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Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?
9th Jun 2023
Are personal injury settlements taxable

As victims navigate the aftermath of a personal injury, they often turn to legal settlements as a lifeline for financial recovery. These settlements compensate for physical, emotional, or economic harm caused by another party's negligence or wrongful action. However, the question that frequently arises is whether these settlements are subject to tax. Considering the possible financial implications, you may feel a sense of uncertainty and apprehension.

We seek to alleviate those concerns and provide comprehensive answers to your questions. The objective is to provide you with a clear understanding of the tax implications of personal injury settlements, easing your path toward recovery and instilling a sense of reassurance during a potentially tumultuous period.

We understand the complexities of dealing with personal injury settlements and their tax implications. As a law firm with significant experience in personal injury cases, we are fully equipped to provide you with insightful, empathetic support during this challenging time. So, are personal injury settlements taxable? Whether you pay taxes on these settlements depends on several factors.

What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?

Simply put, a personal injury settlement is a resolution reached in a case where one person (the plaintiff) has been harmed, and another person or organization (the defendant) is considered responsible. When both parties agree, it results in a settlement rather than taking the matter to court for a judge or jury decision. The agreement usually includes the sum the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff. In return, the plaintiff agrees to drop the lawsuit.

This sum, known as the settlement, is meant to offset the costs and losses suffered by the injured party. It seeks to "make whole" the plaintiff, compensating for various harm they've endured. This might be a relatively straightforward calculation, like reimbursing medical bills or lost wages due to the inability to work. However, it also might involve less tangible elements, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress, which don't have a fixed dollar value but significantly affect the injured person's quality of life.

Personal injury lawsuits can arise from various incidents. Some of the most common types of personal injury cases include:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: These are the most frequent types of personal injury cases, often involving collisions between cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians.
  • Slip and Fall Cases: These are premises liability cases where someone falls and is injured due to a property owner's negligence, such as failing to remove ice or snow or leaving hazardous conditions unattended.
  • Medical Malpractice: These lawsuits are filed when a healthcare professional provides a treatment that falls below the standard of care, resulting in patient injury or death.
  • Product Liability: These cases involve injuries caused by defective or dangerously designed products.
  • Workplace Accidents: Injuries or illnesses that occur in the workplace often lead to personal injury claims, although these are usually handled through workers' compensation systems.
  • Dog Bites: Owners can be held liable for bites or other injuries caused by their dogs, depending on the laws in their jurisdiction.

Each of these cases can result in a personal injury settlement if the defendant is found to be at fault and both parties agree to a resolution, but what is your potential tax liability?

Do You Have To Report a Personal Injury Settlement on Taxes?

Do you have to report a personal injury settlement on taxes

Is a personal injury settlement taxable? The IRS requires to report all income, but there are exceptions regarding personal injury settlements.

Generally, compensation for physical injuries or physical sickness is not considered income. Therefore, it's usually optional to report these settlements on your taxes, but you should contact a trained tax professional with any questions or concerns you might have.

What Are the Types of Non-Taxable Settlements?

There are plenty of examples of settlements that are generally not considered taxable. Some of the more typical instances include:

Physical Injury or Physical Sickness

Regarding personal injury settlements, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stipulates that any compensation received due to physical injury or physical sickness is generally not taxable. This broad category of non-taxable compensation can cover the damages an injured person might incur. For example, any money received for the reimbursement of medical expenses that you've had to pay out-of-pocket due to an accident is not taxed.

This principle is laid out in Section 104(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code, allowing you to exclude from your gross reported income any compensation or damages you are awarded from an injury or illness.

Emotional Distress Related to Physical Injury or Physical Sickness

Furthermore, the IRS also considers compensation for emotional distress or mental anguish stemming from a physical injury or sickness as non-taxable. Emotional pain can manifest in various forms, including anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and these conditions are often directly linked to physical injuries.

This means that if your physical injuries have led to substantial mental health impacts, the part of your settlement intended to compensate for that emotional distress is generally not considered taxable income. This rule is in line with the principle mentioned above.

Loss of Income Related to Physical Injury or Physical Sickness

Another significant aspect of non-taxable settlements is compensation for loss of income directly related to physical injury or sickness. If you have had to take time off work, reduce your work hours, or even leave your job entirely because of your physical condition following an accident, the loss of income can be substantial.

The IRS generally does not tax settlements to compensate for this lost income. However, it must note that this only applies if the lost income results from a bodily injury or sickness. If you've lost income for other reasons related to your accident that are not due to a physical injury or sickness, that portion of your settlement might be taxable.

Reach out to us to learn more.

What Are the Types of Taxable Settlements?

What are the types of taxable settlements

On the other hand, several types of settlements might be considered taxable. The most common examples include:

Emotional Distress Unrelated to Physical Injury or Physical Sickness

When it comes to settlements for emotional distress that don't originate from a physical injury or sickness, the tax rules change. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), such compensation is taxable. This means if you receive a settlement due to emotional distress like anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, and these conditions are not linked to a physical injury or illness, these amounts must be reported as income on your tax return. This rule is more detailed in the IRS's Publication 525 on "Taxable and Non-Taxable Income."

Interest Received on Personal Injury Settlements

Another important aspect to consider in personal injury settlements is interest. While the actual settlement money received for physical injury or sickness is not usually taxable, the IRS views any interest earned on the settlement differently. If your settlement award is invested or deposited in an interest-earning account, the interest accrued over time is taxable. This means that while the original compensation remains tax-free, the additional income gained from interest should be stipulated on your tax return as it is considered taxable.

Punitive Damages

These damages are used to set an example and punish someone for their actions (or inaction) to prevent them from happening again. Because punitive damages do not compensate for a physical injury or sickness, the IRS considers any punitive damages you obtain as part of a personal injury settlement taxable income. This holds whether or not the punitive damages relate to a physical injury. This rule is expressly noted in Section 104(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

If your personal injury settlement includes punitive damages, this portion of the settlement must be reported on your tax return.

How Much Does the IRS Tax a Settlement?

The amount of tax owed on a taxable settlement varies based on factors like your overall taxable income and tax bracket. You should consult a tax professional or legal advisor specializing in personal injury law for specific tax obligations.

What Can Your Personal Injury Lawyers Do for You?

What can your personal injury lawyers do for you

At Bungay Law, our personal injury lawyers are committed to helping you navigate the complexities of personal injury law. We can offer guidance on whether your settlement may be taxable and provide legal representation to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you're entitled to.

Contact Bungay Law for an Initial Consultation With Our Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Contact Bungay Law for an initial consultation

If you're dealing with a personal injury case and have questions about your potential settlement's tax implications, don't hesitate to contact us. At Bungay Law, our compassionate team is ready to provide your support and guidance. 

Contact us today for an initial consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. We're here to help.

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