How much should you expect for your hand, wrist, or finger injury personal injury claim? It depends on the type of injury and its severity. This article outlines what our personal injury attorneys have learned about these cases for plaintiffs in car accident, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and slip and fall claims.
The hand is an incredibly complex body part. It is a fine-tuned piece of engineering that allows us to do everything from playing the violin to constructing buildings. Together, the hand and wrist have an astonishing 27 bones. Injuries to the hand and wrist can result in permanent disability, particularly if the injury is to the dominant hand.
The hand is one of the most commonly injured body parts in workplaces. Except for back injuries, hand injuries are the most common type of nonfatal injury that caused injured workers to take time off from work. Personal injury lawsuits involving the hand, wrist, and fingers also frequently result from falls and car accidents.
According to national data, the average jury verdict in finger and hand injuries is approximately $630,000. The median, or middle of the road, verdict is approximately $70,000. This tells us that there are some severe, life-altering hand injury cases that have extremely high values and also many smaller cases that are not as debilitating.
Our lawyers have handled a large number of serious injury cases involving hands and wrists. These are the types of cases that we know are likely to have a higher value and tend to settle before or during litigation than going all the way to a verdict:
- Scaphoid bone fractures: A small bone in the wrist, the scaphoid is difficult to heal. This is because the blood supply to the bone may become cut off, resulting in cell death and potentially arthritis.
- Scapholunate ligament injury: The scapholunate ligament is a critical stabilizer of the scaphoid and lunate carpal bones. Permanent injuries drive settlement value, as these injuries can leave victims with reduced grip strength and arthritis.
- Bone graft: If the fracture does not heal properly and a bone graft is required, long-term prospects for that hand are usually not very good.
- Internal Fixation: A metal plate or other hardware in the hand or wrist is usually a harbinger of a less than optimal outcome.
- Severe Impact: Plaintiffs' lawyers sometimes pretend the severity of the crash has nothing to do with the injury to the occupants. This is not the case in hand and wrist fracture cases. Higher energy injuries do more damage to the bone and soft tissues around the bone and are more likely to have nonunion than a low energy fracture that might occur from a fall.
Some hand, wrist, and finger injuries are severe and require intensive medical care that ends up costing victims a lot of money. However, the medical care costs in many hand, wrist, and finger injury cases are often lower than with other injuries.
Many of these surgeries are quick and easy compared to, for example, a back surgery. But the cost of a surgery does not indicate how much pain or impairment a victim suffers. The patient may undergo a low-cost surgery and be left with a hand that doesn’t properly function or causes them pain, affecting their ability to work and their quality of life.
“These injuries are often high on pain and suffering yet low on medical costs.”
Yet when juries see low medical bills, they wonder how bad the plaintiff’s injury could be. There is an argument to be made many verdicts would have been higher if plaintiffs had not asked for medical bills. This is why our attorneys often go with the strategy of not submitting the medical bills to the jury.Sample Verdicts and Settlements in Hand and Finger Injury Cases
Below is a list of verdicts and settlements in hand injury cases, intended to give you a better idea of the value range of these cases. Some of these verdicts are Miller & Zois verdicts while others were handled by other lawyers in Maryland and around the country. These are just a sampling of verdicts and it is difficult to compare any one case, given the multitude of factors that affect a case’s value and success. However, the hope is that this gives you a better idea of the potential value of these cases.Maryland Verdicts and Settlements
- 2019, $280,000 Settlement Our client is driving his motorcycle in Howard County when a van turns left in front of him, tossing him from the motorcycle and causing him to fracture his distal radius and ulnar styloid, along with several ribs and transverse processes. Except for the wrist, all of the fractures were non-displaced with uncomplicated healing and speedy recovery. The wrist required hardware which limited the wrist’s movement and range of motion. The insurance company made an unfair offer, we put the case in to suit, and the claim settled shortly after the lawsuit was filed. Our law firm, Miller & Zois, handled this case.
- 2019, $850,000 Verdict An premature infant is in the NICU at University of Maryland Hospital. A nurse places a blood transfusion line in her arm but inserts it incorrectly. As a result, the infant has to have all of the fingers on her left hand amputated. A jury awarded the infant $850,000.
