Compensation Guide for Knee Injuries After a Car Accident

When your knee is hurt in a car accident, the road to recovery can be long and expensive. Learn how to get the compensation you deserve.

Sprained or bruised knee injuries can often be settled directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for less than $10,000.

Severe knee and leg injuries typically require surgery, intense therapy, and a long recovery. Compensation values can range from $10,000 for simple fractures to $10 million for traumatic amputations.

Here we explore sample knee injury settlement values, and how to maximize your car accident compensation.

Calculating Knee Injury Compensation

Car accident victims often end up with bruising, sprains, and strains to muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the knee and leg. Depending on the force of impact, tendons and ligaments can pull and twist, or hyperextend well beyond their intended range.

Soft tissue injuries are treated with rest and over-the-counter pain medications, with most making a full recovery in several days or weeks. If you’ve fully recovered from a minor knee injury and liability is clear, you may decide to handle your own injury claim.

Calculate your injury compensation by adding up all your medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, and lost wages. If your accident claim is with the other driver’s insurance company, add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

In no-fault states, you must look to your own auto insurance company for compensation under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If you were a passenger, you can make a PIP claim under the driver’s policy. PIP does not pay for pain and suffering.

Example: Sprained Knee Insurance Settlement

Roger was driving at reduced speed past the local high school when 17-year old Jason “gunned it” out of the school parking lot, directly in the path of Roger’s car. Roger hit the brakes hard, but couldn’t avoid colliding with the left rear side of Jason’s car.

Several parents and school bus drivers witnessed the accident. Police soon arrived on the scene, ticketing Jason for failing to yield the right of way and reckless driving.

Roger’s knee was already swollen and painful. He allowed the EMTs to transport him to the hospital. After a CT scan to rule out a fracture or ligament tears, Roger was released with a diagnosis of bruising and a sprain.

Roger followed up with an orthopedic specialist the next day. After a week of rest, icing the knee, and gradual weight-bearing, his knee pain subsided and he was able to return to his job as a forklift driver. He required no further treatment.

Medical bills (Hospital, CT scan, Doctors ): $4,200
Lost wages ($23 per hour for 40 hours): $920
Total Economic losses ($4,200 + $920): $5,120
Non-economic losses ($5,120 x 2): $6,040
Estimated knee injury settlement ($5,120 + $6,040): $11,160

Roger submitted his compensation demand for $11,000. The insurance adjuster was reluctant to pay much for Roger’s non-economic losses.

Roger countered that it was a hardship to sit home with his leg up because he had been scheduled for a ten-day vacation the week after the accident. He showed proof that not only did he miss out on the fun and relaxation of his annual hunting trip, he also lost his share of the hunting cabin costs, as well as the deer meat that should have been in his freezer.

After several rounds of negotiation, Roger’s knee injury claim settled for $8,000.

Sample Knee Injury Settlement Payouts

A settlement amount can be estimated using the average treatment cost and recovery period for common car accident knee injuries.

For these estimates, we will assume the victim earns $20 per hour at a full-time job. Pain and suffering will be estimated at two times the total economic damages, although your knee injury case may warrant more.

Every personal injury claim is different. Consult a car accident lawyer for a personalized case evaluation.

Patella (Kneecap) Fractures

Simple fractures or displacement of the kneecap can be immobilized with a cast for six or eight weeks. More complicated kneecap fractures require surgery (ORIF) to put the bones, muscles, and ligaments back in place. Knee fractures often lead to arthritis in the future.

Medical bills (ORIF Kneecap Fracture): $13,007
Lost wages (3 months): $9,600
Total economic losses ($13,007 + $9,600): $22,607 
Non-economic losses ($22,607 x 2): $45,214
Estimated kneecap fracture settlement ($22,607 + $45,214): $67,821

Ligament Tears

More than 70 percent of car crash knee injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). When the ACL twists too forcefully in a car accident, it can become misshapen, or worse, torn.

An ACL strain can be painful, but when the force of a collision tears the ACL away from the knee joints, the pain is often excruciating and debilitating. Torn ligaments often require surgery followed by a long period of rehabilitation.

Medical bills (ACL Surgery): $50,000
Lost wages (9 months): $28,800
Total economic losses ($50,000 + $28,800): $78,800
Non-economic losses ($78,800 x 2): $157,600
Estimated ligament tear settlement ($78,800 + $157,600): $236,400

Cartilage Tears

Your knee has two pads of cartilage that act as cushions between the thigh bone and shin bone. Each of these pads is called a meniscus. The impact from a car accident can tear or rupture the meniscus.

