estimate of your accident case’s value and potential take-home settlement, considering consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer near you.