When Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer in Korea? – A Guide to Personal Injury Compensation in Korea

Living abroad is stressful. Suffering injury by accident in a foreign country would be one of the worst cases you don’t even want to imagine. Our office is providing legal advice and representation for foreign victims to seek damages in various types of accidents.

In this article, our personal injury lawyer in Seoul, Korea explains what you need to know about the personal injury lawyers in Korea and what you can expect from them.

When You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer in Korea, and When You Don’t

You don’t always need to hire a personal injury lawyer in Korea. If the damages are minimal, you don’t need a lawyer. The personal injury insurance system in Korea is one of the top levels in the world. The at-fault party’s insurance company will take care of the process and you will be able to receive adequate compensation including a medical cost.

If you, however, suffered serious harms and damages, the situation changes. Also, if there is a dispute concerning who was at fault, or if you feel uncomfortable in communicating with the other party for any reasons including the language barriers and lack of legal knowledge on the Korean law, you need to find a competent personal injury lawyer near you.

What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

A personal injury lawyer is an attorney who represents an individual who suffers injury by someone’s fault and negligence.

They work for the maximum compensation of their clients. They provide legal advice, negotiate with the at-fault party and the insurance company, file the lawsuit and represent the client at the court.

Common areas for a personal injury lawyer are car accidents, defective products, workplace injury, and medical malpractice.

In the below section, we will explain how personal injury compensation works in Korea.  Primarily, it deals with a car accident case. But it applies to other types of personal injury cases.  Also, the wrongful death claim has almost the same rule.

What Is Compensated in a Personal Injury Case in Korea?

First of all, you should know what is compensated in a personal injury case in Korea. It is regulated by the Korean tort law.  Under Korean tort law, you can claim the following compensation.

Medical Treatment

This covers your past, current, and future medical costs. It is common that the insurance company of the at-fault party pays the medical bills until the parties reach a settlement.

Lost Wages and Loss of Earnings

This is a compensation to cover any financial loss you encountered due to the accident. For example, the at-fault party should compensate your lost incomes during the time that you couldn’t work fully or in part due to the injury or treatments.

It also covers your loss of earnings. If the injury deteriorated your ability to work and it still remains even after the treatment is complete, you can claim the compensation for the loss of earnings in the future. Usually this becomes a big issue in negotiating with the insurance company. So, we will elaborate on this in the next section.

Pain and Suffering

This covers any emotional distress caused by the accident and injury. In general, the maximum amount of this kind of compensation is 100,000,000KRW.

One interesting part is that, under Korean law, a family member who lives with the victim can claim the pain and suffering of his/her own.

How to Calculate the Loss of Earnings in Korea

Calculating the loss of earnings is a very challenging process. The more severe your loss of ability to work is, the bigger the compensation becomes. Thus, almost always your personal injury attorney and the other party’s insurance company will have a different calculation.

The Korean court calculates the lost future earnings in the following orders.

Base Yearly Earning

The court confirms the victim’s age, profession, and the base yearly earning. What is important here is the base yearly earning.

The base yearly earning can be either the actual income of the victim at the time of the accident or the statistical income of the victim’s profession. The court has the discretion to choose which one to use.

If the victim is a wage worker, it would be very easy to prove and decide the base yearly earning. If the victim, however, is self-employed, the victim should do his best to gather as many documents as he can to prove his earning.

If the victim is a foreigner living abroad, the court reviews and applies the income that he could have earned in his home country, not in Korea. This is important in a situation where the foreigner is a short-term visitor in Korea.

For example, Korea’s Supreme Court had ruled that the loss of future earnings for a foreigner who is supposed to leave Korea must be calculated in two ways. First, for the period that the foreign victim is allowed to work in Korea, the loss of earnings must be calculated based on the income anticipated in Korea. Second, for the rest of the period, the loss of earnings must be calculated based on the income anticipated in his home country.

Rate of Loss of Labor Capacity

The court appoints a doctor to do a medical check of the victim to measure the reduced physical ability.

Based on the doctor’s medical check report, the court determines the victim’s rate of loss of labor capacity. This rate of loss of labor capacity is a combination of the reduced physical ability and its effects on the performance of victims’ occupation.

Retirement Age

The court determines the victim’s anticipated workable years left, i.e. retirement age.

Every occupation has its own retirement age set by the statute or custom. For example, according to the Korean court, a manual worker can work and produce earnings until the age of 65. A lawyer can work until the age of 70. How about a female fashion model? The Seoul court had ruled in a wrongful death case that it was 35 years old.

If the victim is a foreigner, the court decides the anticipated workable years based on the standard and custom in his home country.


The court multiplies the base yearly salary by the rate of loss of labor capacity. And this reduced earning is multiplied by the years left until the retirement age of the victim.

Please note that this is a very simplified explanation of how the Korean court calculates the loss of future earnings. There are various factors that affect the calculation. Thus, it is up to the victim’s attorney to pursue the most favorable and maximum outcome.

How to Deal with the Korean Insurance Company

When you encounter a car accident, the agent from the insurance company of the at-fault party will contact you. If the injury is minor, it would be better to accept the offer from the insurance agent.

However, when the wounds are severe, you had better appoint your lawyer to deal with the insurance agent. Like in other countries, the insurance agent in Korea is very aggressive in minimizing the compensation. The victims are usually in a vulnerable situation both physically and emotionally. Some insurance agents try to take advantage of this situation. Even worse the foreign victims are not familiar with Korean law. In such a situation, it is worth hiring a Korean attorney.

For example, in our recent case of Japanese victim of car accident, the insurance company first proposed 3,000USD for compensation. The victim hired our office. We brought the case to the court and the compensation amount granted by the court was 110,000USD.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Korea

When Should I File a Lawsuit?

If you are not comfortable in making a settlement with the insurance company, it is time to file a lawsuit.

It is, however, advisable to file a lawsuit when the treatment has been almost complete. That is because, if the treatment is not complete, the court can’t determine the rate of loss of labor capacity.

For the victim’s perspective, the victim doesn’t need to rush into the court. As we’ve explained in the above, the insurance company will pay every hospital bills.

The Flow of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Korea

  1. Filing a complaint with the court.

    The personal injury compensation lawsuit starts with the victim’s filing of the complaint with the court.

  2. Court’s Service

    The court will serve the complaint on the defendant which is usually an insurance company. You may include the at-fault party to the list of defendants.

  3. Answer

    The defendant files an answer.

  4. Medical Check by Court Appointed Doctor

    The court appoints a doctor to have the victim take a medical check.

  5. In-Court Settlement Proposal by Court

    When the doctor reports the result of the medical check to the court, the court proposes an in-court settlement. If both parties accept the compensation amount that the court proposed, whole proceedings end here.

  6. Ruling

    If any party objects to the court proposal, the court moves to render a ruling

How to Choose a Korean Personal Injury Lawyer for Foreigners

Expertise in a personal injury case and Korean tort law is an essential quality for a good personal injury lawyer. He should be a rigorous litigator and negotiator. But this is not enough for foreigners. It is even hard to find a Korean attorney who can speak English fluently. Good communication skill is indispensable for the work of a lawyer. Also, the lawyer should be well aware of the unique legal issues that often arise in the foreign victim’s cases, as exemplified in the above section of yearly base earning.

We hope this article can be of assistance to anyone who wants to know how a personal injury claim is taken care of by a personal injury lawyer in Korea.  If you have more questions, please contact us by clicking here.

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Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may or may not reflect the most current legal development at the time of view, nor is it applicable in all situations nor should be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations. 

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