Personal injury cases arise when someone suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible. Over the years, some cases have resulted in the biggest settlements that compensated victims and significantly changed legal practices and public policies. These large settlements highlight the critical role of diligent legal representation and its impact on justice and safety standards. JG Winter Law offers expert legal guidance and helps you receive the compensation you deserve. Our personal injury lawyers advocate for safer practices and policies in every case. We’ve listed the 12 biggest personal injury settlements in US history below.

Overview of personal injury settlements

Personal injury settlements are agreements between the injured party and the responsible party (or their insurance company) to compensate for damages without going to trial. Unlike judgments, which are decided and enforced by a court, settlements are negotiated solutions both parties agree upon outside of court.

Several factors influence the size of a settlement, including the severity of the injury, the clarity of fault by the responsible party, the impact of the injury, and the potential long-term effects. A California personal injury attorney can significantly affect the outcome of the negotiation.

1. Tobacco settlement: $206 Billion

In 1998, one of the most significant legal battles in U.S. history culminated in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, where 46 states collectively took on the four largest tobacco companies. The lawsuit addressed the immense public health costs associated with smoking and resulted in a $206 billion settlement.

The settlement recovered the cost of healthcare related to smoking and enforced major changes in advertising and marketing tobacco products, significantly impacting public health policy and corporate accountability.

2. Burn injury claim settlement: $150 Billion

In 1998, a distressing case emerged when 8-year-old Robert Middleton was attacked by 13-year-old Don Collins, who doused him in gasoline and set him on fire. It resulted in Robert suffering burns over 99% of his body, leading to decades of pain and medical complications, ultimately contributing to his death from skin cancer in 2010.

The jury awarded a staggering $150 billion in punitive damages, reflecting the egregious nature of the assault and its lifelong consequences. The settlement remains one of the largest in history – it emphasizes the severe impact of personal injuries and the justice system’s role in addressing such profound wrongs.

3. Drunk driving case settlement: $4.9 Billion

A tragic incident reshaped the lives of the Anderson family when their vehicle Chevy Malibu was struck by a drunk driver in 1993. It led to an explosion caused by a faulty fuel tank. The severe accident resulted in catastrophic injuries for all six family members. The court initially awarded the family $4.9 billion, acknowledging both the manufacturer’s negligence in the car’s design and the driver’s irresponsibility.

4. Auto defect settlement: $1.2 Billion

The case against General Motors (GM) arose from a severe accident that highlighted critical safety issues with vehicle fuel tanks. Involving a family whose car burst into flames after a rear-end collision, the lawsuit initially led to a $4.9 billion verdict due to the injuries and damages suffered. After appeals, the final settlement was adjusted to $1.2 billion. The substantial amount underscores the responsibility of car manufacturers to ensure their vehicles meet safety standards and protect consumers from avoidable harm.

5. 9/11 Attack settlement: $712 Million

Following the catastrophic 9/11 terrorist attacks, a significant settlement of $712 million was awarded to the rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero. The workers faced severe health issues from the hazardous conditions at the site. The settlement acknowledged their sacrifices and provided much-needed compensation for their long-term health problems. It also spurred the enactment of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, ensuring ongoing medical monitoring and financial support for affected workers. The case highlights the nation’s commitment to those who risked their lives during America’s darkest hours.

6. Bus injury claim settlement: $85 Million

In a record-setting settlement for New York in 2018, a pedestrian was awarded $85 million after being severely injured by a sightseeing tour bus in Manhattan. The incident resulted in devastating injuries that drastically altered the victim’s life. The compensation reflects the seriousness of the injuries and the bus company’s liability, emphasizing the need for rigorous safety measures and accountability in public transportation.

7. Car accident settlement: $71 Million

In 2012, a New York car accident resulted in a $71 million settlement for a woman who suffered a spinal injury that led to significant, ongoing medical issues. The 2017 jury award included $11 million for pain and suffering and $60 million for ongoing medical expenses. The case highlights the serious financial impact of car accidents that cause long-term disabilities.

8. Settlement for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): $60 Million

A Virginia gas station manager sustained a permanent brain injury due to a catastrophic train derailment. Acknowledging the severe and life-altering impacts of his injuries, the jury awarded him a $60 million settlement. It included $46 million for damages and an additional $14 million for accrued interest, reflecting the extensive medical care and personal support required for his long-term rehabilitation.

9. Car accident case: $41.5 Million

In a tragic incident in New York City, a sanitation worker was fatally injured by a sweeper truck while on duty. The court awarded his family $41.5 million in compensation, marking a significant settlement in workplace safety and wrongful death claims. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining strict safety measures in work environments and underscores the responsibilities of employers to ensure their employees’ safety.

10. Car accident claim settlement: $32.5 Million

A driver suffered a severe brain injury due to a defective seatbelt during a car crash. The court ordered Ford Motor Company and Mazda Motor Company to pay $32.5 million in damages. The settlement reminds manufacturers of their responsibility to ensure their vehicles are safe. It also underscores the importance of dependable safety equipment in protecting drivers and passengers during accidents.

11. Bus accident claim: $27.5 Million

A New York City bus accident tragically resulted in a woman losing her leg, leading to a $27.5 million settlement in her favor. It reflected the serious personal impact and the ongoing challenges she faces. The settlement also highlights the necessity for public transportation operators to uphold the highest safety standards to prevent such devastating accidents.

12. Car crash case settlement: $26 Million

In Texas, a driver sustained a traumatic brain injury after another vehicle ignored a red light, causing a severe collision. The court awarded the injured driver a $26 million settlement. The settlement underscores the importance of adhering to traffic laws and the significant consequences when they are violated.

Wrapping up

The 12 biggest personal injury settlements in US history show the impact of solid legal action in securing justice and driving safety improvements. Each settlement offered substantial compensation to the victims and prompted laws and corporate behavior changes. J.G. Winter Law helps you achieve justice. If you or someone you know has been hurt due to negligence, contact us for a free consultation. Our Attorney Jeremy Winter, will guide you through your legal options professionally and carefully.

FAQs on personal injury settlements

What is the largest personal injury settlement ever?

The largest personal injury settlement is the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which was $206 billion. IT was reached in 1998 between the four largest U.S. tobacco companies and the attorneys general of 46 states.

What is the largest legal settlement in US history?

The largest settlement in U.S. history is also the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement at $206 billion.

What injuries pay the most?

The most financially compensated injuries are typically severe and permanent injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and severe burns. These injuries often require lifelong medical care and significantly impact the victim’s quality of life.

What is the largest slip-and-fall settlement?

One of the largest recorded slip-and-fall settlements was $12.2 million, which was awarded in 2007 to a man who suffered a severe brain injury after slipping on ice outside a Target store.

What is the largest punitive damages ever awarded?

The largest punitive damages ever awarded were $145 billion in the case of Engle v. Liggett Group Inc. However, the settlement was later overturned on appeal.

What is the biggest wrongful death settlement?

One of the largest wrongful death settlements was $150 billion awarded in a 2011 case involving a child who was severely burned and later died due to his injuries. However, this figure is largely symbolic, as the actual amount collected was minimal.

What is the average settlement for medical malpractice?

The average settlement for medical malpractice cases typically ranges from $300,000 to $500,000. However the amount varies widely depending on the severity of the injury and the specific details of the case.

What percentage of personal injury cases go to trial?

Only a small percentage of personal injury cases go to trial, generally around 4-5%. Most cases are settled out of court.

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