Top 3 Largest Personal Injury Settlements Ever

Personal injury lawsuits can net a large payout to a claimant, depending on the severity of the accident and who is being sued. In fact, the average settlement for a personal injury lawsuit is $52,900 (according to Martindale-Nolo Research).

That number can be deceiving. While 70% of cases receive a payout between $3,000 and $75,000 on average, the other 30% receive nothing at all. Most are agreed upon amounts settled out of court.

There are also a small percentage of personal injury lawsuits that make it to trial. However, these are typically the most extreme cases, where the individual is awarded a very large amount or $0. Every situation is different.

There’s a variety of variables that influence the amount a claimant is awarded. However, those represented by a personal injury lawyer earn 340% more than those who attempt to represent themselves.

Below are three of the biggest personal injury settlements ever.

$206 Billion Against Big Tobacco

Tobacco kills. This is common knowledge, but not so much decades ago. Long term health effects from smoking were not known to the general public until the 1990s, as Big Tobacco went to great lengths to conceal the health risks.

In 1998, 46 states banded together to sue the four major tobacco companies in the United States in an attempt to receive a substantial settlement to care for lifelong smokers.

The lawsuits accused Big Tobacco of deliberately misleading the public through advertising and of unethical business practices.

In the end, Big Tobacco was hit with punitive damages and awarded smokers a settlement of $206 billion, paid over the course of 25 years. The award was to be used to help hospitals care for ill smokers, as well as the development of an anti-smoking organization.

$150 Billion Awarded to Family of Burned Boy

In 2011, the family of a boy set on fire when he was just 8 years old, was awarded $150 billion. It was the largest personal injury award ever given by a jury in America.

The amount was awarded to the family of Robert Middleton, who was sexually abused and set on fire by then-13-year-old Don Collins in 1998. The boy survived but was severely burned and would die 12 years later of skin cancer.

The Middleton family sued, claiming the burns were the cause of his skin cancer. They did so in an attempt to persuade prosecutors to seek charges against Collins, who was never charged in the case.

Unfortunately, the $150 billion settlement was merely symbolic, as the family did not expect to collect any of the judgement.

“It’s the kind of award that has no meaning outside of an expression of moral outrage. They could have awarded a trillion dollars, and it would have made no difference,” John T. Nockleby, professor and director of the civil justice program at the Loyola Marymount University School of Law in Los Angeles, told NBC News.

$4.9 Billion Against General Motors

Back in 1993, a family traveling in a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu were burned during a car accident in Los Angeles after their vehicle was rear-ended and burst into flames.

In the crash, Patricia Anderson, her four children and a family friend were severely burned.

The lawsuit went to trial, during which the plaintiffs’ lawyer revealed that GM had known for years, via an internal study, that its gas tanks were unsafe and were unwilling to pay the cost of a recall.

Anderson and her family were awarded $4.9 billion for injuries they suffered during the accident.

The judgement was massive. GM, of course, appealed and ultimately had the payout reduced to $1.2 billion.