What is the average settlement for a personal injury claim? A lawyer shares the average settlement value for injury cases and helpful tips you need to know.
Figuring out how much money you need to rebuild your life after a serious injury is difficult. Even harder is predicting what an insurance company will offer to avoid trials or jury verdicts.
That offer — the settlement value — is a critical number for you to understand before talking with an insurance adjuster. So, what is the average settlement for a personal injury claim?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one average personal injury settlement. Your settlement value depends on your injury, its treatment, and whether the insurance adjuster believes you will sue.
Injury settlements are mainly composed of economic damages (e.g., medical costs) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering).
Most personal injury settlements are under $50,000, with the majority paying out far less than that amount. Whether your claim can obtain a payout closer to $50,000 depends on a number of factors. Many of these factors are in your control.
Read on to discover how insurance companies look at personal injury claims and the data they use to determine payouts.
Average Settlement for a Claim Without Verified Facts
Potential claim value without verified facts or evidence: $0-$3,000
Simply claiming an injury, without facts or supporting documents, will likely lead to the adjuster denying your claim.
Persistence and persuasion can sometimes help, but even then, without proof of fault or injury, the best you’ll probably get is a nuisance value. Nuisance value is a very small amount paid by the insurance company to make your claim go away.
If you get a nuisance value offer, it will be extremely small and might not cover your injury-related expenses.
You have the burden of proving that the insured person or business was negligent, and that you have measurable damages as a result.
To increase the value of your claim, there are three factors that can influence an insurance adjuster.
Factors that can influence an insurance adjuster include:
- Collecting and presenting specific facts of the insured’s negligence
- Collecting and presenting hard evidence of your injury
- Demonstrating a real possibility that you will take your case to court
Average Settlement for a Claim With Verified Facts
Potential value with verified facts supporting your claim: $5,000-$10,000
To obtain a good settlement, understand the type of claim you have. Even if you intend to negotiate a settlement on your own, take the time to learn about the personal injury laws in your state that can help your claim.
The laws in your state will tell you if you can allege facts that would be accepted as a valid legal claim. Building a strong case can make the difference between a nuisance value settlement and a better one.
In other words, the adjuster will pay more if they know your claim would stand up in court.
You can threaten to file a lawsuit, but if you don’t have verified facts (meaning proof to back up your claim) the adjuster won’t take you seriously. For example, you won’t get far claiming a whiplash injury if you didn’t get any medical treatment after the accident.
Assuming you can show all the elements of a successful injury claim, an adjuster may be willing to offer more to settle. The best facts to emphasize will depend upon the kind of injury you have. Some common injuries and scenarios are discussed below.
Negligence means that you were injured because someone else made a mistake. An example is a motorist causing a car accident by texting and driving.
Most accidents caused by negligence result in fairly minor injuries, for example low-speed fender benders. Claims for relatively minor injuries have a lower average settlement value, but you can boost your claim value with verifiable facts.
The facts that will make your adjuster pay attention include:
- Who was responsible for your bodily injury
- Why they were responsible for your safety
- How they were careless
- How that carelessness injured you
When organizing and verifying facts, look at state law. For example, if you were on vacation in Nevada and broke your ankle tripping over cracked asphalt in an under-lit hotel parking lot, you would want to consider the Nevada law holding innkeepers accountable for injuries caused to guests on the premises.
You don’t have to know all the facts to make a good case to an insurance adjuster for a fair settlement. But if you want to quickly establish a negligence case worth more than nuisance value, it’s important to organize your information in a way that will establish the legal basis for your claim. The adjuster would rather offer you a fair settlement than risk losing your case in court.
2. Product Liability
A product liability case is very different from a standard negligence case. Did the brakes fail on your car at a crucial moment? Did a toaster oven start a fire in your home, causing serious injury or property damage?
In product liability cases, relevant facts would be:
- How you were using the product
- How often you had used the product previously
- What happened just before your injury
- Other instances of people being injured by similar products or in a similar way
It’s helpful to check the news to see if any other people have been hurt in the same way. In a defective product case, that information may be more valuable to the adjuster than your specific facts.
