The ankle is a joint that connects the bones in your lower leg to your foot bones, allowing the foot to move up and down and side to side. A healthy ankle supports your body weight and absorbs the impact when you walk, run, or jump.
Ankles are strong, but prone to injury because of their complex anatomy. According to WebMD, 25,000 people sprain an ankle every day in the United States and over one million people visit the emergency room each year because of ankle injuries.
If you've suffered an ankle injury at work or 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:
Ankles are made up of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Common ankle injuries include:
Sprains. An ankle sprain happens when the strong ligaments that hold the ankle bones together extend beyond their limits and stretch or tear. Sprains are graded in severity on a scale of 1 to 3. Grade 1 sprains involve stretching of the ligaments and some damage, while Grade 3 sprains involve a complete tear of the ligament.
Achilles Tendon Ruptures. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects your calf muscles in the back of your lower leg to the heel bone in your foot. Achilles tendon injuries are often seen in athletes, but they can happen to anyone as a result of a fall or forceful impact, like a car accident.
Fractures. A fracture is a break in one or more of the bones of the ankle. According to WebMD, there are four main types of fractures: displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. A simple break in one bone may heal with a cast or boot, while others may need multiple surgeries to repair.
Dislocation. An ankle dislocation is a severe injury that happens when there is an abnormal separation between the bones of your ankle joint. Ankle dislocations can happen with or without a break in one or more of the ankle bones. In some cases, a doctor may be able to move a dislocated ankle bone back in place without surgery (closed reduction), while other cases require emergency surgery.
Athletes are at high risk for ankle injuries, but you don't have to be an athlete to hurt your ankle. Falls, collisions, awkward twists, and sudden impacts can cause significant ankle pain and damage.
If your ankle injury was caused by someone else's negligence or intentional misconduct, you may have a potential personal injury claim. Some of the most common kinds of personal injury cases involving ankle injuries include:
As with all injury-related claims, the dollar value of an ankle injury claim varies depending on the seriousness of the injury and the injured person's individual circumstances. Insurance adjusters, lawyers, judges, and jurors typically consider the following factors when valuing an ankle injury claim.
Ankle injuries vary in severity from minor sprains to disabling fractures and tendon tears. As a rule, so-called "hard injuries" are more serious and tend to receive more compensation (called "damages") than soft tissue injuries.
A hard injury is an injury, like a fracture, that can be seen and measured on an X-ray or similar test. Hard injuries normally require some kind of intervention by a doctor like a cast or surgical repair.
Most ankle injuries, like ligament strains, are soft tissue injuries. Some soft-tissue ankle injuries, like a torn Achilles, can be seen on an MRI and may require surgical repair. Others, like Grade 1 or 2 sprains, are less obvious, but still painful and disruptive. Be sure to carefully document all of your symptoms and your course of treatment to have a shot at getting fair compensation for soft tissue injuries.
As you may expect, disabling ankle injuries that take a year or more to recover from are worth more than minor ankle injuries that heal in a matter of weeks or months.
Talk to your doctor about the long-term impact of your ankle injury. Be sure your doctor notes any potential limitations and future complications in your medical records.
Your medical treatment is tied to the seriousness of your injury. More serious injuries tend to require more invasive and longer-lasting medical care, which moves you up the compensation ladder.
For example, a dislocated ankle may require extensive diagnostic tests, surgical repair, post-operative care, and a lengthy course of physical and occupational therapy. An ankle sprain, on the other hand, may only require an ice pack and time to heal.
Be sure to seek out the "right" medical treatment. Insurance companies value treatment by doctors, nurses, and physical therapists more than treatment by chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other nontraditional providers.
It's important to follow your treatment plan. For example, if you disregard your doctor's order to stay off your injured ankle for a certain amount of time, the insurance company will likely argue that any lingering ankle issues are your fault.
Another major factor in valuing your ankle injury claim is the likelihood that the person you're suing (the "defendant") will be found liable at trial. If you don't have evidence to show that the defendant was at fault for your ankle injury, the value of your case goes down dramatically.
Defendants are less willing to settle and more likely to roll the dice at trial when liability is unclear. Similarly, you and your lawyer will probably be willing to accept a lower settlement offer when you have doubts about whether you can prove fault, rather than risk losing at trial and getting nothing.
Learn more about how to negotiate a good personal injury settlement.
The value of your ankle injury claim is also impacted by some of your personal characteristics, including your:
For example, if you're a young firefighter whose career is cut short because of a devastating ankle injury, your damage award will likely be higher than the award for a semi-retired office worker with a history of ankle arthritis who suffers a similar injury.
If someone is liable for injuring your ankle, 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 probably be the largest part of your economic damages in an ankle 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 had to miss work because of your ankle 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 contractor, you'll need to document jobs you missed and jobs you missed out on bidding 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 work.
You're entitled to compensation for all out-of-pocket expenses you paid because of your ankle 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 experiences you missed out on because of your ankle injury, like nonrefundable travel, classes, or work conferences.
Most economic damages are fairly easy to tally up. You can look at receipts to figure out how much you've spent on medical bills or a pay stub to figure out your lost income, but there is no precise way to put a dollar figure on noneconomic damages, like 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 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 tore your Achilles in a car accident. The other driver rear-ended you and is 100% at fault for the accident. Your medical expenses are $20,000. The at-fault driver's insurance company will try to use a multiplier of 3, valuing your noneconomic damages at $60,000. You or your lawyer will argue for a multiplier of 4 or more. You have an MRI to show that you snapped the biggest tendon in your body because of the at-fault driver's carelessness. You had no chance to avoid the accident. Now you're immobilized and have months of physical therapy to endure before you can return to your usual activities. If surgery is required to repair your torn Achilles, you'll be pushing to use an even higher multiplier.
Learn more about what multiplier to use when valuing your personal injury claim and use our calculator to estimate the value of your claim.
It can be hard to figure out whether to file an insurance claim or lawsuit after an ankle injury. The following questions may help guide your decision-making:
Only you can decide what's 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 about the best path forward.
Here are a few real-world examples of ankle injury settlements and verdicts to give you an idea of the potential value of an ankle injury claim. Each ankle injury case is unique. You shouldn't view these settlements or verdicts as an indication of the value of ankle injury cases generally or your case in particular. Also, keep in mind that big verdicts get publicized while smaller ones often go unmentioned.
If you're thinking about filing an insurance claim or lawsuit after an ankle injury, talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can answer your questions and help you figure out the value of your claim.
Nearly all personal injury lawyers provide 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 hiring a personal injury lawyer. When you're ready, you can connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.