The US holds one of the most interesting records when it comes to litigation. Rising litigation costs and frivolous lawsuits orchestrated by lawyers looking to make a quick buck plague the country.
In these two cases, the plaintiff and the defendant usually have little to gain. Even with a hefty settlement amount, it doesn’t make up for the emotional stress and the lost time spent on meeting with attorneys and going to court.
To gain better insight and understanding about the state of litigation in the US, here’s a list of some lawsuit statistics you might find interesting.
Some Interesting Facts and Data on Lawsuits (Editor’s Choice)
- The US holds the top spot for the largest number of lawsuits.
- There are 40 million lawsuits filed in the US every year.
- US companies spent $22.8 billion in 2020 because of commercial litigation.
- 80% of medical malpractice lawsuits result in no compensatory damages.
- Car accident claims are the most common personal injury lawsuits.
- Sexual harassment lawsuit damages are capped at $300,000.
US Lawsuit Statistics
1. The US holds the top spot for the largest number of lawsuits.
(Asset Protection Planner)
Most of us know the US as the most litigious country in the world. This is because it has the largest number of lawsuits recorded every year.
But if we take the number of litigations per capita into account, the top spot belongs to Germany. According to lawsuit statistics by country, Germany has 123.2 lawsuits per 1,000 people, while the US only has 74.5 lawsuits per 1,000 people.
2. There are 40 million lawsuits filed in the US every year.
According to lawsuit statistics in the US, there are about 40 million lawsuits filed every year. Unfortunately, many of these lawsuits are frivolous lawsuits filed by predatory attorneys who take advantage of the legal system to earn hefty sums.
3. According to lawyer statistics, there are currently 1.3 million lawyers in the US.
In 2020, there were over 1.32 million lawyers in the US. That’s only a little over 200,000 lawyers than in 2015. Despite this slight growth in the number of lawyers in the US, there’s still an oversupply of lawyers compared to the number of jobs available.
4. US companies spent $22.8 billion in 2020 because of commercial litigation.
Litigation statistics show that large companies spend huge amounts of money on litigation. Large companies’ spending on litigation has been increasing since 2016. In 2020, companies spent approximately $22.8 billion. By the end of 2021, litigation spending will probably reach $23.71 billion.
5. 80% of medical malpractice lawsuits result in no compensatory damages.
Every year, about 200,000 patients die because of medical error or malpractice. Yet, according to lawsuit statistics, medical malpractice lawsuits account for only 15% of the total personal injury lawsuits filed every year. What’s alarming is that 80% of these malpractice lawsuits don’t end in favor of the plaintiffs, which means there’s no compensation for the injuries or deaths.
6. Only 0.13% of perceived racial discrimination cases are filed in court.
Discrimination lawsuit statistics by race are difficult to gather. However, one study estimates that there 3.4 million potential occurrences of racial discrimination every year. Of this number, only 31,000 are filed with the EEOC. The number of cases that go to trial is reduced further to 5,000.
7. Civil case filings rose by 3% in the fiscal year 2018 to 2019.
In a summary of caseloads and trial statistics provided by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts for a 12-month period ended on March 31, 2019, it was concluded that civil case filings in US district courts rose by 3%. Moreover, the criminal defendant filings rose by 11%.
8. One out of five convicts is imprisoned for a drug offense, according to crime conviction statistics.
Many people indeed go to jail for nothing more than drug possession. The police make about one million arrests on account of a drug offense every year. However, four out of five convicts were imprisoned for less grave or more grave crimes than drug possession.
9. According to US lawsuit statistics on class action lawsuits, settlements amounted to $2 billion in 2019.
(National Law Review)
In 2019, the total amount of settlements approved by the courts totaled $2 billion, which was $3.2 billion less than in 2018. It doesn’t automatically mean there’s a downward trend in settlements because a single settlement of $3 billion increased the 2018 amount.
10. Florida had the busiest state courts based on lawsuit statistics by state and caseloads.
From the most recent available caseloads data on all states in the US, Florida had the most caseloads, with 17,600 cases closed by its state courts. State courts in California and New York closed 11,000 and 10,000 cases, respectively.
