Growth in U.S. Law Firms 2018 proved to be one of the strongest years in recent memory for U.S law firms, both in revenue and workforce growth. Over the past five years, the field of personal injury lawyers and attorneys has grown by 1.4% to reach revenue of $35 billion. According to IbisWorld, industry employment has risen to a staggering 130,979 in personal injury law alone.
However, surges in revenue and an expanding workforce are only a fraction of what 2019 holds in-store for personal injury. Radical changes are underway for data collection, reality (or virtual-reality) in the courtroom, and the types of cases anticipated to hit our desks this year. Take a look at the five trends we predict for personal injury in 2019. The Rise of Virtual- and Augmented-Reality Technology For many, the basis of virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) technology seems to be grounded in video games, mobile apps, or home entertainment. However, 2019 may see the rise of VR and AR technology in big ways - including legal. It used to be a stretch to imagine these technologies used anywhere near the courtroom. Now, however, they might be helping to shape the future of law.
Think of it this way: evidentiary rules have repeatedly come to accommodate technology over the years, from the use of videotaped depositions to the introduction of DNA evidence. For years, personal injury attorneys have turned to expert witnesses to reconstruct accidents, or explain how their clients came to sustain their injuries.
Now, data obtained through sensory technology can be used in litigation. Imagine showing jurors a real-time, 360-degree video of the scene of an accident. Using drone technology, jurors can request to view the scene from left or right, from an aerial view, or even closer to detail. AR and VR technology can be used to recreate accidents in near-perfect detail, providing a visual and emotionally-stimulating recreation of personal injury accidents. Streamlined Data Discovery Since the start of the 21st century, data management and discovery has evolved from file cabinets full of papers to spreadsheets and word processing docs. As most of us left hard-copy documents in the past, more and more of our clients began to accumulate texts, emails, social media postings, and other electronic documents for us to sift through.
It's estimated that humans are creating an estimated 2.5 exabytes of data each day - in perspective, that's over 2.5 million gigabytes of data. In 2019, it's predicted we'll see a heightened use of AI tools, predictive coding, cloud computing and more to sort through and analyze data during the discovery phase of personal injury litigation.
Take the example of a client with 10 GB of emails that need to be put through the discovery process. A cloud-based software program can scan through all 10 GB - an estimated 30,000 documents - and flag roughly 95% of the emails as non-responsive or irrelevant. This leaves just 1,500 emails to be reviewed by staff, who can review about 40 documents per hour.
Assuming a cost of $250/hour, a client would only pay $9,000 for this process. In comparison to a fully manual review, which could take over 800 hours and consequently cost the client close to $200,000, it's clear that streamlined data discovery programs are a cost and time efficient option to look forward to in 2019. Accidental Injury On the Rise For the first time in U.S history, accidental injury has become the number three cause of death in the country. Based on new injury statistics, an American is accidentally injured every second and killed every three minutes by a preventable event such as an auto accident, workplace accident, a fall, and so on.
While Americans becoming injured or accidentally killed at such an alarming rate is nowhere near positive news, this rise in accidental injury will also mean a rise in personal injury lawsuits. With more Americans becoming accidentally injured, personal injury claims may rise in tandem. The Nation's Median Age Continues to Rise Year over year, the average age of the U.S. population has increased. As Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 pass into retirement age, the median age of Americans has continuously gotten older. There are currently 108.7 million Americans aged 50-plus, including 76.4 million Baby Boomers. Americans aged 50-plus will continue to multiply over the next decade, growing by 19 million people.
The increase of the median age actually holds a plethora of potential opportunity for the personal injury industry, beginning first with an increase of slip-and-fall accidents. More than one third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year, which can potentially yield personal injury cases. Likewise, we can anticipate a rise in potential elder abuse cases, as more individuals enter retirements homes and assisted living facilities. Consequently, an increase in the number of elder mistreatment may increase demand for personal injury lawyers. Auto Accidents Expected to Decline The number of auto accidents is expected to decline in the coming year, posing a potential decrease in car crash cases. While a reduction in auto accidents is means for celebration, in an industry in which negligence behind the wheel constitutes plenty of cases each year, practices could suffer.
As we continue throughout 2019, many practices eagerly await to see what the year has in-store. For the personal injury industry, the evolution of technology paired with a shift in trends can mark major changes. For now, we wait to see what the year will bring.