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What Percentage of Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?

What Percentage of Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 3 to 4 percent of personal injury cases go to trial.

In the United States, a large proportion of civil litigation consists of personal injury lawsuits. These cases are covered under tort claims acts, which vary from state to state. The tort claims acts provide a legal means of compensating victims who have suffered personal injury, death, or property loss or damage due to the actions of a third-party person or entity. Common personal injury cases include car accidents, slip and fall, dog bites, construction site accidents, defective products, and medical malpractice.

Unfortunately, these incidents are quite common in the United States. A staggering number of personal injury claims are filed each year.  Only a small percentage of the numerous cases filed actually make it to court. The majority of cases are settled outside of court, but typically only after a lawsuit is filed and the case is aggressively litigated. If the personal injury lawyer is able to accurately present the value of the case through the litigation process, insurance companies are more inclined to settle outside of court.

Personal injury settlement statistics

Unintentional injuries are actually the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. They rank just below heart disease and cancer. Here are some statistics to show the number of accidental injuries and deaths that occur each year:

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 30 million people are injured across the United States and require medical treatment. Out of this number, about 2 million injuries are severe enough to require hospitalization, and 162,000 injuries are fatal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports show about 5.5 million car accidents in the U.S. each year, resulting in 3 million injuries and 40,000 fatalities. Data revealed that 60,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths occur each year due to truck accidents.

Construction accidents account for about 300,000 personal injuries and 1,000 deaths each year.

Medical malpractice is the cause of about 98,000 deaths annually.

Personal injury statistics and cases types

In a 2005 study, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics determined that out of the 26,928 real property, contract, and tort trials — 60% of them were related to a form of personal injury. The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that 16,397 tort cases went to trial nationally. The study also revealed that a mere 4 percent of personal injury cases actually go to trial. The vast majority settled out of court.

The U.S. Department of Justice provided data on the estimates of personal injury cases. They found that:

  • 52% were motor vehicle accidents.
  • 15% were related to medical malpractice.
  • 5% were product liability.
  • 28% were classified as “other” cases.

Although a variety of personal injuries occur, automobile accidents are the most common cause of injury resulting in a lawsuit. Victims of an auto accident are significantly more likely to sue an individual rather than a business or manufacturer. In about 75 percent of all automobile accident lawsuits, one individual is suing another compared to 28 percent suing an individual in non-automobile accident tort trials.

Do personal injury cases go to trial?

The U.S. Department of Justice provides information on the cases that actually went to trial. Plaintiffs were successful in about half of the cases. The outcome varied significantly based on the type of case.

  • In auto incidents, plaintiffs had a 61% success rate.
  • In intentional tort trials, plaintiffs had a 50% success rate.
  • In premises liability trials, plaintiffs had a 39% success rate.
  • In product liability trials, plaintiffs had a 38% success rate.
  • In medical malpractice trials, plaintiffs had a 19% success rate.
  • In trials, 56 percent of judges found in favor of the plaintiff, while 51 percent of juries were inclined to believe the plaintiff.

Average personal injury settlement amounts

The most common reason for taking a case to trial is the inability to settle on a fair amount for the incident. When opting to take a case to court, the experienced attorney will warn the client of the risks. If the case doesn’t go in the plaintiff’s favor, they can walk away with nothing. Any settlement offers are void once the case is taken to trial. Ultimately, what matters to most people is the amount of damages awarded in a trial. The U.S. Department of Justice reported their average personal injury settlement amounts:

  • Half of all plaintiffs received $24,000 or less.
  • The median award is $31,000 for all cases.
  • The median amount awarded in auto accident personal injury cases is $16,000.
  • The median award in premises liability cases (which can include a lawsuit against the property owner, landowner, or property manager) was $90,000.
  • The median payout for intentional tort cases (deliberate, intentional harm) had a median payout of $100,000.
  • The average award for medical malpractice cases was $679,000.
  • The median payout for product liability cases was $748,000.

Average time to settle a personal injury case 

The research actually showed that while people often take a case to trial for a higher payout, it doesn’t always happen. If the injury is worse or the potential for injury is worse, the cases could pay out more.

The court process for personal injury cases that go to trial is often lengthy. Average time to settle a personal injury case, the process was:

  • 23 months for tort lawsuit cases.
  • 20 months for motor vehicle accidents.
  • 31 months for medical malpractice.
  • 24 months for premises liability.
  • 25 months for intentional tort cases.

The lawsuits were lengthy, as well as the trials themselves when compared to other types of cases. The average physical trial time was:

  • Three to five days for auto accidents and slip and fall.
  • Six days for medical malpractice.
  • Seven days for product liability.
  • Thirteen days for trials that included asbestos claims.

Alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration, are the two primary forms of alternative dispute resolution that have favorable results. Although there are times when it makes sense to take a case to trial, it’s not necessarily the best course of action.

Whether you go to trial or not, we encourage you to check out CloudLex—the Next-Gen personal injury case management software, with best-in-class features like legal document management, task management for law firms, legal calendaring management, and many more, so you have everything in one place if you decide to go to trial.

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