11. The largest settlement based on lawsuit statistics in the history of the US was worth $206 billion.
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement is the largest settlement in the history of the United States. This settlement worth $206 billion occurred between Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard and the attorneys general of 46 states and five territories.
The purpose of the settlement was to compensate the states for the medical costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses.
Notable Lawsuits in America
12. Walmart gets sued about 5,000 times every year.
(Miller and Zois)
Based on Walmart lawsuit statistics, the world’s largest retailer receives an average of 20 lawsuits a day or 5,000 a year. The majority of these lawsuits come from the company’s employees on account of workplace discrimination or personal injury. Some of these cases go to trial, while others end in settlements.
13. The percentage of civil cases that go to trial decreased based on a 2018 study of trial cases.
(Stanford Law School)
In 2018, the Stanford Law School conducted a study on civil cases that go to court. The study’s researcher found a 62% decrease in civil cases that went to trial between 1997 and 2016. The researcher supposes that litigants opt for non-time consuming alternatives such as settlements, summary trials, and voluntary dismissals.
14. The federal judicial caseload statistics of 2019 indicate a 5% increase in filings.
The US courts recorded a combined filing of 376,763 civil and criminal cases as indicated in their summary of key findings. Moreover, there were 389,666 terminations, marking a decline in the number of pending cases.
Lawsuit Statistics by Type
15. Sexual harassment lawsuit damages are capped at $300,000.
The federal government has limited sexual harassment damages to no more than $300,000. However, this amount doesn’t hurt large organizations at all.
Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, set out to determine the monetary value of this type of case using sexual harassment lawsuit statistics and concluded that sexual harassment damages should be $7.3 million higher.
16. COVID-19 could cost businesses $21 billion in lawsuits.
Praedicat assesses risks for insurers and believes that COVID-19 could cost businesses a lot of money. Family members and relatives could sue employers on account of take-home infections. The employment lawsuit statistics could skyrocket and cost $21 billion if deaths from take-home infection reach 300,000.
17. Car accident claims are the most common personal injury lawsuits.
(The Daily Campus)
According to personal injury lawsuit statistics, millions of Americans have vehicular accidents every year. Many of those who were in car accidents and sustained injuries file personal injury lawsuits against people who caused those accidents.
18. Employee lawsuit statistics on workplace discrimination have an overall effect on managerial representation.
(Harvard Business Review)
By analyzing 171 high-profile cases against discrimination, researchers identified a 10% gain for black women and a 13% gain for black men in managerial representation. The researchers found that these figures were statistically significant, which meant they could only be attributed to the lawsuits.
19. As lawsuit statistics show, commercial liability costs increased by 14% between 2016 and 2018.
(Institute for Legal Reform)
A new study released by the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform was conducted on commercial liability. The study found an increase in cost by 14% from 2016 to 2018. That means that businesses paid $343 billion in 2018, up by $43 billion from figures in 2016.
What’s alarming is that businesses generating less than $1 million in annual revenue bore 39% of liability costs.
20. Small business lawsuit statistics show that 53% of small businesses get sued every year.
In a study conducted among 65,000 small businesses, researchers found that a staggering 36% to 53% of small businesses get sued every year. This is detrimental to small businesses because lawsuits are often costly. These businesses need to brace themselves for attorneys’ fees, hefty settlement costs, emotional distress, and loss of business opportunities to competitors.
21. According to medical malpractice lawsuit statistics, 33% of lawsuits were filed due to failure to diagnose.
In a medical malpractice report for 2019, researchers surveyed physicians who got sued. They found that the number one reason behind medical malpractice lawsuits is consistent with surveys conducted in previous years. Delayed diagnosis and failure to diagnose remain the top reasons for lawsuits, followed by complications from treatment or surgery.
22. Medical lawsuits statistics show that 34% of physicians get sued at least once.
(American Medical Association)
Lawsuits against physicians are very common. According to researchers, at least 34% of physicians get sued in their career. Furthermore, research shows that general surgeons and OB/GYNs are most likely to get sued.
