One unfortunate stereotype of American citizens is that they are “lawsuit happy,” seeking large settlements over absurd things—like the infamous McDonald’s case when a woman sued the fast-food chain over coffee that was too hot. Is this reputation justified, or do the silliest lawsuits simply get the most notoriety?

The answer to this question is a matter of perspective. Instead, let’s look at the facts surrounding some of the most common lawsuits out there: tort cases. Here are some of the actual statistics surrounding these types of lawsuits in the United States:

  • The United States Courts reports that in 2015, there were 279,036 civil cases filed in U.S. District Courts.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics says that the most common types of personal injury lawsuits involve issues stemming from auto accidents, slip and fall cases, faulty products, and physician/surgeon medical malpractice.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2014, there were 33,736 motor vehicle traffic deaths.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2015, there were 32,166 fatal vehicle crashes, and 2.4 million people injured in accidents. Also in 2015, there were 10,265 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.

When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, many plaintiffs want to know the average or expected range of payout they might expect.

Reliable data is not easy to find, and there are so many factors that can impact this, but here are a few things we know for certain:

  • A large majority of personal injury claims that reach payout are settled out of court rather than going to trial.
  • The more serious the injury (and the higher the medical expenses), the more likely you are to receive a higher settlement.
  • The amount of a settlement will be affected by the amount of insurance coverage by the person at fault. It is less likely that an insurance company will pay an injured party more than a policy limit.

One resource that has done research on this topic is the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Their most recent study of civil trials in the U.S. (2005) showed that of 26,948 civil trials concluded in a national sample of state trial courts:

  • Plaintiffs won 56% of all general civil trials concluded in state courts.
  • The median final award was $28,000
  • Only 4% of all plaintiff winners won $1,000,000 or more.
  • Contract cases had higher median awards ($35,000) than tort cases ($24,000).
  • Between 1992 and 2005, the total number of civil trials declined by over 50% in the nation’s most 75 populous counties. Tort cases decreased by 40%.

The Bureau also reported that in 2005, an estimated $6 billion in compensatory and punitive damages was awarded to plaintiffs who won in civil trials. About 10% of plaintiffs who won in general civil trials were awarded $250,000 in total damages.

The bottom line is that if you’re involved in a lawsuit, so much is out of your control. Lawsuits can take months or years and it’s difficult to know what type of an award you might receive. Your best course of action is to contact a reputable personal injury attorney who can give you insight into the process and what to expect. And if you need funds to help you pay your bills in the meantime while you wait for your settlement, call Resolution Funding. We’ll review your case within 24 hours and get back to you right away.

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