Personal Injury Lawsuits Are Major Portion of U.S. Litigation

Personal injury lawsuits, in which the wrongful action of a person or entity is alleged to cause injury to another’s person or property, account for a large portion of civil litigation in the United States. Personal injury lawsuits are commonly filed over automobile collisions, workplace accidents, medical malpractice or defective products.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, there are more than 31 million injuries requiring the care of a doctor each year in the United States. Two million people require hospitalization from injuries annually, and 162,000 die as a result of their injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automobile accidents result in three million injuries and 40,000 deaths each year in the United States. Truck accidents cause an additional 60,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths per year. Construction accidents result in approximately 300,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths annually, and medical errors account for 98,000 deaths per year. Liability for these injuries is often determined through personal injury litigation.

In 2005, a total of 26,948 contract, tort and real property trials were conducted nationwide. Personal injury or tort trials made up almost 60 percent of the total, according to a study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Given that only about four percent of personal injury cases go to trial, the number of lawsuits filed is quite significant.

The majority of personal injury trials involve automobile accidents. Medical malpractice trials account for 15 percent of the total, and 5 percent of trials involve products liability.

When personal injury cases go to trial, plaintiffs win about half the time, according to the study. Plaintiffs won 61 percent of the time in automobile accident cases and 50 percent of the time in intentional tort trials. Plaintiffs won 39 percent of premises liability cases, 38 percent of product liability trials and 19 percent of medical malpractice cases. In all tort trials, judges sided with plaintiffs 56 percent of the time, and juries found for the plaintiff in 51 percent of cases.

The median award for a plaintiff in a tort trial was $31,000, with automobile accident cases bringing in a median award of $16,000. Higher damage awards were associated with less frequently litigated cases, such as medical malpractice, with a median award of $679,000, products liability ($748,000), intentional torts ($100,000) and premises liability ($90,000).

The study also indicated that taking a personal injury lawsuit to trial is a lengthy process. The average length of tort lawsuits that went to trial was 23 months. Automobile accident cases took 20 months on average, with a 31-month average for medical malpractice cases.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago personal injury lawyer and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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