A personal injury occurs when someone experiences harm (be that physically, financially, or emotionally) at the hands of another’s negligence. A common example of this is when someone is injured in a car accident involving a drunk driver. In those instances, the suffering incurred goes beyond what car insurance can accommodate for, and the damages often seem incalculable. It’s a personal injury lawyer’s responsibility to help determine who’s responsible, and what the victim is owed. Unless you’re a lawyer, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about personal injury cases until you’re involved in one.
DC Law understands how intimidating and overwhelming the personal injury lawsuit journey can be for those who are new to it. We hope that the information gathered here serves as a useful introduction to the current state of personal injury, including the prevalence of personal injury in the U.S. and the landscape of cases.
Unintentional injuries are the third-highest cause of death in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 39.5 million physician office visits for unintentional injuries each year, followed by 29.4 million visits to the emergency department in hospitals. This represents millions of Americans who experience injury, ranging in severity, due to an accident. Sadly, unintentional injuries lead to just under 170,000 deaths annually.
Here’s a breakdown of unintentional fatalities by accident type:
Poisonings are the highest-leading cause of unintentional fatalities
In the U.S., poisonings account for about 65,000 deaths each year. That’s 19.9 people per 100,000 population. Unintentional poisonings can happen in a variety of ways, including harmful substances found in products.
Motor vehicle traffic accidents lead to over 40,000 deaths annually
Motor vehicle injuries, including but not limited to car, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents, are the second-highest cause of fatalities due to unintentional accidents in the U.S., killing 12.4 people per 100,000 population each year.
Unintentional falls account for over 36,000 deaths each year
Key personal injury case statistics
In personal injury, there are some overwhelming statistics that can help you understand what to expect from a lawsuit, including:
On average, auto accident cases make up over half of personal injury lawsuits
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), auto accident cases are the most prevalent case type among personal injury lawsuits in the U.S. Looking at the nation’s 75 largest counties, about half of tort trials involve an automobile accident.
Auto injury cases also have key differences compared to other types of personal injury cases. For instance, victims of an auto accident are significantly more likely to sue an individual (e.g. the driver of the other vehicle) rather than a business or manufacturer. In nearly three-fourths of auto cases, an individual is suing another individual. This is compared to non-automobile accident tort trials, in which only 28% of cases involve suing an individual.
Premises liability and medical malpractice follow auto accidents for the highest volume of cases that go to trial
In the U.S., premises liability and medical malpractice each accounted for nearly 15% of tort cases that were resolved in a trial (source: BSJ). This is followed by about 2% of tort trials involving product liability, often pertaining to toxic substances, breast implants, asbestos, or other defective product matters.
Only 4-5% of personal injury cases go to trial
Most U.S. personal injury cases are settled out of court, with 95% to 96% of cases settling pretrial. Courts often encourage litigants to settle disputes privately, requiring that all options be exhausted before a judge will even schedule a trial date.
One main reason most litigants don’t want to take cases to court is that these cases can take months and potentially years before receiving a financial award. That is, of course, if you win. Going to trial can be risky, and there’s no guarantee you’ll win. Not to mention, going to trial is costly, and it becomes more expensive the longer the trial takes.
Generally, litigants will employ the help of third-party mediators, such as a personal injury lawyer, to help reach a settlement.
If you do go to trial, plaintiffs are more likely to win a personal injury case in a bench trial but are more likely to receive a larger payout in jury trials
Personal injury case data from the BJS shows us that plaintiffs are more likely to win personal injury cases in bench trials (68%) vs. jury trials (54%). In bench trials, the ruling decision comes down to a judge, whereas in jury trials, a jury is responsible for making the final decision.
While jury trials have proven less favorable in terms of the possibility of winning, they tend to result in a higher payout to the plaintiff, with a median payout of $30,500. This is compared to a median award of $24,000 in bench trials. Additionally, successful jury trial plaintiffs were more likely to be awarded $1 million or more (6.3%) than bench trials (1.6%).
New trends in personal injury lawsuits
Personal injury lawsuits are largely reflective of the various technologies, manufacturing, and social factors occurring during a given time. Various shifts in the past decade have influenced the personal injury case landscape.
Ridesharing businesses like Uber and Lyft have completely transformed how people travel and commute. They’ve also, however, introduced a slew of issues that have resulted in litigation. With new transportation comes an entirely new set of issues to consider. Drivers who use the app to pick up riders, for instance, have fought to be reclassified as employees rather than contractors. This classification entitles drivers to the benefits employees typically receive, such as health insurance and overtime pay. Both Uber and Lyft have been subjected to class action lawsuits regarding this specifically.
Another issue that ridesharing presents is assaults that take place during a ride. While rideshare companies have taken some measures to reduce the risk of assaults occurring during rides, they’ve denied responsibility in court. While only seven total personal-injury civil lawsuits were filed against Lyft in state courts in 2017 and 2018, 22 lawsuits were filed in 2019, showing that this is a growing problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.
As drone use becomes more commonplace, injury due to drones also continues to rise. In 2016 alone, 1.5 million people were gifted drones in the U.S. during the holiday season. Common issues related to drones include misuse, such as flying a drone over restricted areas, and invasion of privacy, with drones being used to invade a person’s private space. Destruction of personal property can also occur when a drone crashes.
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) has authority over and regulates the use of commercial and hobbyist drones, drones that are under 55 pounds and used for strictly recreational purposes don’t have to register with the FFA. This leaves much of drone usage largely unregulated.
One reason that car accidents account for so many personal injury cases is because of distracted driving that occurs due to phones. In recent years, car accidents have continued to increase, with the use of mobile phones playing a major role. A 2018 report found a disturbing parallel between the increase in mobile phone usage and car accident rates. Whereas 55% of people owned a smartphone in 2013, that number jumped to 77% in 2017. At the same time, car accidents increased by 12.3%, from 5.7 million to 6.4 million.
Personal Space in the age of COVID-19
The latest personal injury lawsuit impacting Americans is related to COVID-19, which has been proven to spread through droplets in the air that are propelled when someone talks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes. This understanding has led to widespread mask-wearing, though it’s been difficult to enforce.
New questions have arisen about the responsibility of individuals to slow the spread of the disease (i.e. flatten the curve), such as mask-wearing or maintaining social distance. These recommendations have not come without considerable pushback from individuals who oppose these measures, leading to fears that someone might spread the virus purposefully. In these instances, coughing on someone can be considered assault, which could be grounds for a personal injury case.
Odds of winning a personal injury lawsuit
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to help you determine whether or not you might win a personal injury lawsuit, or how much you might be awarded if you do. There are many factors that come into play. For instance, it greatly depends on whether or not you go to trial. Earlier, we mentioned that only 4% to 5% of personal injury lawsuits go trial. Of those cases, nearly 90% lose. But that doesn’t mean personal injury cases are hopeless. If anything, it simply validates the need to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you navigate a complicated process.
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused because of the negligence of another, contact the lawyers at DC Law today for a free case evaluation. They’ll help you determine the viability of your case, as well as calculate the compensation you deserve.