Great news! Most California personal injury settlements are tax-free.

The IRS excludes compensation for physical injuries from federal income taxes. California follows suit, so you typically won’t owe taxes on the core portion of your settlement.

However, there are exceptions, such as:

  • Punitive damages: Awarded to punish wrongdoing, these may be taxable.
  • Interest on the settlement: Interest earned might be subject to taxes.

Read the article for in-depth explanations and additional FAQs to fully understand the tax implications of your settlement.

Accident victims often wonder: Is my personal injury settlement taxable by the IRS or the state of California?

This is very much an understandable concern; after all, everything in life is taxed right? Fortunately, ninety-nine percent of the time, your recovery from a personal injury case will not be taxable. Indeed, that is simply the way the law is set up.

For the most part, your personal injury recovery is tax-free money that you receive. Even better, not only is it tax-free (which means that you don’t owe taxes) but, generally, you don’t even report your settlement to the IRS.

There Are Some Exceptions
personal injury settlement taxable

Of course, as with almost anything in life, there are some exceptions. Here, our dedicated personal injury attorneys explain how the general process works regarding taxation and personal injury settlements.

If you have any tax questions that are related to your own personal injury case, please get in touch with our team today. We will be able to review the specific circumstances of your case; further, an initial call to our firm is always free of charge.

Taxes and Personal Injury Claims: Four Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    • What is the Value of My Case?

The value of your California personal injury case will always depend on the extent of your injuries and the amount of damages/losses you sustained. This is because, in general, legal damages are
meant to be compensatory in nature. As such, the value of your case will generally correspond directly to the value of your damages.

Most personal injury awards are tax-free because of the regulations enacted by the IRS. The reason
that the IRS made most recoveries tax-free stems from the fact that legal damages are meant to be
compensatory. As an injured victim, you have a legal right to be made ‘whole’; or put another way,

you have the right to be put back into the same position that you would have been in had no accident ever taken place. For this to occur, your recovery must be tax-free. The bottom line: Almost all financial compensation recovered in relation to a ‘physical injury’ will not be taxed.

    • What Is the Exception?

There are a couple of important exceptions to general rules regarding taxation and personal injury cases. Most importantly, if you recover punitive damages, that portion of your recovery will be taxed. Punitive damages are available in a very limited number of cases. These damages, unlike other personal injury damages, are not meant to ‘compensate’ the victim, but to punish the very bad actions of the defendant. Typically, your attorney will need to prove that the defendant was grossly negligent in order to seek punitive damages. Additionally, you may receive interest on your personal injury settlement or award. If this in the case, any payment for interest that you receive might be taxable. This issue can be a little more complicated, so if it comes up in your case, it should be addressed by your attorney.

    • Are Settlements and Judgements Treated the Same Way?

Yes, voluntary settlement agreements and successful personal injury verdicts/judgments are subject to the same tax rules and regulations. For tax purposes, it simply does not matter whether you settle your claim or are forced to go all the way through the legal process to get the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Ultimately, if you have more questions, it is in your best interests to reach out to us at GJEL Accident Attorneys today. Our legal professionals are prepared to assist you throughout each step of your case.

Written by Andy Gillin. Last Updated 04/15/2024