For many decades now, Americans have complained about the problems with the United States legal system. Specifically, people are often concerned about the process used for civil personal injury lawsuits and the resulting awards. 

When a case is particularly noteworthy, the average person might be surprised by a seemingly hefty sum of money that was awarded to the person who won the case. 

Activists argue that these types of lawsuits are frivolous, unnecessary, and excessive. They claim that no one has a right to that much money, and they argue that these types of lawsuits should not even be allowed to happen. 

But the reality is that there are many myths that surround personal injury lawsuits and their settlements. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the most common.

Myth — People Get Millions in Personal Injury Settlements

Everyone hears about the millions and billions of dollars awarded in personal injury lawsuits. Someone was burned by hot coffee, slipped on a sidewalk, or got struck by a bus and was awarded millions of dollars in compensation. 

All of these are examples of noteworthy personal injury lawsuits that ruled in favor of the victim or victim’s surviving family members.

Reality — News Media Is Lopsided

When you hear about these cases, it’s usually through local or national news outlets. Their goal is to get as much attention as they can, so they focus on stories that sound sensational. They conveniently leave out pertinent details that would help viewers understand the issues because they aren’t as interesting as a sensationalized account.

News outlets also fail to mention the many lawsuits that settle for much smaller amounts.

According to the New York City Comptroller, the average payout for a personal injury award against the city in 2020 was just $86,952. That’s the reality. Not millions or billions — less than $100,000.

Myth — A Personal Injury Claim Is Just Someone Scamming the System

Many people argue that personal injury lawsuits are just scams. They firmly believe that people are using personal injury claims as a way to get money from another person or company. 

Reality — Personal Injury Awards Require Proof

If someone sues a local bodega owner for a slip and fall injury, they will have to provide proof of their claim. New York City personal injury lawyers collect evidence, including police reports, security camera footage, and witness testimony. 

Without evidence like this, there would be no point in filing a lawsuit because it could not be won. Personal injury claims must be fully proven by a preponderance of the evidence before a settlement is awarded. In most cases, a plaintiff must support a claim that the property owner was negligent or reckless in failing to prevent harm.

Sure, there are dishonest people that simply try to take advantage of the legal system. But without proof, there is unlikely to be a settlement.

Myth — Personal Injury Awards Are Excessive

Someone who hears about personal injury settlements in passing usually feels like the amount a victim is awarded is too much. They feel there’s no way something like that can be justified.

Reality — Personal Injury Awards Are Calculated to Cover Expenses

In reality, personal injury settlements are calculated based on true costs and losses. They are determined by combining actual out-of-pocket expenses a victim incurred with intangible long-term damages.

Some victims have lower costs because they have minor injuries. Other victims, however, require extensive medical treatment.

The medical costs alone add up very quickly when you consider:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medications
  • Surgeries
  • Emergency treatment costs
  • Ongoing therapy

Many victims lose some of their income because they miss days at a time while receiving treatment. In some cases, after an accident, the victim can no longer work at the same job. When that happens, they may face a reduced earning potential for the rest of their lives.

There are also extreme cases in which someone’s entire life is changed because of an injury. A child might be the victim of a birth injury, for instance, that leads to a brain injury. This can make the child disabled for life, requiring 24-hour specialty care because they’re unable to perform basic tasks on their own. 

When accidents like this happen due to another party’s negligence or carelessness, the victim and their family are entitled to compensation that covers the full extent of their damages.

Myth — Personal Injury Cases Tax the System

Some people firmly believe that personal injury cases tie up courtrooms, judges, and lawyers. They believe this is the main reason why legal decisions take so long and can become so expensive for the parties involved.

Reality — Many Cases Are Settled Out of Court

What people don’t realize is that most personal injury cases never even go to court. When a victim has a legitimate claim backed by evidence, it’s usually much faster and cheaper for the company or an insurer to settle with the person directly instead of going to trial. 

You may not hear about cases that are settled out of court because the at-fault party may require the victim to hold the settlement confidential as a part of the terms of the deal. 

Myth — Personal Injury Victims Get Millions

News outlets often blast headlines about the million and billion-dollar settlements awarded against large companies.

Reality — Large Settlements Usually Represent Class-Action Suits

In a class-action suit, the award is being divided amongst hundreds or thousands of people. There is no individual person who wins the full award. When the affected group is particularly large, each individual victim may only receive a small sum.

Myth — Personal Injury Lawyers Are Too Expensive

This may be the most unfortunate myth because it harms the victim directly. Most people believe that hiring a lawyer is only possible for those who are rich. Afraid of the potential costs, they accept a lowball offer or fail to file a case because they don’t know where to start.

Reality — Victims Usually Don’t Pay Unless They Win or Settle Their Case

The truth is that most NYC personal injury lawyers don’t charge victims for an initial case evaluation. During this meeting, the lawyer will listen and gather details, then let the victim know whether they have a justified claim. After that, the lawyer will go to work on their behalf.

However, a victim does not have to pay any attorney’s fees upfront. When an attorney is paid on a contingent basis, they only receive compensation after a case is settled or won.