3. Intentional Misconduct
If an insured person or business intentionally injured you, the value of your claim is potentially greater. It’s especially important to consider whether the behavior that injured you was also a crime.
In the event of criminal or malicious behavior, many states allow for a legal award of punitive damages, meaning money the at-fault person or business must pay as punishment for egregious behavior. Punitive damage awards can be triple the amount of the other damages, or more.
For punitive damage claims, you must establish how and why the wrongful or criminal behavior took place. Police reports or eyewitness statements are strong sources.
Average Settlement Value for a Claim With Hard Evidence
Potential value of fully documented injury claims: $10,000 or more
The adjuster’s job is to resolve personal injury claims for as little money as possible. Your job, or your attorney’s job, is to persuade the adjuster to fully compensate you for your damages.
It pays to take the time to calculate a fair settlement value for your claim and gather documentation to support every dollar of your estimated claim value.
Economic damages are your measurable “hard” costs, such as medical bills, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and lost wages.
The biggest factor driving average settlement value in personal injury cases is economic damages, particularly medical treatment. Past treatment, including medical bills, must be documented.
Any billed treatment to you or your health insurer counts as economic damages — not just the deductible or co-pay paid out of your pocket. Include the cost of medications, bandages, or medical equipment necessary for your treatment.
An injury may also require future treatment, therapy, or rehabilitation. Those costs should also be supported with documentation.
If you’re having trouble at work because of your injuries, document that as well. The cost of accommodations to account for any disability may also be recoverable, driving up the settlement value of your case.
Medical records, bills, and invoices aren’t the only documentation that help an insurance adjuster value your case. Some damages can’t be measured with bills or wage statements.
Non-economic damages, like emotional distress or pain and suffering, are also an important component of any settlement amount, though they will be less concrete and more difficult to agree upon.
Judges and juries usually calculate non-economic damages as a multiple of the economic damages — usually one to five times that amount. Insurance adjusters think the same way. Your job, then, is to find evidence supporting that number.
Find pictures and testimonials that tell your story. Pre-injury family vacation photos, birthday cards and home videos all tell your story in a personal and compelling way. By presenting your injury in context, you demonstrate the intangible effects of your injury, as well as the power of your story on a jury.
Presenting Your Evidence to the Insurance Company
After obtaining all of your information on damages, organize copies of your documentation into a package to sent with your demand letter.
Your settlement demand packet presents your evidence to the insurance company in a compelling way. It will almost certainly be used by the adjuster in making a decision on the amount of a settlement offer.
Average Settlement Value for a Court-Ready Case
Potential value of a litigated case: $15,000-$20,000 or more
Filing a lawsuit can increase settlement value because lawsuits allow parties to conduct discovery. Discovery is the court-controlled process that gives rise to facts used at trial.
Discovery gives your attorney an opportunity to gather critical evidence you couldn’t get on your own, like surveillance camera footage from a store where you fell.
Personal injury claims are a bigger financial threat to insurance companies the longer they exist.
Insurance companies have to pay lawyers, and more advanced claims present the risk of a big judgment. Therefore, litigated claims have a much higher average settlement value.
Injured people don’t usually file lawsuits by themselves. Making the decision to hire a personal injury attorney shows the insurance adjuster that your claim may cost the insurance carrier more money. Your attorney may be able to persuade an insurance company to pay a larger settlement to avoid trial.
A Well-Organized Claim is Worth More
So, what is the average settlement for a personal injury claim? While it is impossible to say exactly what any given claim is worth, you can turn the odds in your favor. The most important things you can do right now to improve the settlement value of your claim are collecting and organizing your facts and evidence.
A well-written, realistic demand will usually get a better response from an adjuster. Even if it doesn’t, you have created a solid basis for you or your attorney to decide your next step and get you a fair settlement.
Before you start, you should have a free consultation with a lawyer in your state who will evaluate your claim and advise you on how to proceed.