The U.S. has an astounding number of personal injury lawsuits every year. In 2014 alone, there were almost 300,000 lawsuits filed. That’s an average of 1 lawsuit per every 1,150 people in the country. Very often, plaintiffs make legitimate claims in these lawsuits. Faulty equipment, lack of adherence to safety regulations, and other factors can cause people to get seriously injured and entitled to compensation for their medical care and suffering.
Unfortunately, not all personal injury lawsuits are legitimate. Some people just want to use lawsuits to make easy money, and will find fault with everything from overheated cups of coffee to inadequate warning labels on machinery.
While it may be nearly impossible to quantify the legitimacy of personal injury lawsuits, it is indisputable that they play a major part in the United States justice system. For better or for worse, consumer protection laws provide monetary and legal recourse for those who feel they’ve been wronged.
With this in mind, we decided to research the aspects of personal injury lawsuits that can be quantified, starting with: just how many are filed each year. These charts explore the fluctuations in lawsuits filed over the last ten years, the number of lawsuits filed per region of the country, and the number of lawsuits filed per state.
Though we often hear about personal injury lawsuits in the news, they don’t actually comprise the majority of civil lawsuits in the U.S. Only a quarter of the lawsuits filed annually are personal injury suits. Still, 76,000 suits is an impressive number for just “a quarter” of the total lawsuits filed.
There has clearly been an uptick of personal injury lawsuits filed over the course of the last several years. The average number of lawsuits filed per year has jumped from just over 50,000 between 2004 and 2007 (including one outlier of a year in 2006) to more than 70,000 in the years after that, a 40% jump in less than a decade. See how the numbers break down for each individual year.
As is evident from the next two maps, there are wide discrepancies in the number of lawsuits filed in different regions of the country. The West has half as many lawsuits filed as the Midwest and Northeast, and less than 4% as many lawsuits as the South (and if you look at the breakdown by state, we think you can find the reason why).
And finally, after sifting through all these numbers, we stumbled upon what seemed like a mathematical error, but is in fact, true. The takeaway: What’s the deal with West Virginia??? While it’s understandable that some states will have more lawsuits filed than others, it’s absurd for one state to have 300 times as many lawsuits filed (even adjusted for population). Pretty unbelievable.
Our analysis revealed some very surprising insights but also led to even more questions. Why were so fewer people injured in 2007 compared to 2006? Why are fewer personal injury suits filed in the Western half of the country? And most importantly, what’s going on in West Virginia?