- 2019, $1,200,000 Verdict An elderly man was struck by a Baltimore City garbage truck while walking on a sidewalk. He suffered soft tissue injuries to the right side of his body, as well as a broken right wrist. The jury awards $1.2 million, which is reduced to $400,000 according to Maryland law.
- 2018, $375,000 Verdict A group of Food Lion employees is carpooling to work on Route 26 in Sykesville when they are struck by the defendant, who is driving a dump truck when he makes an errant right turn onto Route 26 from Liberty Road. One of the passengers suffers from head trauma and a fractured hand. A Carroll County jury awards $375,000 in pain suffering damages.
- 2018, $22,387 Verdict A 55-year-old substitute teacher is a rear seat passenger in a car at the intersection of Ritchie-Marlboro and Brown Roads in Upper Marlboro when the car is broadsided by the defendant. The plaintiff suffers a fractured finger and body bruising and sues the defendant for negligently ignoring a stop sign. Liability is admitted and the case goes to trial on damages. A jury in Prince George’s County awards $22,387.
- 2012, $390,000 Settlement After an afternoon motorcycle ride with friends, our client is driving home, traveling in the far-left lane on the inner loop of the Baltimore 695 Beltway. The defendant is driving a company truck with safety lights on the top of the cab. Inexplicably, he makes a u-turn through an emergency cut-through and pulls directly into the path of the plaintiff's motorcycle. The plaintiff suffers multiple rib fractures, abrasions and cuts, as well as a right anterior tibial wound. But his worst injury might have been a comminuted fracture of the left elbow and comminuted left thumb metacarpal fracture requiring hardware and pins. Our law firm, Miller & Zois, handled this case.
- 2012, $80,000 Settlement A young woman is driving down East-West Highway in Prince George's County. She is hit head-on by a car, insured by Allstate, traveling in the opposite direction. She breaks her wrist, requiring a cast on her right arm. Our law firm, Miller & Zois, handled this case.
- 2005, $377,000 Verdict The plaintiff, a nurse, broke her wrist in a fall in snow and ice during a blizzard. She incurred over $6,000 in medical bills. State Farm offered $18,750 to settle the case. An Anne Arundel County jury awarded nearly 20 times State Farm's offer. Our law firm Miller & Zois handled this case.
- 2020, New York: $2,195,000 Settlement An employee on a construction site falls through an opening created in the building’s ground floor. (Our law firm had a similar case that resulted in an ankle fracture.) He fell a distance of 11 feet, landing on the basement floor. He sustained fractures to his jaw, right eye socket, vertebrae, and both wrists, as well as a brachial plexus injury. There were a lot of injuries, but the double wrist fracture was a big part of his non-economic pain and suffering damages. He underwent nerve-transplant surgery followed by six months of physical therapy.
- 2020, Indiana: $14,086 Verdict The plaintiff was rear ended at an intersection, and his car hit the car in front of him from the force of the crash. He went to a chiropractor for soft-tissue injuries and a sprained wrist. These cases are hit or miss and in this case the jury did not give him much.
- 2019, New York 2019: $472,500 Verdict A railroad car inspector tripped over an extension cord, causing him to fall and injure his left wrist. He alleged that the defendant failed to remove the hazard or post a warning. In support, he was able to point to failure to comply with safety regulations. The jury determined that the defendant was 90% negligent and the plaintiff was 10% negligent. (New York is a comparative negligence state, unlike Maryland.)
- 2017, New Jersey: $600,000 Settlement An unemployed woman is struck head-on by a drunk driver. She suffers a displaced type III dens fracture sufficiently severe to warrant surgery and fractured her left wrist. She undergoes extensive physical and occupational therapy and claims a permanent injury. The insurance company has a $1 million policy and the case settled for $600,000 before trial.
- 2017, New York: $70,000 Settlement A boy's arm is wedged between the handrail and the plastic glass of an escalator at a Costco. He suffers a Salter II fracture involving the distal radial left wrist, left wrist buckle fractures involving the distal radius and ulna, left arm abrasions, and narrowing of the left wrist growth plate. The plaintiff contends that the defendant allowed the escalator to become and remain unsafe. The case settled for $70,000. Based on the low settlement amount, we have to assume the boy made a full recovery.
