See average workers’ comp settlement amounts for injuries by body part, type of injury, and cause. Learn what’s included in a typical payout.
Some workers’ comp cases are resolved with a lump-sum settlement instead of regular monthly payments. The exact settlement amount will depend on your state’s workers’ comp laws, the type of injury you suffered, and its severity.
While all workers’ compensation claims are unique, there are resources to help estimate average settlement amounts.
The National Safety Council (NSC) maintains a database of the average payout for workers’ comp settlements by type of injury. Based on the NSC data, this article will look at average settlement amounts for different work injuries and disabilities.
Average Settlement Amounts by Body Part
Upper Body Work Injuries
Workers’ comp cases with head injuries settle for the most money compared to settlements for all other body parts. Claims involving catastrophic brain injuries can sometimes settle for millions of dollars.
Average work injury settlements for the upper body include:
- Head – $92,493
- Neck – $61,510
- Arm and shoulder – $46,205
- Chest – $42,342
- Upper back – $33,154
- Hand/fingers/wrist – $24,627
Carpal Tunnel Nerve Disorders
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve disorder of the wrist and hand. It’s a common work-related injury, especially for office workers and employees whose jobs involve repetitive hand motions (e.g., data entry specialists).
The average workers’ comp settlement for carpal tunnel is $30,510. This is about $6,000 more than the average settlement for hand and wrist injuries in general.
Lower Body Work Injuries
Lower back injuries are a leading cause of workers’ disabilities. Lumbar (lower back) sprains, strains, and herniated discs are common workplace injuries.
Average settlement amounts for lower body injuries include:
- Lower back – $36,882
- Hip/thigh/pelvis – $58,146
- Leg – $57,476
- Knee – $33,153
- Ankle – $30,486
- Foot/toes – $27,628
While the average settlement for a hip injury is above $50,000, minor injuries that get treated without surgery will typically settle for between $5,000 and $20,000. Settlement amounts jump drastically in cases involving total disability.
As to knee injuries, you’ll likely see a settlement amount above the average when surgery is required to repair the injury. When surgery is required for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the value of a workers’ compensation settlement can rise to $80,000 or higher.
Injuries To Multiple Body Parts
Some employees will suffer injuries to multiple body parts from a traumatic work accident. The average settlement amount in these cases is $68,749.
Amounts will increase when workers injure body parts which typically settle for large figures on their own. For example, an insurance company will pay a worker more for head and neck injuries than hand and foot injuries.
Slip and falls are common causes of accidents that result in injuries to multiple body parts. Workers often get injured from the initial slip but then injure another body part when trying to break their fall.
Case Example: Supreme Court of NJ Boosts Awards for Multiple Work Injuries
Three New Jersey workers’ compensation cases, each involving a worker who suffered multiple injuries from a single event, were combined for consideration by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Under the 1980 revisions to the laws, if a worker suffered multiple injuries, each injury was calculated separately:
“When a claim petition alleges more than one disability, the number of weeks in the award shall be determined and entered separately for each such disability and the number of weeks for each disability shall not be cumulative when entering an award.”
Two of the cases, Poswiatowski and Fagan, had multiple injuries (each injury with a different percent of disability) calculated separately and approved by a lower court. They appealed.
When the Smith case was calculated separately, he would only have been entitled to a structured settlement of $15,468 to be paid over 273 weeks at a rate of $156 per week.
Through his attorney, Smith argued that his multiple percentages of disabilities should have been added cumulatively, based on 50% of the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW) for 273.25 weeks, for a total award of $33,759. A lower court substantially agreed.
The NJ Supreme Court decided that using a cumulative calculation, such as in the Smith case, better serves the legislative intent to “put significantly more money into the hands of the more seriously injured workers.”
The final ruling stated, in part:
“We hold that the weeks of compensation awarded for one accident’s multiple injuries that establish a single compensable disability should be cumulated, not separated, in computing the award.”
Each state has its own laws for calculating workers’ comp disability settlements. If you suffered multiple injuries from a single work accident, contact a workers’ compensation attorney for legal advice about your options.
Most workers’ compensation lawyers offer free consultations. A good lawyer will help protect your interests and maximize your workers’ comp claim.
Average Settlements by Injury Type and Cause
Average settlement amounts are sometimes broken down into different types or natures of work injuries.
Average settlements for common types of work-related injuries:
- Amputation – $109,926
- Fracture/dislocation – $59,253
- Burn – $48,295
- Occupational disease – $35,779
- Strain/Sprain – $31,851
- Concussion – $30, 955
Workers’ comp settlement offers for amputations are considerably more than settlements for other types of injuries. A work injury leading to an amputation will require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. The worker may not be able to return to the workforce and have high future medical expenses.
Average workers’ comp settlements for catastrophic head injuries exceed $92,000. But settlements for concussion are much lower at around $31,000. Moderate concussions may only result in an insurer offering a settlement amount of between $5,000 and $10,000.
Average settlement amounts for common causes of work injuries:
Motor vehicle accidents are by far the most costly cause of work injuries, followed by burns and slip and falls.
What’s Included in Work Injury Settlements?
Fair settlement offers will not compensate injured employees for the full value of their lost wages. If injured at work, you will usually receive about two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage. However, worker’s comp wage payments are not treated as taxable income.
Workers’ compensation benefits also don’t include compensation for pain and suffering. Although, workers can sue their employer in cases of intentional harm or egregious negligence and try to recover pain and suffering damages.
Payment for Medical Expenses
Workers’ compensation insurance companies will only pay for reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Doctors must document the specific nature of your injury and the reason for your treatment.
Depending on the workers’ comp laws of your state, medical benefits may not cover chiropractic care, acupuncture, and other “alternative” treatments.
Insurers will also often condition a settlement upon you waiving your right to coverage for future medical care. If you waive this right, you’ll be responsible for future medical bills related to your injury.
Make sure you speak with a workers’ comp lawyer before waiving any workers’ comp benefits.
Settlements and Disability Benefits
Some work injuries result in an employee suffering a permanent partial disability or a permanent total disability, depending on the level of impairment.
Most states use a loss-of-use schedule of injuries to calculate lump-sum payments for permanent disability settlements. These schedules assign a compensation value depending on the body part you injured or the bodily function that your injury impacted.
Injured workers can ask for a scheduled settlement once they’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI means your physician believes your work injury won’t get any better with ongoing treatment.
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