If you’ve been hurt in an accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim, you probably want to know whether it will do any good. How likely are you to be satisfied with the outcome? We asked our readers across the United States for their thoughts and feelings on how their personal injury claims turned out. Here’s what we learned.
The overall picture isn’t very promising: Just over a quarter (26%) of all readers said that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the outcome of their personal injury claims, while nearly half (47%) were dissatisfied on some level.
Does Having a Lawyer Move the “Satisfaction” Needle?
Those satisfaction levels shift if we look at the results from a difference perspective—by comparing the readers who had a lawyer with those who went through the process on their own. Just under half (45%) of our readers had legal representation, but they were more than twice as likely as those who didn’t have a lawyer to be satisfied or very satisfied with the result of their claims (37% compared to 17%).
What might explain this difference? First of all, readers who had an attorney to help them through the claim process were much more likely to receive some kind of compensation, and their average “payout” (either a settlement or a court award) was $60,000 more than those without attorneys. (For more details, see our article on the difference a personal injury lawyer makes in time and money.)
Obviously, you’re more likely to be happy with the results if you end up with a bigger check, and our survey bore that out: Higher average payouts were linked to higher levels of satisfaction.
In addition, a lawyer can help you understand what to expect from the personal injury claim process, prepare for potential problems with the insurance company, and give you a realistic idea of how much your claim is worth. That knowledge can make a difference in how you feel about the results. It may also explain why more readers expressed satisfaction with their lawyers (55%) than with the outcome of their claims.
Quick Outcomes Aren’t Always the Best Outcomes
You might expect that people would be more satisfied when their personal injury claims were resolved quickly. But our survey shows a more complicated picture. Readers reported the lowest satisfaction levels (about 10%) when the entire process was either very short (less than six months) or long (more than 18 months). Other survey results may help explain these responses on the short end of the spectrum: It took longer to resolve claims successfully—when readers got a check rather than a final “no.”
Also, readers who hired attorneys reported longer average resolution times—and as we’ve seen, they were more likely to get higher payouts as a result. That’s probably why readers were most likely to be satisfied when their claim was resolved in 6 to 18 months.
When the process drags on for too long, however, the balance seems to tip again as frustrations rise. If the two sides are too far apart on key issues like the extent of the defendant’s liability or the seriousness of the claimant’s injuries, settlement talks can stall, and claimants can be left with a disappointing result.
(For more details, see our article on how long personal injury claims take, including common reasons for delays.)
What Readers Had to Say
We asked our readers what advice they would offer to others who are considering filing a personal injury claim. Here’s some of what they said.
Don’t settle too soon. Several readers spoke about the need to get a proper assessment of your injuries and the potential for ongoing health issues before you agree to a settlement. As one reader pointed out, “If you take a settlement and the injury causes you problems in the future, you can’t come back” for more money.
Don’t wait too long to seek legal advice. The most common suggestion from readers was some variation of, “Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible,” or “I wish I’d started with an attorney earlier.” Our survey results back up this advice. Several things can affect your chances of getting fair compensation for your injury, including the nature and severity of your losses. But one important factor is in your control: You’re more likely to be happy with the results if you enlist the help of an experienced lawyer.