In this country, a vast proportion of civil litigation is made up of personal injury lawsuits. These claims are covered under the tort claim acts. For a case to be heard, an injury must have been sustained by a person, or damage must have occurred to a property, and this must have been the result of wrongful or negligent actions of a third person or entity. Common cases include traffic accidents, construction accidents, dog bites, defective products and medical malpractice. Unfortunately, in our society today, these types of incidents happen very regularly. Understanding the statistics surrounding personal injury paints a clear picture of the types of incidents that take place in our country, and what the consequences of these are.
Statistics of Personal Injuries
The National Center for Health Statistics, a department within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that around 31 million people are injured across our country each year that require medical treatment. Of these, some 2 million are severe enough to require some form of hospitalization. Additionally, 162,000 of these injuries are fatal.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that there are around 5.5 million car accidents in the country each year. These lead to 3 million injuries, as well as 40,000 fatalities. They have also revealed that a further 60,000 injuries, as well as 5,000 deaths occur each year as a result of truck accidents.
Looking next at construction accidents, it is believed that these account for some 300,000 personal injuries per year, as well as 1,000 deaths.
Finally, medical malpractice is believed to be behind the deaths of some 98,000 people each year.
This shows just how many accidental injuries and deaths actually occur in our country each year. Unsurprisingly, therefore, liability is often disputed in these cases. When this happens, a personal injury case or other form of litigation may be necessitated.
Statistics of Personal Injury Cases
The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that, of the 26,928 real property, contract and tort trials in 2005, 60% were related to some form of personal injury. It was also found that more than 7,000 personal injury cases were heard in the state courts of the 75 most populous counties in our country.
While no exact data is available, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that some 16,397 tort cases were tried nationally, based on a sample of state courts across the country. It is important to understand how significant this actually is, since only 4% of personal injury cases actually go to trial. The majority settle out of court. As such, the actual personal injury claims in this country, if the estimation is correct, would be 409,925, which is a staggering number.
The U.S. Department of Justice also highlighted the nature of personal injury cases, which provided real clarity over the commonality of different incidents. They found that:
- 52% was a result of motor vehicle accidents.
- 15% was in relation to medical malpractice.
- 5% was as a result of product liability.
The remaining 28% covered “other” cases. This highlights the variety of personal injuries that do occur. It also highlights the significance of accidents on the road.
The report by the U.S. Department of Justice then looked at the results of cases that actually went to trial. Interestingly, plaintiffs were successful in around half of the cases. There were some notable differences depending on the type of tort case that was actually heard. As such:
- In motor vehicle related incidents, plaintiffs were successful 61% of the time.
- In intentional tort trials, plaintiffs were successful 50% of the time.
- In premises liability trials, the success rate for plaintiffs stands at 39%.
- In product liability trials, plaintiffs were successful in 38% of cases.
- Just 19% of plaintiffs were successful in medical malpractice trials, which demonstrates just how hard it is to prove medical negligence.
Interestingly, judges seem to be more inclined to believe the plaintiff (56%) than juries (51%).
However, these statistics are relative, mainly because what really matters to most people is the amount of damages that were actually paid out. The U.S. Department of Justice also reported their findings on this, which are as follows:
- Half of all plaintiffs received no more than $24,000.
- The median award is $31,000 for all cases.
- The median award in motor vehicle personal injury cases is $16,000.
- The median award in premises liability cases was $90,000.
- Intentional tort cases had a median payout of $100,000.
- Medical malpractice cases paid out an average of $679,000.
- Product liability cases had a median payout of $748,000.
These findings demonstrate two main things. Firstly, cases that are not often litigated have higher payouts. Secondly, cases where the injury or potential for injury is worse also pay out more.
Finally, it was also shown in the report that the court process for those personal injury cases that actually would go to trial was incredibly lengthy. Again, there were notable differences depending on the type of case. As such, the average for:
- Tort lawsuits was 23 months.
- Motor vehicle accident cases was 20 months.
- Medical malpractice cases was 31 months.
- Premises liability was 24 months.
- Intentional tort cases was 25 months.
It was found, therefore, that the lawsuits were particularly lengthy. Furthermore, the trial itself would last a long time, when compared to other types of cases. It was found that the average physical trial time was:
- • Six days for a medical malpractice case.
• Seven days for product liability cases.
• Thirteen days for trials that included asbestos claims. However, these are much more complex by their very nature and require a lot of evidence to be presented in court before decisions can be made.