Personal injury cases are filed for one of several causes, any of which could lead to the injury of the party in question. For the past few decades, personal injury cases have been on the rise, and the trend seems to be continuing. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ latest findings show that plaintiffs win in more than half of civil trials (56 percent), and the median final award was $28,000. About 4 percent of plaintiff winners got more than $1,000,000.
In addition, there’s a marked increase in searches for “personal injury lawyers” in Google, spiking in 2016 and 2017. So what are the motivating factors for this trend?
What Counts as a Personal Injury?
Typically, personal injury lawsuits are possible under three main conditions:
- Negligence. Negligence is a careless disregard for a risk to another person. For example, if someone forgets to check in on someone vulnerable that they’re responsible for (such as a patient in a hospital), and they hurt themselves, it might be considered negligence.
- Recklessness. Recklessness is a disregard for whether an intentional action puts other people at risk of harm. For example, if someone speeds in a vehicle on a road with minimal visibility and hits a pedestrian, it might be considered recklessness.
- Intent to cause harm. The most obvious case is intent to cause harm; if someone intentionally hurts someone else through violence or other actions, they can be held liable for the resulting personal injury.
Because these three motivating factors are held constant across the population throughout the years, their increases are unlikely to be a central motivating factor for the rise in interest in personal injury claims.
Why Personal Injury Cases Are Still Rising
These are just some of reasons why personal injury cases may be rising:
- Personal injury lawyer saturation. Personal injury lawsuits are big business, with a revenue of about $33 billion per year, and more than 93,000 practicing personal injury attorneys in the United States. More law school students are choosing to focus on personal injury as a specialty due to its potential, and therefore, the market has been saturated with personal injury lawyers. It’s not hard to find someone willing to take a new case.
- Online availability. The connective potential of the internet has also driven up the rates of personal injury claims. Twenty years ago, finding a personal injury attorney would have been a complicated process that included appointments and face-to-face meetings. Today, it’s possible to chat instantly, online, with someone who knows what they’re doing, and find out enough information to determine the legitimacy of a specific case.
- News of big winners. Though not a daily occurrence, the media tends to exaggerate personal injury victories in the news. Plaintiffs who receive hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars are emphasized in the coverage, leading people to believe that personal injury cases are easier and more profitable than they are. Though not all people involved in personal injury cases think in terms of exploitation, it’s certainly a motivating factor.
- Stricter laws and more employee rights. Consider that the past two decades have introduced much stricter laws in the workplace, with far more employee rights. Accordingly, it’s become more difficult for businesses to enforce all of them simultaneously. The gaps in employee protection leave a massive vulnerability that employees can use to more easily sue their employers when something goes wrong.
- Technological distractions. Each day, there are approximately 9 deaths and 1,000 injuries resulting from crashes due to distracted driving. The increased availability and sophistication of technology is leading to more distractions, and therefore more negligence that can be responsible for personal injuries.
It’s unlikely that the trend in personal injury cases is temporary, or that it will reverse in the near future. However, as more variables influence the rates of personal injury cases, the rate growth may slow gradually, and reverse over a period of years.