Personal injury claims can win essentially any figure you can imagine. You may see an article reporting a huge multi-million dollar settlement won in court. However, your neighbor might tell you she was awarded $1,500 for pain and suffering following a car accident. The personal injury picture can be confusing. To help make sense of the possibilities, here are five real world examples from Muller Brazil case files. Every situation is unique of course, and if you would like some guidance on your personal injury, reach out to Muller Brazil for a free evaluation.
What is included in a personal injury settlement?
Personal injury settlements generally include two categories of “damages” – 1. Economic (i.e. wage loss, medical bills, and other things to which you can assign a dollar amount) and 2. Pain and suffering.
Case #1: $250,000
The victim was a young man who suffered a broken lumbar vertebrae following a motorcycle accident. His injuries required back surgery. Due to his recovery, he missed several weeks of work.
In this case, the pain and suffering far outweighed the economic damages (his wage loss). As a young man working only part time, he was not earning a high hourly wage, therefore the wage loss only amounted to around $4,000. Thus the award was comprised almost totally of compensation for pain and suffering.
Case #2: $500,000
The victim was a woman who slipped and fell on ice at a convenient store. The woman suffered a broken leg and ankle, which required two surgeries to repair.
Again in this instance, the settlement was mostly compensation for pain and suffering. As you can see, pain and suffering is not limited to the initial trauma following an accident. Surgeries usually lead to a painful recovery period and often difficult post-surgery physical therapy. Therefore, injuries that require surgery can drive settlement values upwards.
Case #3: $190,000
The victim suffered a broken pelvis after being struck by a bus. His injuries did not require surgery, but he did participate in physical therapy for several months to rehabilitate his injuries.
The damages in this case included mostly pain and suffering (do you see the theme?) Although the victim suffered a bone fracture, similar to the prior examples, his injuries were not so severe to require surgery or a long recovery period. Therefore the settlement warranted a lower amount compared to the previous two cases.
Case #4: $100,000
This case provides a good comparison to the three prior examples. The victim was a passenger in a vehicle during an auto accident. The victim’s injuries were just as severe as the first two victims – she suffered broken bones requiring surgery, and a long and painful road to recovery. So why was her settlement significantly lower?
The answer is bad luck. In this case, the other driver (the person “at fault” for the victim’s injuries) had only $100,000 in accident insurance coverage. Therefore, the maximum recovery the victim could win was $100,000. In rare situations, there are ways around the insurance “limits” but generally, you are stuck with their policy.
Case #5: $4,000,000
Clearly this personal injury case settled for a large sum. However, less than $150,000 of the sum was dedicated to pain and suffering. So how did the settlement get so high?
In this case, economic damages far outweighed the pain and suffering. The victim required a “life care plan” which is a plan created by an expert to account for future needs and medical expenses. The victim in this case needed physical therapy visits for the foreseeable future, a wheelchair, and many other accommodations to her home to allow her to live in comfort. As you can see, pain and suffering is not always the whole story.
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