- 2017, South Carolina: $87,500 Settlement A man in his 50s is operating a vehicle on the highway when it is broadsided by another vehicle. As a result, the man fractures his right hand. This diagnosis is followed by therapy and orthopedic surgery. He brings a suit against the other driver, alleging negligence in the operation of his vehicle and the failure to yield the right of way. The defendant does not contest liability but disputes the injury causation, arguing that the man had a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by the accident. The parties agreed to settle for $87,500, with a portion coming from the defendant's insurance policy and a portion from the plaintiff's underinsured motorist coverage.
- 2016, Georgia: $30,485,664 Verdict A 29-year-old woman is driving her vehicle when a Jeep, traveling in the opposite direction, crosses the center line of the road. The woman's left-hand crashes through her driver's side window and strikes the Jeep which proceeds to scrape down the side of her van. The plaintiff is diagnosed with a crush injury to her left hand and closed fractures of her left ulna and radius. She has multiple surgeries to her hand and loses a significant amount of tissue from her hand, including nerves and tendons. She has a four-stage reconstructive surgery done, which includes a skin graft from her thigh. Her middle finger is amputated, and she has plates and screws implanted into her forearm. The woman sues the driver of the Jeep, alleging negligence in the operation of her vehicle. The defendant claims that the steering control inside the Jeep malfunctioned. A jury found that the defendant was 100% liable and awarded the woman $30,485,664.29.
- 2016, Nevada: $50,000 Settlement A newborn infant suffers an injury to his right hand during his birth at a hospital. His parents file a case against the hospital, alleging medical malpractice was the cause of the injury. The parties settled for $50,000.
- 2016, Washington: $21,000 Settlement A woman is walking around her apartment complex when the defendant's dog, a terrier mix, bites her. She alleges that the dog bit down on her right index finger while she tried to stop the dog from attacking her. As a result of the dog bite, the woman sustains a one-inch laceration and wounds on her right index finger that requires six stitches. She also alleges complex regional pain syndrome as a result of the bite. The parties settle for $21,000.
- 2016, Texas: $19,329 Settlement. A minor child is attending the defendant daycare facility when a gate closes on his hand. He suffered hand injuries as a result. His mother files a claim against the facility, alleging their negligence resulted in her son's injuries. The defendants deny liability but ultimately settle for $19,329.46.
- 2016, Connecticut: $14,502 Verdict The plaintiff construction worker is employed by a contractor. The plaintiff's job involves mixing cement. While mixing the cement, part of the mixer gets clogged. The man attempts to unclog the mixer with a stick, but his hand gets caught in the machine. He sustains severe injuries to his right hand and has surgery. A judge awarded the plaintiff $14,502 in his premises liability lawsuit, finding the defendant was negligent.
- 2016, Washington: $14,437 Verdict The plaintiff is driving his vehicle eastbound at the same time that the defendant is operating his vehicle westbound. The defendant fails to yield the right of way and attempts to make a left-hand turn in front of the plaintiff's vehicle. The vehicles collide, and the plaintiff injures his left hand, fractures his pinky, and has back pain. He has to see an orthopedist due to his finger injury. The man was awarded $14,437.
- 2015, Alabama: $110,000 Settlement A 52-year old man is a construction worker, working as a pipefitter for the defendant's company. While working, a clamp falls on his right hand. As a result, he is left a permanent disability, with an impairment rating of 39% in his hand after over $12,000 in medical treatment. The parties settle for $110,000, which is representative of $64.02/week for the remainder of the man's life.
- 2015, Florida: $78,751 Verdict The plaintiff is a passenger in a vehicle traveling on a highway in Miami. The defendant is using a ladder to repair some utility lines, but he fails to secure it to the utility pole. Suddenly, the defendant's 14-foot 90-pound ladder falls, striking the plaintiff's hand. The plaintiff files this case, alleging that the impact resulted in a fracture to his pinky that requires surgery. The defense argued that the imaging studies revealed an old, previously healed fracture. A jury awarded the plaintiff $78,751.
- 2015, Washington: $42,790 Verdict A 65-year-old retired woman falls in a parking lot while waiting to get on a bus ten days after a severe winter storm. The woman claims the parking lot was not plowed or sanded and was slippery. She fell onto her back and was unable to get up until a witness came to help her. While walking towards the bus, the woman and the witness both fall again. As a result of the falls, the woman injured her hand, sustained a right thumb sprain, knee contusions, and lower extremity edema. A jury awarded the woman $29,895 in medicals and $12,000 in non-economic damages.
