When someone suffers a serious bodily injury as a result of another person’s or company’s negligent actions or inactions, our civil justice system allows the victim to seek financial restitution for their losses and harms. Money damages or compensatory damages are terms used to describe the financial restitution sought in civil actions. These damages typically include reimbursement for the victim’s medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for the pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident. In more heinous cases, a jury may award punitive damages.
When an accident victim files a personal injury claim, it does not guarantee that they will receive compensatory damages from the negligent party or parties. Furthermore, the vast majority of accident victims do not walk away with a large sum of money that will enable them to retire early. According to Martindale-Nolo Research data, the average personal injury settlement is around $53,000.
If a personal injury claim cannot be resolved through negotiation, your case may be heard in court. The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, but four to five percent go to trial. Personal injury and wrongful death cases that go to trial usually produce the most dramatic results. Our Denver personal injury attorneys help clients reach the best possible outcomes in their cases.
10 highest personal injury settlements
The ten highest personal injury settlements range in the billions but most of these cases involve class actions, mass torts, or extremely unusual cases. As noted above, the average personal injury settlement is around $53,000. A far cry from the billions discussed below. Although that is an average, most personal injury settlements range between $3,000 and $75,000. Larger settlements are less common and often involve catastrophic injuries.
- $206 billion for the tobacco master settlement agreement.
In 1998, 46 states joined to pursue tobacco companies to recover the cost to the states for medical costs caring for lifelong smokers. The lawsuit also sough punitive damages. At the end of a trial, the jury awarded $206 billion paid over twenty-five years.
2. $150 billion for the family of Robert Middleton
In 1998, eight year old Robert Middleton was sexual assaulted, doused in gas and lit on fire by a thirteen year old. That resulted in burns to over 99% of his body. Twelve years later, he died of skin cancer. His family sued the assailant, alleging the burns caused skin cancer. The jury agreed with the family and awarded $150 billion in punitive damages in the wrongful death lawsuit.
3. $20 billion for the BP oil spill
The BP oil spill, also known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, resulted in environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. At the end of years of litigation, a settlement was reached for BP to pay $20 billion in damages.
4. $4.9 billion for the Anderson family from GM
In 1993 a Chevy Malibu containing six members of the Anderson family was hit by a drunk driver. The impact of the car accident caused the fuel tank to catch fire and explode, burning all six members. They pursued General Motors for compensatory damages. At the end of a trial, the jury awarded $4.9 billion–$4.8 billion of which as punitive damages. GM appealed and the award was reduced to $1.2 billion.
5. $60 million awarded for a derailed train
In 1997 a derailed train crashed into a trackside gas station, causing a traumatic brain injury. He was awarded $46 million in damages and $14 million in interest.
6. $32.5 million awarded for malfunctioning seatbelt against Ford and Mazda
In 1996 the plaintiff was struck in a head-on collision. His seatbelt malfunctioned and the driver was thrown out of the windshield. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury. The driver sued the negligent driver and the manufacturers. The jury agreed and awarded a total $32.5 million.
7. $27.5 million for a lost leg in a bus accident
In 2005 Gloria Aguilar was struck by a transit bus in New York City. As a result of the collision, she lost her leg. After a seven week jury trial, the jury awarded $27.5 million in compensatory damages. The seven week trial was more than four years after the tragic bus accident.
8. $25.5 million medical malpractice lawsuit
Ten year old Maisha Najeeb underwent a procedure involving a dye injection in her brain. The doctors accidentally injected glue into her brain, causing blindness in one eye and lifelong medical complications. A jury awarded her a lump sum of $2.8 million plus a lifetime annuity of $383,000 until she turns nineteen and $423,000 for the rest of her life.
9. $22 million for a car accident caused by a pharmacy
In 2008 a pharmacy truck crashed into a pedestrian crossing the street, causing serious physical damages and a traumatic brain injury. After settlement negotiations, the pharmacy company agreed to pay $22 million in damages.
10. $19 million for a delivery truck accident
In 1998 a Los Angeles city maintenance truck smashed into several vehicles. In the course of the accident, the plaintiff was injured so badly that she could only communicate by blinking. She required tube feeding and medical care totaling $360,000 annually. At the end of a trial the jury awarded a $19 million verdict.
Major personal injury verdicts in Colorado
Thankfully Colorado has not been home to any of these plaintiffs suffering catastrophic injuries. Our state often sees juries award multimillion dollar verdicts. After paying litigation expenses and contingency fees, the leftover money is not exactly a windfall. Often, much of the remaining settlement or verdict goes to medical bills or paying debts from losing wages. Although money is great to have, it is better to have a good life than struggle with medical complications from an accident with a little money in the bank. For this reason, you should always take opportunities to use safety devices, like a seatbelt or wearing a motorcycle helmet.
Our Denver personal injury attorneys help clients pursue the highest amount possible for their personal injury case, whether it is a settlement or verdict. Your case might not be a billion dollar case but we can help you get the best outcome under the circumstances. Contact our lawyers today for a free case review.