In more severe tears or rupturing of the meniscus, arthroscopic surgery (partial or total meniscectomy) is used to repair the meniscus and remove torn tissue debris. Recovery can take six to nine months of medical treatment and physical therapy.

Medical bills (Meniscus Tear Surgery): $30,000
Lost wages (6 months): $19,200
Total economic losses ($30,000 + $19,200): $49,200
Non-economic losses ($49,200 x 2): $98,400
Estimated cartilage tear settlement ($49,200 + $98,400): $147,600

Claims for Traumatic Leg and Knee Injuries

car accident leg injuries

When you’ve suffered severe leg or knee injuries, especially when those injuries are disabling, you can’t get a fair amount of compensation without a skilled personal injury attorney.

Serious injuries are high-dollar insurance claims. Not only are the medical costs often staggering, but the victim’s pain and suffering may continue for the rest of their life.

Serious personal injury cases must be handled by an attorney to protect the interests of the accident victim. Even if your case doesn’t go all the way to trial, it often takes a lawsuit to induce the other side to pay fair compensation for life-altering injuries.

One of the most horrific car accident injuries is traumatic amputation, where the foot or leg is severed during the collision. Amputations from vehicle collisions more often occur at the hospital, when the foot or leg is injured beyond repair and must be removed to save the patient.

Case Example: Jury Awards $10 Million for Traumatic Leg Amputation 

Tim Clancy was driving his Chevy S10 pickup truck late one night on State Road 231 when he fell asleep at the wheel, causing the truck to cross the center line.

Dianna and Robert Goad were traveling in the opposing lane, each riding separate motorcycles. Robert was able to swerve out of the way, but Clancy’s truck crashed into Dianna, severing her leg above the knee and sending her flying through the air.

Dianna landed in a water-filled ditch. In addition to the leg amputation, Dianna also suffered from a fractured pelvic bone, a fractured left elbow, and a lacerated spleen. Robert ran to his wife and held her head above the water until paramedics arrived.

Through their attorneys, Dianna and Robert filed suit. Dianna suffered catastrophic and disabling injuries, and sought compensatory damages for her injuries, past and future lost income, and pain and suffering.

Before the crash, Dianna was active and athletic, jogging more than three miles each day, hiking, rollerblading, and caring for their home. She also worked full-time in an accounting position.

The injuries Dianna received in the accident were catastrophic. She was left with permanent disabilities, chronic pain, and extensive future medical expenses. At the time of trial, Dianna’s medical costs were more than $368,000.

The jury verdict awarded Dianna $10 million for injuries including the loss of her left leg. The award was upheld on appeal.

5 Steps for Boosting Injury Compensation

Start at the accident scene. After a collision, always call 911 to notify the police and ask for help. After the chaos of the scene dies down, do the following:

1. Get Prompt Medical Treatment

Never refuse or delay medical attention after a motor vehicle accident. The insurance company won’t hesitate to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the collision.

If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, see your physician or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center as soon as possible. Tell any medical providers who treat you that your injury is from an auto accident. It’s crucial for your medical records to reflect that your injuries are directly related to the collision.

2. Gather Evidence of Fault

When you’ve just suffered a knee injury you probably won’t be able to move around to gather evidence. Don’t make your knee worse by trying. Aggravating an injury can also hurt your claim.

If someone can help gather evidence, ask them to take photographs and video of the scene from different angles, and get the contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident and its aftermath.

Don’t worry if you can’t gather evidence right after the crash. The police report will include a diagram of the crash, weather conditions, citations issued, DUI tests and results, and will have the officer’s opinion of fault for the accident. You can usually pick up a copy of the police report shortly after the accident for a small fee.

3. Keep an Accident Journal

After the crash, make detailed notes of everything you remember before the accident and as the crash happened. Describe your fear and pain after the impact, and your experience with emergency responders.

Keep a journal during your recovery with details of your pain, mobility issues, frustrations, sleep issues, and worries. Your journal will help justify higher compensation for your pain and suffering.

4. Collect Medical Bills and Records 

You’ll need to collect copies of all your medical bills and records. Your medical documentation will help link your injuries to the accident.

Request records from the emergency room, your treating physician, and any specialists or therapists you’ve seen because of the accident. Include mental health records if they relate to anxiety or trauma from the crash.

5. Consult an Experienced Attorney

There’s too much to lose by trying to negotiate a serious knee injury claim on your own. An experienced attorney can often boost your compensation by:

  • Discovering additional insurance coverage
  • Defending you against allegations of shared fault
  • Conducting an asset search of the at-fault driver
  • Negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit, if necessary

Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to car accident victims. There’s no obligation. It pays to protect your interests by having a professional case evaluation.

Car Accident Leg and Knee Injury Questions

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>