We’ve all heard the stereotypical stories of people who get injured in an accident and manage to get a massive settlement that sets them up for life. How often does that actually happen? Are huge lawsuit settlement amounts common?
There are many misunderstandings about personal injury lawsuits, especially when it comes to cash. If someone else’s actions injured you, let’s take a look at the average settlement and what you can actually expect.
Average Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement
The most important thing to know about average personal injury settlement amounts is that there is no average amount. The most accurate range comes from a survey by NOLO. They found that most personal injury settlements fall between $3,000 and $75,000.
That’s a huge range, and it doesn’t give you much of an idea of what to expect. This is because no two personal injury lawsuits are the same. Every case has a wide variety of factors that will affect the final result.
The best way to find out what you can expect is to consider these factors and talk to a lawyer about their expectations.
Factors That Affect Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Amounts
Before you quit your day job or start scoping out investments, you need to know the many factors that will come into play during your case. Your personal injury settlement will depend on the factors below.
- Your Financial Losses
At a minimum, the goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to repair the financial damage you’ve sustained. The idea is that you shouldn’t have to pay for anything that wasn’t your fault.
In a personal injury case, there are two primary types of concrete financial damage. First, you’ll have your medical expenses for your injuries. Second, you may have property damage.
For example, traffic accidents are common causes of personal injury lawsuits. At its most basic level, your settlement should cover the damage to your vehicle and your medical bills.
Your future losses will come into play too. For example, maybe your injuries have lowered or ended your income potential, or you might need future medical treatments. Your settlement should cover those estimated future losses too.
- Your Injuries
If you have severe injuries, you’re likely to get a higher settlement. Part of this is because more severe injuries cost more money to treat.
However, your pain and suffering come into play as well. For example, you’re likely to receive more money for a highly painful injury because you endured more suffering at the defendant’s hands.
You’re also likely to get a higher settlement if your injuries leave any type of long-term damage. Lowered mobility and severe scarring tend to warrant higher payouts.
- The Balance of the Blame
Some personal injury cases are cut and dried regarding who was at fault. Others aren’t. If the judge or jury finds that you bear some of the blame too, they might decide that you should bear part of the costs yourself.
For example, let’s say you’re sitting in your legally parked car when another driver hits you. That would be entirely the other driver’s fault.
On the other hand, perhaps you were driving and you weren’t paying attention to the cars ahead of you. You realized they were stopping so you had to slam on your breaks. The car behind you couldn’t react in time and rear-ended you.
In that case, the other driver is mostly at fault because they weren’t leaving enough space to stop. However, the judge and jury might find that if you had paid attention, the accident would have been less likely or less severe. They might decide the other driver should pay 75% of your financial losses instead of 100%.
- The Defendant’s Actions
Personal injuries aren’t just about covering your financial losses. In some cases, the judge or jury will award you punitive damages too. Punitive damages include money meant to punish the defendant for their actions.
The worse the defendant’s actions were, the higher the punitive damages are likely to be. In the traffic accident example above, for instance, you may receive punitive damages if the driver was drunk or high.
Sometimes these punitive damages can soar through the roof. In one case, a lifelong smoker was awarded $850,000 from a tobacco company to compensate for her lung cancer, but she was awarded an additional $28 billion in punitive damages.
- Your Attorney
While we would all like to believe that every case will stand on its own merits, the reality is that there is a human element involved. Some attorneys simply know how to appeal to judges and juries to get higher settlements for their clients.
Your attorney’s negotiating and advocating skills will come into play. Their specialized knowledge is important too. They need to know how to gather the evidence they’ll need to prove your case.
- Financial Limitations
In the extreme case above against the tobacco company, part of the reason the court awarded the plaintiff so much money was because the tobacco company had that money.
It doesn’t help you to get a settlement your defendant will never be able to pay. For that reason, the defendant’s financial or insurance limitations will affect your settlement.
- The Judge or Jury
Lawsuits don’t involve inputting data into an objective machine that determines how much the defendant owes you. At the end of the day, you’re at the mercy of a judge or jury.
Sometimes you may simply catch a jury or judge on the right day. They connect with you, they sympathize with you, and they want to help you as much as possible. Other times, they may have more sympathy for the defendant.
Knowing What to Expect from Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
When it comes down to it, personal injury lawsuit settlement amounts are never 100% predictable. There are so many factors that come into play that no one will know for certain what to expect from the verdict. Still, the right lawyer has enough experience to take a close look at your case and establish a goal for your settlement.
For tips on making the most out of your lawsuit, check out more articles on our blog.