Personal Injury:

Will I Get a Payout?


If you make a personal injury claim after any kind of accident in which someone else played a part, what are your chances of getting any compensation for your medical bills and other losses? We surveyed our readers across the United States who recently went through the personal injury claim process, to see how their cases turned out. Here’s what we learned.

More Payouts Than Not

Overall, seven in ten of our readers with a personal injury claim received a “payout” (either an out-of-court settlement or a court award after a trial), while less than a third received nothing. Of course, we can’t know everything about these cases, including how much each side was to blame for the underlying accident. But when we looked more closely at what readers told us about their claims, we saw that some factors made a real difference in their chances of seeing some kind of payout.

The Advantage of Having a Lawyer

Our survey showed that a lawyer is the biggest difference-maker when it comes to getting a personal injury payout or getting nothing. More than nine out of ten claimants who had legal representation received a settlement or award. In contrast, the readers who went without an attorney were nearly evenly split between those who received a payout and those who came away nothing. Viewed from another angle, the vast majority (86%) of readers who didn’t get a payout didn’t have a lawyer. These results aren’t surprising. Lawyers know what it takes to build a solid personal injury claim, gather evidence, and deal with insurance adjusters. (For more details, see our article on how having a lawyer affects the outcome of personal injury cases.)

Filing or Threatening a Lawsuit

Another factor had a measurable effect on our readers’ likelihood of getting any payout for their personal injury—whether they took steps toward getting the court involved in the case. Just over half of our readers resolved their personal injury claims without filing a lawsuit or even notifying the other side that they were ready to do so. But only about two-thirds of those readers received a settlement from the insurance company. In contrast, 81% of the readers who filed or threatened to file a lawsuit got a payout—and the vast majority of those (92%) were settlements from the insurance company rather than a court award after a trial.

Even though almost all payouts in personal injury claims are the result of an out-of-court settlement rather than a trial, insurance companies are clearly more likely to make a settlement offer if you (or your lawyer) show them that you’re serious by moving ahead toward a lawsuit.

Type of Accident

Many different kinds of incidents can lead to personal injury claims, from assaults to dog bites, from defective products to slipping and falling on someone else’s property. Car accidents are the most common—six out of ten readers were hurt in accidents involving some kind of vehicle.

Readers with car accident claims were more likely to get a payout than those with the second-most-common claim—a slip and fall. Eight out of ten car accident victims received a settlement or award, compared to only half of those who were hurt in a fall. This makes sense when you consider that, in most car accident scenarios, it’s relatively easy to retrace what happened, take photos of the scene, assess vehicle damage, and determine who might have been at fault. With a fall-related accident, proof can be a lot more challenging.

Fight for Your Rights

The factors we’ve discussed here not only affect your chances of receiving any settlement or award in your personal injury claim—they also have an impact on the amount of the payout. (See our article on how different variables affected readers' personal injury settlements and awards.) Naturally, the nature and extent of your injuries will also affect how much money you get. But the most important lesson from our survey is that you need to be willing to fight for your rights if you don’t want to be left empty-handed. For many of our readers, that meant getting help from an attorney and being prepared to file a lawsuit if necessary.

About This Report

The data referenced above is from Martindale-Nolo Research's 2017 personal injury study, which analyzed survey responses from readers who had personal injury claims and had researched hiring a lawyer. The names of any quoted readers have been changed to protect their privacy.

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