What Are Motor Vehicle Crash Personal Injury Cases Worth in Maryland?

Jury Verdict Research published a new Maryland specific study on the median compensation awards for car, truck, and motorcycle accidents.

In cases that go to trial, the median recovery was $11,328. Only in 1% of the cases did the jury award more than $500,000. The plaintiffs prevailed and received a recovery in 74% of the motor vehicle accident cases that went to trial in Maryland. I suspect a lot of that 26% were just awful cases that never should have been filed.

The median recovery was $11,277, $51 dollars less than the latest study. (As of 2018, the amount of verdicts has been relatively unchanged although I suspect they have trended a bit higher as the cost of healthcare has increased)

I’m excited to see a new study on Maryland auto accident verdicts because I love looking at statistics on jury verdicts. But I think the data is fairly useless. As I have written before, Maryland’s jury verdicts are distorted by the defense lawyers who routinely “bump up” what should be “small” tort claims to Circuit Court. In other words, if an auto collision lawyer in Maryland files a small claim for more than $15,000 but less than $30,000 (which is the new District Court maximum as of today), the insurance company’s lawyers may remove the case to Circuit Court, which generally requires a jury trial and almost invariably leads to greater expenses for both parties.

This practice distorts the jury awards in a downward direction.  I read Metro Jury Verdicts every month, and half of the reported personal injury cases in Baltimore are nickel and dime cases that never should go in front of a jury.  So I think this data is interesting and useless all at the same time.  Because knowing the average car accident settlement in Maryland really tells you nothing about your case.  Because that average settlement includes both wrongful death claims and people who were not really injured.  Using median settlements instead of average settlements helps to a point but we are still not getting to your injuries, your pain and suffering, and your medical bills and treatment.

2023 Update

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I originally wrote this post over ten years ago.  It is 2023 and new jury verdict research data has been published. Even though more than a decade has passed since the last data was collected, the average and median verdict and settlement amounts for Maryland accident cases changed very little. The average jury verdict amount in a typical auto tort case in Maryland remains

I have just gone back and put all of our settlements over the last two years into a spreadsheet. I will work on computing our average verdict. Our law firm’s average personal injury settlements range from $2.1 million to $300 (the child of a client who was not hurt in the accident).  Miller & Zois’s average settlement is clearly over $50,000. The study I just cited said that only 1% of Maryland verdicts are over $500,000. We have had at least 26 settlements and verdict over $500,000 in the last two years. I will calculate our average verdict when we get all of our lawyers in the office but it is a number that exceeds $500,000. (Look at some of our better verdicts in recent years.)

Does this tell you much about the value of your case? It does not. Every case is different, and our results do not predict yours. So why am I telling you this? I think many people who are badly injured read the statistics in this study and become despondent thinking they are doomed to a recovery somewhere near the Maryland average set out in the above statistics. Don’t be, because you are not.

Motor Vehicle Crash Verdicts and Settlements

Below are summaries of reported settlements and verdicts in recent Maryland auto tort cases. These outcomes provide a sample of the potential value of accident cases in Maryland.

$62,642 Verdict (Baltimore County 2022): the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that struck another vehicle in a T-bone collision that was caused by an underinsured driver. The plaintiff received the policy limits of $30,000 from the insurer for the at-fault driver and then sought additional damages State Farm under his own UIM policy for alleged injuries to his neck, back, shoulder and knees. Jury awarded $62,642, but the judge reduced the award to $20,000 due to a setoff. Under the proposed EUIM law in Maryland, the plaintiff would have received $50,000 (the limit of his UIM coverage).

$70,638 Verdict (Dist. of Maryland 2022):  the plaintiff was driving his vehicle north on an interstate with the other plaintiff as a passenger when their vehicle was rear-ended by a U.S. Postal Service tractor-trailer. The driver plaintiff suffered a concussion and laceration to his scalp, requiring staples, along with neck and lumbar sprains, post-traumatic headaches and injuries to his neck, back and left ankle. The passenger plaintiff claimed injuries to her neck, back and hand.

$70,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): the plaintiff was a passenger in a rental car when the defendant failed to yield on a left hand turn and caused a collision. The plaintiff claimed various soft tissue injuries to her neck and back. Liability was admitted and the case went to trial on damages only.

$247,875 Verdict (Baltimore City 2022): the plaintiff was in an accident caused by Baltimore City work truck that made a negligent left hand turn by making a left turn on a green light (with no arrow) at an intersection without yielding. The plaintiff claimed permanent injuries to his back. The size of the jury award here may be somewhat inflated simply because the City of Baltimore was the defendant.

$75,000 Settlement (Baltimore County 2022): the plaintiff as traveling westbound near an intersection when the defendant suddenly exited a parking lot in an eastbound direction and collided with the passenger side of his vehicle. The plaintiff claimed various unspecified injuries to his neck, shoulder and back.

$300,000 Verdict (Charles County 2021): A 62-year-old man was struck in Charles County. He suffered spinal sprains and strains. The man visited urgent care later that day. He subsequently underwent chiropractic therapy for over two years. He alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused his injuries. The man received a $300,000 verdict.

$253,000 Verdict (Prince George’s County 2021): A 40-something man was rear-ended in Prince George’s County. He sustained spinal sprains. The man treated his injuries with physical therapy. His neck and upper back sprains were permanent. The man alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused these injuries. He claimed he unsafely operated his vehicle. The Prince George’s County jury awarded the man $253,000.

Seven Factors That Drive Car Accident Settlements

Car accident claims are typically valued for settlement based on a number of different factors, including:

  1. The severity of the injuries: Serious injuries, such as permanent disabilities or life-threatening conditions, are typically more valuable than minor injuries.
  2. Your hard economic damages: This includes the cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation (not what you paid, but what you were billed), lost wages, and property damage.  You cannot intelligently us just economic damages to determine settlement amounts but you also can’t deny that they steer the ship of how cases are valued for settlement before suit is filed.
  3. Lock solid liability: the best cases don’t involve disputes as to who is responsible for the crash.  Insurance companies are wildly unreasonable on settlement even when they have a shaky liability defense.
  4. The amount of insurance coverage available: This is self explanatory.
  5. The cost of proving the case in court: Insurance companies may be more likely to offer a settlement if they believe that it is more cost-effective than going to trial.
  6. The jurisdiction: Maryland personal injury settlements can double – or get cut in half – by crossing county lines.
  7. The strength of the expert testimony: How strong your doctors are in supporting your case can be a gamechanger.

Required Reading to Understand the Settlement Value of Your Claim

  • Value of cases based on specific injury
  • Value of claims based on type of accident (inferior to specific injury for valuation purposes, but still interesting)
  • Value based on which Maryland county the injury or death occurred.
  • If you want to get more money for your case, you need to learn to think like an insurance adjuster.  They do not think the way you and I do. But there is an opportunity in this insanity to help you maximize the value of your case.
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