23. The medical malpractice payout reached $4.03 billion in 2018.
Malpractice lawsuit statistics show a 2.91% increase in payout from 2017 to 2018, reaching $4.03 billion. 96.5% of payment amounts resulted from settlement, while the remaining 3.5% resulted from a trial court decision.
24. Slip and fall settlements range from $15,000 to $45,000.
(Bernstein And Maryanoff)
According to slip and fall lawsuit statistics, the average settlement of this type of lawsuit ranges between $15,000 and $45,000. A settlement could go lower than this average range in case of a minor injury.
Likewise, the settlement could go higher if the injury is serious and the plaintiff holds firm evidence of negligence. However, most cases fall within the said range.
25. Police lawsuits in 2019 cost taxpayers $300 million.
According to police lawsuit statistics, $300 million were paid in settlements in 2019. Most lawsuits involved false arrests, excessive force, and civil rights violations. What’s unfortunate about this is that taxpayers are the ones bearing the burden of the costs of lawsuits because of police misconduct.
26. Patent infringement lawsuit statistics show a 9% increase in lawsuits year-on-year.
Patent lawsuits increased by 9% in the first five months of 2020, even though the pandemic disrupted businesses and US courts. Cases coming from non-practicing entities (companies that generate revenues through patent licensing) greatly contributed to the increase.
27. The first eight months of 2020 saw a spike in 401(k) filed cases according to 401(k) lawsuit statistics of 2020.
2020 will be remembered as the year when the number of 401(k) lawsuits rose to 60 compared to only 20 in 2019. Bloomberg Law believes this increase resulted from new tools at a plaintiff’s attorney disposal, the maturing body of law under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the pandemic.
28. According to real estate lawsuit statistics and records, breach of contract is the most common reason for lawsuits.
The US has witnessed many lawsuits filed in the real estate industry. Buyers, sellers, agents, landlords, and tenants have all resorted to legal means to pursue their rights.
Based on records from a law firm that has handled such cases, breach of contract is the most common reason for lawsuits. In this type of dispute, the plaintiff must have proof that the other party failed to fulfill their obligations.
29. Tort lawsuit statistics show that tort cases account for only 4% of civil caseloads.
(Center for Justice and Democracy)
Tort cases usually pique public interest. However, data shows that there aren’t plenty of tort cases filed in state courts. In fact, they account for only 4% of all civil cases in the US. According to available data, that percentage remained consistent from 2012 to 2018.
30. City payouts because of police misconduct in New York increased by almost $30 million in 2019.
(New York Post)
Based on the number of lawsuits against police departments, the statistics indicated an increase in payouts. The city paid $68 million to victims of assault, false arrest or imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. For comparison, the city paid out almost $39 million in 2018.
People gain little from going to trial. Not only is it financially draining, but it’s also incredibly stressful. As a result, many people decide not to pursue a case and opt for a settlement. For this reason, it might be prudent to examine all aspects of going to court.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many criminal cases are there a year?
The number of reported criminal cases changes every year. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, 76,538 individual cases were reported in 2019, which was 7,113 cases more than in 2018.
How many lawsuits are dismissed in the US each year?
There is no exact number of lawsuits dismissed in the US every year. However, surveys show that as much as 97% of cases never go to trial. They’re either settled out of court or dismissed if a judge sees no real issue.
Why do you need to file a lawsuit soon after an accident?
A personal injury claim should be filed immediately, even if you’re still receiving treatment. That way, it will be easier to receive compensatory damages from the person who caused the accident.
What is the conviction rate in the US?
According to federal prosecutors and lawsuit statistics, the US conviction rate is very high. It has been consistently rising since 1973. Since 2003, the conviction rate in federal courts has been over 99%.
- ABC News
- American Medical Association
- Asset Protection Planner
- Bernstein And Maryanoff
- Bloomberg Law
- Bloomberg Law
- Center for Justice and Democracy
- Connor Reporting
- Harvard Business Review
- Institute for Legal Reform
- Leverage RX
- Miller and Zois
- National Law Review
- New York Post
- One Legal
- Prison Policy
- Stanford Law School
- The Daily Campus
- US Courts