Personal injury verdicts tend to make the news easily due to the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars that are awarded by juries. However, settlements are not as quick to hit the news.
Settlements are usually kept more private because of nondisclosure agreements. Personal injury settlements are a bit less exciting to the news and viewers because they aren’t typically as high as some verdicts. Majority of personal injury cases are resolved through settlements rather than trials. Therefore, it is vital that you understand how settlements are reached and what to expect from them. If you or someone you know suffers from a personal injury or are weighing your settlement offer, this guide will show you exactly what to expect from personal injury settlements.
SETTLEMENTS: WHAT TO EXPECT IN PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
You may or may not know that 94% of criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain rather than going through the time, stress, and money of a trial. This is roughly the same for civil cases too. While this is subject to change, about 95% of civil cases will reach settlements at some stage in the case. This can occur before the case is even filed, or even after the case is over. If it occurs after the case is over, it is likely because the winning side does not want the losing side to appeal, so they will offer to settle.
HOW DO PERSONAL INJURY SETTLEMENTS WORK?
A settlement is an official agreement for the plaintiff to take a specified amount of money so that they do not further pursue the case in court. These settlements come with the intention of ending whatever dispute is occurring. The negotiation aspect of settlements can be a little difficult on both ends. The person who was harmed and is suing as a result- the plaintiff, is risking taking a smaller amount than they may have gotten from a verdict. The defendant, or person who is being accused of causing said harm, is offering to pay something in order to avoid trial and the expenses that come with it. Regardless of intention, the verdict can still go either way.
A lot of plaintiffs find that having a guaranteed settlement amount is better than gambling on a verdict. It is important to realize that the verdict amount has the potential to be higher, however it is still a gamble.
OUTCOMES OF PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUITS
As stated before, personal injury lawsuits end in settlements about 95% of the time. The remaining 5% of personal injury cases go all the way to trial and beyond. A study done in 2005 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that:
The success rate for plaintiffs was about 50% out of all the personal injury cases that made their way to verdict.
The highest success rate was in auto accident cases, at a whopping 61%.
Plaintiffs were only successful in 19% of medical malpractice trials.
If you are considering accepting a settlement offer, this means you know exactly what you are accepting, and how much that amount is. However, if you decide to reject a settlement, you are gambling with 50/50 odds. So, you may end up be awarded a higher amount than the settlement, but you also stand the chance of ending up with nothing.
There is still another potential outcome aside from settling or reaching a verdict. Cases can be dismissed for any reason at any point in time. The plaintiff can decide to drop the case, or the judge can dismiss either based on motions of the parties. In simpler terms, either party can ask the judge to dismiss, or the court can go ahead and dismiss on its own.
TYPICAL COMPENSATION IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES
Compensation in personal injury cases will always vary. This is because each case is unique, and the compensation is dependent of the facts presented in each case. Compensation is meant to be based on the number of damages that have been caused. This is what makes it more difficult to find a typical amount of compensation even for cases that are like each other.
A car accident causing a couple scrapes and bruises will differ from an accident causing a broken rib, spine, and severed foot. Still, here is some insight for you as of 2005:
Half of all plaintiffs received $24,000 or less
The median award of all cases studied was $31,000
In auto accident cases, the median amount awarded was $16,000
The median award in premises liability cases, which are cases holding owners or landlords liable for injuries sustained due to the condition of property, was $90,000
For medical malpractice cases, the average award was $679,000
The median payout for product liability- cases involving flawed products like medicine with unknown side effects or a lawn mower that explodes whenever it gets hot- was $748,000
WHAT CAN AFFECT THE OUTCOME IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
When you are deciding whether you should settle or make your way to trial in a personal injury case, there are many factors that you should take into consideration. Including but not limited to:
The severity of the injury sustained
The extent to which the injuries impacted the plaintiff or how much they interfere with the plaintiff’s daily life and work activities
The cost and duration of treatment and recovery
Emotional and psychological damage from the injuries
The certain of liability- is there much to debate as to whether the defendant is responsible
Cost of litigation
The amount of time litigation could take to get to a verdict
Costs beyond litigation- i.e., the publicity around cases’ the potential to cases the defendant harm to their reputation or business