When someone is seriously injured owing to the negligence or inactivity of another person or organization, our civil justice system allows the sufferer to seek financial reparation.
Compensatory damages are terms used to describe financial reparation sought through lawsuits. These damages often include the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering as a result of the accident. On occasion, a jury may impose punitive damages, which both compensate the victim and convey a message that the defendant’s action was improper and will be punished financially.
When an accident victim files a personal injury claim, it does not imply the negligent party or parties would automatically compensate them. Also, most accident victims do not walk away with a fortune that will allow them to retire early. According to Martindale-Nolo Research, the typical personal injury compensation is roughly $53,000.
If a personal injury suit cannot be resolved via negotiation, a jury trial may be required. The vast majority of personal injury cases are resolved out of court, but four to five percent of cases proceed to trial. Trials in personal injury and wrongful death claims generally result in larger settlements.
Here are some of the largest personal injury settlements in American history:
- $150 Billion for Burn Victim. A deranged child sexually abused, doused with gasoline, and set fire to an eight-year-old in Texas. The child lived, but his physical and psychological injuries were irrevocable. Specifically, he had 99 percent of his body burned. He died of skin cancer, which experts suspect was caused by his burn injuries. The perpetrator was sued in Texas, and a jury awarded the boy’s family $150 billion. This decision was mostly symbolic, as the adolescent would never be able to reimburse the boy’s family.
- $145 Billion Awarded to Plaintiffs in Tobacco Verdict. A Florida jury awarded $144.8 billion in damages to a class of aggrieved customers. Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and other cigarette makers were named in this class action complaint. The jury found cigarette producers guilty of conspiracy and fraud. This multi-billion dollar judgment included punitive penalties to show the tobacco firms’ irresponsible disregard for customer safety.
- $28 Billion Los Angeles Smoker Verdict. A jury in Los Angeles awarded $28 billion to Betsy Bullock, a lifetime smoker who sued R.J. Reynolds after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
- $4.9 Billion for GM Van Explosion. A jury in Los Angeles awarded a family $4.9 billion after six passengers were permanently disfigured when their GM van exploded in a car accident. The jury awarded GM $107.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
- $4.69 Billion Talc Ovarian Cancer Verdict. A Missouri jury awarded $4.69 billion to 22 women who developed ovarian cancer after decades of using Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-laced talcum powder. The jury awarded $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages for the plaintiff’s ovarian cancer.
- $2.2 Billion Diluted Cancer Drug Verdict. A Kansas City jury awarded $2.2 billion to a cancer patient after a pharmacist pleaded guilty to diluting chemotherapy medications given to patients to boost profits. The judgment was mostly symbolic because the government took most of the sleazy pharmacist’s assets to pay a victim’s fund. Unpaid salaries and medical bills were $578,881 in Kansas City. The rest of the multi-billion verdict was punitive.
- $27.5 Million for Bus Accident Victim. A jury in Manhattan awarded Gloria Aguilar $27.5 million after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Aguilar was struck by a municipal bus and had to have her left leg amputated.
- $22 Million Crosswalk Accident Victim. Shirley Miller, a pedestrian struck by a drugstore truck in New York, suffered significant injuries. Miller had lasting brain and body injuries in the crossing collision. Miller got $22 million in reparations. The jury findings listed above are not common, but they illustrate the potential outcome of personal injury litigation. Because jury trials are inherently unpredictable, there is no certainty that you or a family member will get a high damages award.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, contact a personal injury lawyer to evaluate your potential case. Most personal injury lawyers provide free, private consultations.