Settlement Compensation For a Finger Injury

A look at the factors that determine the settlement value of a finger injury insurance claim or lawsuit.

By , Attorney · University of Michigan Law School
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Fingers are some of the most valuable and vulnerable parts of the human body. We use them to perform all kinds of work, from chefs chopping vegetables in restaurants to neurosurgeons operating on patients' brains in hospitals. We also use them at home to cook, clean, and connect with our loved ones.

Fingers are remarkably strong, but finger injuries are common because we use them so often. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 102,350 hand injuries in 2020, second only to back injuries (128,220) as the most common work-related injury in the United States.

If you've suffered a finger injury in an accident that wasn't your fault, you may be wondering if you have a viable personal injury claim and how much your claim might be worth. In this article, we'll:

  • review common finger injuries and how they happen
  • explain how insurance adjusters, lawyers, and others value a finger injury claim, and
  • provide some examples of finger injury settlements and verdicts.

Common Finger Injuries

Finger injuries range in seriousness from minor cuts and scrapes to traumatic amputations. Most people don't bother suing over scrapes and bruises, but they will sue over serious finger injuries, including:

  • torn ligaments, tendon strains, and other soft tissue damage
  • lacerations of the skin, blood vessels, nerves, or tendons
  • nerve damage
  • sprains and dislocations
  • crush injuries
  • bone fractures, and
  • traumatic amputations.

Finger injuries can cause permanent numbness, intense pain, arthritis, disfigurement, and loss of function.

Common Causes of Finger Injuries

People can hurt their fingers in all kinds of ways. If you jam your finger shooting hoops by yourself, you aren't going to be able to sue anyone over your injury. But if your finger injury is caused by someone else's negligence (carelessness) or intentional misconduct, you may have a personal injury claim.

Some of the most common types of personal injury claims involving finger injuries include:

Factors That Impact the Value of a Finger Injury Claim

As with all injury-related legal claims, the dollar value of a finger injury lawsuit depends on the injured person's individual circumstances. Insurance adjusters, judges, and jurors typically consider the following factors when valuing a finger injury claim.

Type and Location of Injury

As a rule, so-called "hard injuries"—broken bones, crush injuries, amputations—are more serious and tend to be awarded higher damages than soft tissue injuries. Hard injuries are injuries that you can see and measure on tests or require physical repair by a doctor. For example, wounds that require stitching and broken bones that need to be set are examples of hard injuries that will move you up the compensation ladder.

Soft tissue injuries, like sprains, are easier for insurance adjusters to dismiss as minor, especially finger sprains. You need to be sure to carefully document all of your symptoms and your course of treatment to have a chance at getting fair compensation for soft tissue injuries.

Your fingers and thumbs are your most used limbs, but they aren't valued equally by insurance adjusters and lawyers. Thumbs are typically valued higher than digits because they are necessary for grasping, which most jobs require. And finger and thumb injuries on a person's dominant hand receive more compensation than injuries on non-dominant hands.

Your Prognosis for Recovery

Injuries that cause permanent disability or disfigurement will be worth a lot more than injuries that heal in a few weeks or months. Finger injury claims involving long-term injuries are complex and typically require expert witnesses to testify about the injury and the extent of future disabilities.

Medical Treatment

For understandable reasons, the more invasive and longer-lasting your medical treatment, the more compensation you'll receive.

Be sure to get the "right" medical treatment. Insurance companies tend to value treatment by doctors, hospitals, and medical clinics more than treatment by chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other nontraditional healers.

It's important to follow your doctor's treatment orders. If you fail to follow through with physical or occupational therapy, the insurance company will argue that any lasting problems you experience are your fault.

Proof of Fault

Another major factor in valuing a finger injury case is the likelihood that the person you're suing (the "defendant") will be found liable at trial. If you don't have enough evidence to prove that the defendant was at fault for your finger injury, the value of your case goes down considerably. Even if your potential damages are high, defendants are less willing to settle and more inclined to roll the dice at trial when liability is unclear.

Similarly, you'll probably be willing to accept a lower settlement offer when the issue of fault is a toss-up, rather than run the risk of losing at trial and getting nothing.

Personal Characteristics

The value of your finger injury claim is also impacted by some of your personal characteristics, including your:

  • occupation
  • age and life expectancy, and
  • prior medical history.

For example, if you're a brilliant, young piano prodigy whose career is cut short by a devastating index finger injury, your damage award will be much higher than the award for a semi-retired mechanic who had to miss work for a few weeks after reaggravating a similar index finger injury.

Calculating Damages for Finger Injuries

If someone is legally responsible for injuring your finger, that person typically must pay for your:

Out-of-pocket expenses, like medical bills and lost income, are called "economic" or "special" damages. Harder to measure damages, like pain and suffering, are called "noneconomic" or "general" damages.

Let's take a closer look at these categories of damages.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses will likely be the largest part of your economic damages in a finger injury claim. Examples of medical expenses include:

  • ambulance bills
  • hospital bills
  • surgery costs
  • radiology charges
  • doctors bills
  • prescription medication costs
  • pain management treatment, and
  • physical and occupational therapy bills.

