A Retiree's Guide to Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Amounts - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

A Retiree’s Guide to Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Amounts

If you’ve recently been injured as a retiree and opened up a personal injury case, here’s what you can expect from lawsuit settlement amounts.

Is a personal injury case worth it? Will you win enough to justify paying a lawyer, going to court, and spending months dealing with the stress of it all?

It’s a good question, but the truth is: there’s no answer. Personal injury lawsuit settlement amounts can range from $3,000 to $75,000 depending on a long list of factors. A survey conducted by Lawyers.com found that the average payout was $52,900.

To understand how much you might win, you need to learn about the elements of a personal injury case. These are the actual indicators of what you can earn, and whether a judge will agree to award it.

What Three Factors Influence Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Amounts?

There’s no floor or ceiling on what you can ask for from a personal injury lawsuit. Generally, your lawyer will make a recommendation, but their estimate boils down to three factors:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • The insurance company’s limits
  • The proof of negligence

Here’s how each weighs when you present and settle your claim.

Severe Injuries Earn Higher Settlements

Common sense says that severe injuries merit higher awards than minor injuries. The largest settlements tend to be for those where the injuries caused:

  • Intense physical pain and extensive medical procedures
  • Partial or complete, and temporary or total disabilities
  • Premature death

All of these lead to higher medical bills, lost income, and other damages easily totaled. They also allow you to ask for pain and suffering damages.

Although you can sue for both, an amputated leg is usually worth more than a broken ankle.

The Insurance Company’s Maximum Payout

In most personal injury lawsuits, you don’t sue another person. You make a claim against their insurance provider. However, it’s important to remember than an insurance company’s bank account doesn’t come with a blank check.

Every policy has an upper limit on what it pays out in the event of a claim. The upper limit depends on the type of coverage the other party bought. For example, if the other person bought $1 million in premises liability insurance, then you won’t win more than $1 million in damages – no matter how severe the accident.

An insurance company will always begin a lawsuit by sending you a lowball offer. In most cases, personal injury and accident lawyers recognize these and will reject it based on the policy’s upper limit.

However, you should know that low insurance policy limits can make the settlement unfair.

For example, if you get rear-ended by a driver and the driver only has $30,000 in coverage, then you will receive a maximum of $30,000. This means that you could receive less than someone with lesser injuries but access to a higher insurance payout, such as a slip and fall in a store.

Keep in mind: you aren’t limited to what the insurance company can pay. You can also sue the other party directly. However, an insurance claim is a safer bet because the insurance company has funds to cover the lawsuit, and the individual you sue may not.

Was There Negligence?

How did the accident happen? Did you share fault in the accident? Was the other party negligent?

These questions are vital because they dramatically impact both the size and likelihood of your personal injury settlement.

The issue of fault is complicated. It’s easy to point a finger, but tort law assigns fault in various ways depending on your state’s law. In some cases, like a car accident, you automatically share fault in the accident because you were on the road.

Fault acts like the first door into a personal injury claim or lawsuit. You can’t sue another party’s insurance company for the adverse reaction that you caused.

If you make it through the fault door, there is then the concept of negligence, which also differs by state. Fault may earn you a settlement, but negligence unlocks greater damages.

Negligence is a complicated subject with a long list of associated issues. For our purposes, however, it’s helpful to understand that negligence requires proof that meets four criteria.

First, the subject of your suit must owe you a duty of care.

Second, they must breach that duty of care. In other words, they acted in a way that a reasonable person would not in the same circumstances.

Third, the breach in your complaint must be the cause of your injury. It needs to be both a foreseeable and natural consequence of the action deemed to be a breach of duty.

Finally, you must demonstrate that your damages are the result of the breach of duty.

If you can prove negligence, then you can also have a strong claim for damages beyond the payment of medical bills and lost income.

Example of Negligence in Personal Injury

Perhaps the most cut and dry cases of negligence come from car accident lawsuits.

Every driver has a duty of care to other drivers to follow traffic laws and drive safely, which means driving the speed limit, stopping at stop signs, avoiding illegal maneuvers, and maintaining a car that operates reliably.

If a driver gets behind the wheel of a car with a blood alcohol content of 0.12 (over the legal limit), ignores a red light, and hits another vehicle with the right of way in an intersection, then the drunk driver can be found negligent.

Why? Because:

  • The drunk driver has a duty of care to drive safely
  • The drunk driver breached the duty of care by choosing to drive under the influence and failing to stop at a traffic light
  • The car in the intersection was following traffic laws and could not have prevented the accident
  • The vehicle in the intersection suffered property and personal injury damages that would not have otherwise happened

In this case, negligence is relatively apparent. However, most cases aren’t so straightforward.

Lawsuit Settlement Amounts Vary by Case

Lawsuit settlement amounts aren’t fixed. The factors involved can mean that a person with lesser injuries wins less than someone who suffers from something more substantial.

However, one thing remains the same: you need an excellent lawyer to help you navigate the process.

Are you ready to learn more about personal injury lawsuits? Visit our news section for the latest in accident and injury cases.





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One Comment

  1. Brittany says:

    Great article to keep the public informed. I’ve seen retirees with minimal injuries who thought they could get a large settlement and others with serious injuries who were afraid of the hassle of a lawsuit. It’s important this information is out there so people can understand before an injury occurs.

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