The Personal Injury Legal Market - 7 Things You Didn't Know

Your guide to the personal injury legal market in the US

  • by Adidem
  • Aug. 24, 2019
  • Sept. 5, 2021

    Updated as of September 2021

    1.  What is the size of the personal injury legal market?

    It's large. In 2021, the size of the personal injury market in the United States is estimated to be $41 billion USD.  It was estimated to grow at a rate of 1.9% per year in 2010, but has actually grown at a rate of approximately 1.2% per year since 2016 (less than inflation). However, when you look at the data the personal injury industry appears to actually have grown by 5% since 2019 alone while growing at a rate of approximately 1.4% annually since 2010.  What is causing this incremental growth in the last two years?  Will this trend continue?

    Those numbers give you some insight into why there is such a significant personal injury legal market in the United States.  But just how big is the personal injury market in the United States?  Lets see some of the statistics below (courtesy of IBISWorld).  

    A.  How many personal injury lawyers are in the US?

    It is estimated that there are approximately 92,900 personal injury lawyers in the United States in 2021 (somewhere between 5-7% of all lawyers in the United States).  The number of lawyers in the US has decreased by approximately 24,000 nationally in the US in 2020 and that declining trend continued in 2021 by another 1,000 lawyers, the first annual declines in he number of lawyers in the practice of law ever recorded.

    B. How many accidents occur each year in the US? 

    Each year, it is estimated that approximately 37,000 people die in car accidents and approximately 2.35 million are injured.  Somewhere between 108,000 and 250,00 people die each year from medical errors and there are approximately 8,000,000 hospital visits each year from "slip and falls".  In addition, in 2015 there were approximately 45,000 reported bicycle accidents.  There are also approximately 810,000 aggravated assaults each year resulting in injuries.  That's a lot of accidents!  

    C.  How many businesses work in the personal injury market?

    There are approximately 56,605 business in the United States servicing the personal injury market and there are estimated to be approximately 130,979 individuals in the United States employed in the personal injury legal market.  With an estimated number of personal injury attorneys around 93,000, we would anticipate that there are even more people that actually provide services in connection with the personal injury legal market (i.e. doctors, private investigators, police, paralegals, clerks, judges, law firm staff).  

    What does the future hold for the personal injury legal market?  Well, that's tough to say. 

    Overall, while accident rates per person have declined year over year, population growth and proximity to other people continue to result in a number of injury accidents.  With that said, how will the rise of automated or self-driving vehicles impact the personal injury legal market?  One would only assume that self-driving vehicles will increase passenger safety. 

    Time will tell what trends will impact the growth prospects of the personal injury market, however, the personal injury market growth rate has outpaced the US population growth rate over the last decade (United States population growth rate has trended at somewhere between 0.7% - 0.9% growth year over year).


    2.  How much do personal injury attorneys typically charge? 

    While there are a number of ways a personal injury attorney can charge fees to resolve your accident claim, the most common is by "contingency fee".  If you want to see the payment options in more detail, you can see them here.  For the purposes of this article, we will focus on contingency fees which is the most common method lawyers bill for personal injury claims.  Here are the most important factors to consider when assessing how much personal injury lawyers typically charge: 

    What is the amount of the contingency fee that I'll be charged by a personal injury lawyer?

    A contingency fee means the amount your lawyer will recover from the amounts you are paid to settle your claim.  Contingency fees typically range anywhere between 20-45%.  The most common contingency fee is approximately 33% - 45% of the amount you recover. The amount of the contingency fee is material to the amounts you will recover for your claim.  Lets go through two examples:

    • Say you recover $100,000 for your accident, and you pay personal lawyer "A" a 40% contingency fee.  That means you will receive $60,000 and your lawyer will receive $40,000; or 
    • Lets say the contingency fee from the second personal injury attorney is 20%.  In that example, you will recover $20,000 more than if you hired lawyer "A". 
    1. Amount you recover relative to the contingency fee:  This sounds obviously but it is important.  Not all lawyers will value your claim the same.  Let's go through three examples: 
      • Say personal injury lawyer "A" believes your case to be worth $100,000 and is charging you a 40% contingency fee.  If the lawyer actually settles your claim for $100,000, as noted above, you will receive $60,000 and your lawyer will receive $40,000.  Simple. 
      • Now say that personal injury attorney "B" believes your case to be worth $80,000, and is charging you a 30% contingency fee.  If the lawyer actually settles your claim for $80,000, as noted above, you will receive $56,000 and your lawyer will receive $24,000.  Simple. 
      • Now say personal injury lawyer "C" believes your cause to be worth $150,000 and is charging a 40% contingency fee.  Hiring lawyer "C" would look like like the best financial decision at the outset.  Now say personal injury lawyer "C" recommends you settle your claim for $60,000.  If you accept that offer, you will pay your lawyer $24,000 and you will recover $36,000.  Much different than the examples above.  

        The amount you recover relative to the contingency fee will be material to the amount you recover for your personal injury claim.

    Do you have to pay disbursements in addition to a contingency fee?

    Disbursements are third party charges your lawyer incurs to settle or resolve your claim.  You can learn more about disbursements here.  Knowing whether disbursements are included within the contingency fee or, if disbursements are not included in the contingency fee, knowing what the estimated disbursements may be will material to understanding how much you may recover.  Lets go through two examples:

    • Say you pay personal injury lawyer "A" 40,000 for his or her contingency fee, however, lawyer "A" also sends you a bill for $15,000 in "disbursements".  In this example, you will now recover $45,000 from your $100,000 settlement. 
    • Now say that personal injury attorney "B" included "disbursements" within his or her contingency fee.  In this example, you will recover $56,000 and don't owe your lawyer any more than the $24,000 figure above.  So even though your case settled for less than the amount lawyer "A" recovered, you would still recover more money for your personal injury lawsuit by settling your claim for less because of how the contingency fee/disbursements were structured. 