- 2015, Washington: $28,092 Verdict A woman cuts her hand when a wine glass she is holding is shattered by a falling object, and she goes to the defendant's emergency room with pain in her fingers up to her elbow. Radiological studies are not ordered. A number of weeks after the accident, she returns to have her stitches removed and no diagnostic tests are done even though the woman has no movement in one of her fingers. A few weeks later, the woman develops a mass in her left hand, and she goes to an orthopedist who orders x-rays and finds a foreign body between the plaintiff's fingers. She has surgery done to remove the two foreign bodies and claims the doctors in the emergency room were negligent. She suffered permanent damage to her dorsal EDC tendon and is still unable to bend her fourth and fifth fingers together. A judge awards the woman $25,000 in non-economic damages and $2,247 in medical expenses.
Our lawyers have handed scores of hand injury cases on behalf of victims. These are some of the commonly asked questions about hand injury claims and their settlement value:
Most hand injury cases settle before trial. The problem with hand injury cases from a settlement perspective is that claims adjusters are often wedded to using the amount of medical bills as an anchor for the settlement value. Hand injuries typically involve more pain and suffering than most other serious injuries but typically have far lower medical bills associated with the injury. Before a case goes to trial, insurance companies and their lawyers tend to review these things more realistically which results in a pretrial settlement. But our attorneys file suit in most serious hand injury cases because the pretrial offers are typically not reasonable. In these cases, litigation is the only option for victims seeking to maximize the value of their claim.
The hand injury claims with the highest average settlement value are going to be those claims where the injury is permanent. These are usually crush injuries and any case where there is nonunion or malunion of a fracture (which is often from a delay in diagnosis of treatment). Compartment syndrome is also usually a settlement value driver as are cases that involve arterial and nerve injuries.
This may appear self-serving but the path to getting as much many as possible for your injury claim is to hire the very best lawyer you can how has a track record of success in personal injury claims generally and hand injury cases specifically.
“Cost, profile, and postoperative resource use for surgically managed acute hand and wrist injuries with emergency department presentation” by Luke Steven Robinson et al., Journal of Hand Therapy, April 2020.
This study from Australia looked at the medical records of patients in order to calculate the cost burden of hand and wrist injuries in a particular health network. Researchers identified 226 patients whose treatment collectively cost $1, 204, 606. Studies like these are important because they highlight the cost of preventable injuries. Injuries to the hand and wrist are typically from preventable accidents, and present costs to the healthcare system and individuals.
“Global trends of hand and wrist trauma: a systematic analysis of fracture and digit amputation using the Global Burden of Disease 2017 Study” by Christopher Steven Crowe et al., Injury Prevention, March 2020.
Researchers in this study used data from the Global Burden of Disease study, the most comprehensive study of injuries and diseases around the world. The authors begin by saying that though global mortality is decreasing, non-fatal injuries are on the rise. Injuries to the hand, they say, account for a significant amount of these injuries and can be debilitating, especially if not well treated. Hand and wrist injuries have slightly decreased over the last 27 years, the authors found, and males are more likely to get these injuries than women. Loss of a thumb is the greatest cause of hand-related permanent disability globally. Most importantly, the study breaks down which regions of the world experience the most of these injuries by type, helping lawmakers and medical professionals better understand the problem and how to address it.
“The Acutely Injured Wrist” by Federico Bruno et al., Radiological Clinics of North America, 2019.
This article is an overview of wrist trauma written by experts. It discusses wrist soft tissue and bone injuries, as well as how they manifest in children with a focus on radiologic imaging. Images of wrist x-rays are included, allowing readers to visualize injuries.
Losing the use of a hand or having chronic pain is a tough thing. The personal injury lawyers at Miller & Zois know that well because of their years of experience handling these cases.
Our attorneys fight to get our clients who have suffered severe hand injuries the money they deserve, either by settlement or at trial. Call us to discuss your auto accident, workers’ compensation, or other personal injury case at 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation online.More Information on Settlement Value of Personal Injury Cases