When someone suffers a serious bodily injury due to the negligent actions, or inactions, of another individual or company, our civil justice system enables the victim to pursue financial restitution for their harms and losses. The financial restitution that is typically pursued through civil actions is commonly referred to as “money damages” or “compensatory damages.” These damages generally include reimbursement for the victim’s medical expenses, reimbursement for their lost income, and compensation for the pain and suffering they were forced to endure as a result of the accident. In more heinous incidents, a jury may be able to award punitive damages that provide both additional compensation to the victim and send a signal that the defendant’s behavior was unacceptable and will be punished via a financial penalty.
When the victim of an accident files a personal injury claim, it does not mean they will definitely obtain compensatory damages from the negligent party or parties. In addition, the vast majority of accident victims do not walk away with a bundle of cash that will allow them to retire early. In fact, the average personal injury settlement, according to data reviewed by Martindale-Nolo Research, is around $53,000.
If a personal injury claim cannot be settled through negotiation, your case may proceed to trial before a jury. However, the overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court, but there remain between four to five percent of claims that wind up going to trial. It is the personal injury and wrongful death cases that go to trial that usually yield the most dramatic outcomes.
This list below is an overview of some of the biggest personal injury settlements in American history.
Verdict No. 1-$150 Billion Awarded to Burn Victim
An eight-year old boy in Texas had his life effectively ruined after he was sexually assaulted, doused in gasoline and set on fire by a demented teenager. The young boy survived, but was left with permanent, irreversible physical and psychological damage. Specifically, 99 percent of his body was covered in burns. He later lost his life as a result skin cancer that doctors believed was related to the damage he endured due to his burn injuries. A civil lawsuit was filed in Texas against the monster masquerading as a teenager. A jury awarded the boy’s family $150 billion in damages, according to NBC News. Though, this verdict was largely symbolic in nature since the teenager was never going to be able to actually pay the amount awarded to the boy’s family.
Verdict No. 2 – $145 Billion Awarded to Plaintiffs in Tobacco Case
A jury in Florida awarded $144.8 billion in damages to a class of consumers harmed by the effects of smoking cigarettes. This class action lawsuit was filed against corporate behemoths Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and many other cigarette manufacturers. The jury determined that cigarette makers committed acts of conspiracy and fraud. This multi-billion dollar award was largely comprised of punitive damages to send a signal that the cigarette companies acted with a reckless and wanton disregard for the safety of consumers.
Verdict No. 3 – $28 Billion for Los Angeles Smoker
Sticking with the smoking theme, a jury in Los Angeles awarded $28 billion in damages to Betsy Bullock, a lifelong smoker who filed a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Verdict No. 4 – $4.9 Billion in Auto Defect Case
A jury in Los Angeles awarded $4.9 billion to a family who filed a lawsuit against General Motors after six passengers suffered permanent, disfiguring injuries when their GM van exploded in an automobile collision. The jury ordered GM to pay $107.6 million in compensatory damages and $4.8 billion in punitive damages.
Verdict No. 5 – $4.69 Billion in Talc Ovarian Cancer Case
A jury in Missouri awarded $4.69 billion in damages to 22 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after they used Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-laden talcum powder for decades. The jury found that J&J’s talc-based products caused the plaintiff’s ovarian cancer and awarded $550 million in compensatory damages along with $4.14 billion in punitive damages.
Verdict No. 6 – $2.2 Billion in Diluted Cancer Drug Case
A jury in Kansas City awarded $2.2 billion in damages to a cancer patient after a pharmacist pled guilty to watering down chemotherapy drugs provided to patients in a diabolical scheme to increase profits.
The verdict was largely symbolic since most of the assets of the sleazy pharmacist were seized by the federal government in order to pay for a victims’ fund. The Kansas City jury awarded the plaintiff $578,881 in lost wages and medical expenses. The remainder of the multi-billion dollar verdict was punitive damages.
Verdict No. 7 – $60 Million Awarded to Gas Station Manager Who Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury Caused By Train Derailment
In 1997, a Norfolk Southern train derailed causing it to careen into a trackside gas station. Donald French, the gas station manager, was in his office at the time of the derailment and had his life turned upside down as a result. He suffered a permanent, debilitating injury as a result of the derailment. Specifically, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that would necessitate long-term medical care. A jury in Fairfax, Virginia awarded $46 million in damages and another $14 million in interest, making for a grand total of $60 million, according to the Daily Press.
Verdict No. 8 – $32.5 Million Awarded To Accident Victim Who Suffered a Serious Brain Injury Due to a Defective Seatbelt
The objective of having a seatbelt in a vehicle is to protect the driver and passengers in a vehicle during a collision. When a seatbelt fails, those individuals usually suffer the brunt of the damage. That is exactly what happened to a man named Mark Force. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident after his seatbelt failed. Force filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company and Mazda Motor Company. The jury awarded $32.5 million in damages and agreed that the design and manufacture of the seatbelt in Force’s vehicle was defective.
Verdict No. 9 – $27.5 Million Awarded To Bus Accident Victim
A woman named Gloria Aguilar was awarded $27.5 million by a jury in Manhattan after she suffered debilitating bodily injuries in a bus accident. Specifically, Aguilar was hit by a city transit bus and had to have her left leg amputated as a result.
Verdict No. 10 – $22 Million Awarded to Crosswalk Accident Victim
In a similar case, a woman named Shirley Miller suffered serious harm after she was hit by a pharmacy truck while crossing a street in New York. The crosswalk accident left Miller with permanent brain damage and other bodily injuries. Miller received $22 million in financial restitution.
The jury verdicts described above are not typical, but they do highlight the possible outcome that may be achieved through a personal injury lawsuit. Every case is different and there is never a guarantee that you or a family member will receive a large damages award through a jury trial since they are inherently unpredictable.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury, take the time to sit down and speak with a personal injury lawyer. The vast majority of attorneys specializing in personal injury law offer free, confidential consultations.