      It can start to get complicated, thus its important to ask some questions before deciding which personal injury attorney to hire.


    3.  How many cases does a personal injury attorney handle at one time?

    It depends.  It depends on (i) the skills and work ethic of the personal injury attorney, (ii) the number of lawyers working at the law firm who can assist with accident lawsuits, and (iii) the number of staff at the law firm who can assist with resolving the claim.  


    With that said, the average personal injury lawyer will likely handle somewhere between 20-60 cases at one time.  There are obviously exceptions, but the range above is typical. 

    When hiring a personal injury attorney, you will want to find a balance between hiring someone who has a lot of experience while also hiring someone who isn't so busy they won't actively move your case forward.  Another question to ask your injury lawyer before deciding who to hire. 

    4.  How much do personal injury lawyers make each year?

    The average personal injury attorney in the United States earns approximately somewhere between $73,000 and $147,000 per year.  While many personal injury lawyers work at smaller law firms (or are sole practitioner), injury attorneys working at larger law firms can make up to $164,000 per year.  With that said (and you will not find these statistics online), if you are a partner or own a personal injury firm that handles a lot of files or if you are making money from each file a lawyer in the firm settles, you can make significantly more than the amounts above - but that is not the average personal injury lawyer. 

    5.  What is the average accident settlement payout in personal injury cases?

    The ranges of settlement values can vary significantly, and the value of your claim will be primarily dependent on the following factors: 

    1. Nature and severity of your injuries (how many injuries you suffered, how painful those injuries were, how long it will take you to recover and whether any injuries are permanent); 
    2. Value of lost or damaged property; 
    3. Did the injuries impact your ability to perform your job or may they impact your ability to work in the future; and
    4. Did the injuries impact your ability to participate in any social or recreational activities?

    So depending on the type of injuries you suffered and whether your injuries impact you ability to work, car accident settlements (or other injury settlements) can vary from anywhere between $1,000 USD to over $1,000,000 dollars (in significant accidents).  With that said, in 2007 conducted a survey of people involved in an accident to determine the average settlement amount in personal injury cases.  They found the following (inflation adjusted in 2019 dollars): 

    1. The average compensation for accidents is $65,459.99, and respondents most often received somewhere between $3,712.29 and $92,800 (in some cases significantly more); 
    2. 96% of cases which paid a settlement were settled out of court, with 4% of personal injury cases going to trial; 
    3. Approximately 30% of respondents did not receive any compensation following their accident; and
    4. Respondents who hired personal injury attorneys received settlements or awards that were $60,000 higher, on average, than those who proceeded on their own (and typically at least 3 times as much as those that settled their claim on their own). 


    6.  What is personal injury litigation financing?

    Personal injury litigation financing is a type of loan where the lender pays for the fees and charges a lawyer incurs representing you in exchange for a portion of the settlement amount.  For example, say your lawyer incurs $10,000 in disbursements to resolve your claim and the lawyer doesn't want to pay these costs out of his or her own pocket, that lawyer may request litigation financing.  In that instance, and after settling your claim, the lawyer would return the $10,000 to the lender and may also pay the lender a percentage of your settlement amount (i.e. 10% of the overall settlement amount).  

    Before hiring a lawyer, it is important to ask if your lawyer is utilizing or receiving personal injury litigation financing for your claim as the lawyer may charge you more given that the lawyer is utilizing litigation financing.  

    7.  What qualifications does a lawyer need to be a personal injury lawyer?

    To be a lawyer in any State in the United States, a person needs to have graduated from an accredited law school and have passed the State bar exam.  Once that happens, the lawyer can decide what type of law he or she wants to practice.  Once a lawyer passes the State bar, really anyone can be a personal injury attorney and a lawyer doesn't need any further legal qualifications before he or she can represent you.  As a result,  a lawyer's "qualifications" to get the most for your personal injury claim depend on that lawyer's personal experience and the number of claims that lawyer has acted on.  Thus, before you hire a personal injury lawyer, its important for you to ask what experience the lawyer has acting on similiar personal injury claims.  

    How Adidem can help you find the top personal injury lawyer near you

    Finding a personal injury lawyer can be intimidating and seem initially daunting.  How are you supposed to know where to start if you are thinking about hiring a personal injury lawyer?  We have simplified that for you. 

    At Adidem, we use software to simplify the process to hire a personal injury lawyer and we bring the legal market to you so you don't have to search on your own.  We take your claim to lawyers in your city and ask them to provide you with information about your potential case as well as information about each lawyer so you have the information you need to decide who is the best personal injury lawyer near you to hire.  We make lawyers bid for your work, so you can determine the true cost of hiring a personal injury attorney in your market.  

    We also allow any lawyer to sign-up to use Adidem. No restrictions, no-sign-up fee and no exclusivity with any particular firm or lawyer. Rather than you having to look for the right lawyer, we bring the legal market to you.

    This is important, as Adidem:

    • can provide you with access to the broader legal market in your city without you needing to contact all those lawyers;

    • allows any lawyer with an opportunity to offer their services for your claim;

    • allows you to obtain information with respect to your claim to determine which lawyer you may want to hire; and

    • makes lawyers compete for your work.


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