When you calculate your personal injury settlement value, total your medical expenses separately from your other out-of-pocket costs. Insurance adjusters often use your medical expenses to come up with a ballpark figure for your pain and suffering and other intangible losses.

Lost Income

If you missed work because of your finger injury, get proof of your lost income. If you're employed, get a letter from your supervisor to document your lost wages and benefits. If you're self-employed, you'll need proof of lost income and business opportunities. For example, if you're a self-employed musician, you'll need to document gigs you missed and gigs you missed out on booking because of your injury.

If your injury is so severe that you're unable to return to the type of your work you did prior to your injury, you'll likely need to hire an expert to calculate your future lost earnings. Talk to a lawyer if you are dealing with a permanent injury that impacts your ability to make a living.

Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You're entitled to compensation for all out-of-pocket expenses you paid because of your finger injury. If you had to hire someone to help clean your house, drive you to appointments, or mow your lawn, you should seek reimbursement.

You may also ask for reimbursement for nonrefundable travel expenses for trips missed because of your injury and modifications necessary to accommodate your injury.

Noneconomic Damages

Here's where things can get a little tricky. You can look at receipts to figure out how much you've spent on medical bills, but there is no precise way to put a dollar figure on physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Most insurance adjusters and lawyers use a damages formula to estimate noneconomic damages. Here's how the formula works: Your total medical expenses (past and future) are multiplied by a number, usually between 1 and 5. The number—called the "multiplier"—is chosen based on the seriousness of your injury and other factors.

For example, let's say you broke your finger in a car accident. The other driver rear-ended you and is 100% at fault for the accident. Your medical expenses are $5,000. The at-fault driver's insurance company will try to use a multiplier of 2, valuing your noneconomic damages at $10,000. You or your lawyer will argue for a multiplier of 3 or more. You have an X-ray to prove that you broke a bone because the at-fault driver slammed into you. You had no chance to avoid the accident and your broken finger is negatively impacting your work and home life.

Learn more about what multiplier to use when valuing your personal injury claim and use our calculator to estimate the value of your claim.

Is It Worth Filing a Lawsuit Over a Finger Injury?

If the only injury you suffer in an accident is a finger injury, you might feel lucky that you escaped with a "minor" injury and wonder whether it's even worth filing an insurance claim or lawsuit. The following questions may help guide your decision-making:

  • Was the injury on your dominant hand?
  • Did you injure your thumb or more than one finger?
  • How does your injury impact your ability to work now and in the future?
  • Are you partly to blame for the accident?
  • How much will it cost you to take your personal injury case to court? (Consider lawyers' fees, copying fees, court filing fees, investigator fees, expert witness fees, and so on.)
  • How much time do you want to devote to your claim?
  • What is your tolerance for stress and risk?

Only you can decide what's ultimately best for you and your family, but talking to a lawyer can help. A lawyer can answer your questions and help you estimate the net value of your claim so that you can make an informed decision.

Recent Finger Injury Settlements and Verdicts

Here are a few real-world examples of finger-injury settlements and verdicts to give you an idea of the potential value of a finger-injury claim. Each finger injury case is unique. You shouldn't view these settlements or verdicts as an indication of the value of finger injury cases generally or your case in particular.

  • $156,000 verdict in favor of a professional musician who badly cut the tip of her finger on a defective vehicle bracket. (Kines v. Ford Motor Company, 558 F.Supp.3d 614 (W.D. Tenn. 2021).)
  • $1,003,649 verdict in favor of a teenage basketball player who lost the tip of his middle finger on his dominant hand when he clapped the backboard at an after-school program and caught his finger in a metal cage that was installed dangerously close to the basketball hoop. The court ultimately reduced the award to $435,649. (Robinson v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Educ., 20-CV-8175 (VSB) (S.D.N.Y. 2021).)
  • $209,474.77 verdict in favor of a grain worker who was injured in an industrial accident. His middle finger and the first joint of his index finger were amputated as a result of the accident. (Leblanc v. Continental Grain Co., 672 So.2d 951 (La. Ct. App. 2009).)
  • $15,025 verdict in favor of a prisoner who severed the tips of two of his fingers while operating a vegetable slicer, which he hadn't been properly trained to use. (Seymour v. Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 131 Ohio Misc. 2d 13 (Ohio Ct. Claims 2005).)
  • $100,000 settlement for a failure to diagnose and treat a teenage girl's fractured pinkie finger. (Harris v. Friedman, 2004 WL 5048966 (2004).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're thinking about filing an insurance claim or lawsuit after a finger injury, talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can answer your questions and give you an objective and informed opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the value of your claim.

Nearly all personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and offer their services on a "contingency fee" basis. If you win your case or reach a settlement, you'll pay your lawyer a percentage of the money you receive, typically 33%. But if you lose your case, you won't have to pay your lawyer a fee.

Learn more about when to hire a personal injury lawyer and how to find the right personal injury lawyer. When you're ready, you can connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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