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:
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:
Finger injuries can cause permanent numbness, intense pain, arthritis, disfigurement, and loss of function.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The value of your finger injury claim is also impacted by some of your personal characteristics, including your:
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.
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 will likely be the largest part of your economic damages in a finger injury claim. Examples of medical expenses include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.