Personal injury is expensive and damaging in many ways. The United States has a civil legal framework that exists partially to protect people that have been subjected to injuries that were not of their doing. Civil personal injury cases usually reclaim around $50,000 for victims and typically settle out of court. Some cases, however, are exceptional for the sheer size of the eventual settlement reached. Here are 3 of the largest personal injury settlements in the history of the United States.
The Chevy Fuel Tank Case
Attorneys like those at Horst Shewmaker Law Firm are often employed to work on cases involving automobile-related injuries. One of the biggest automobile-related civil settlements in history occurred in 1993 when a Chevy Malibu driven by the Anderson family burst into flames after an accident. The family was all terribly burned and suffered lifelong consequences. The fuel tank of the car was inadequately designed to resist impact. It should not have burst into uncontrollable flames. The family subsequently sued General Motors – who manufactured the car – and won 4.9 billion dollars. The automotive giant appealed the case and managed to reduce the payout to 1.2 billion using some sneaky legal wrangling.
The Death Of Robert Middleton
In 1998, when Robert Middleton was only 8 years old, he was assaulted and set on fire by 13-year-old Don Collins. Collins was incarcerated for his crimes. Middleton received burns over 99 percent of his body. In 2010 he died of a rare kind of skin cancer. Middleton’s family believed that this cancer was caused partially by the injuries he suffered at the hands of Collins. They bought a civil personal injury case against him. The family ended up winning around 150 billion in punitive damages – a figure that Collins will likely never have the means to cough up. He is currently serving 40 years in a high-security prison.
Consequences For Big Tobacco
The tobacco industry makes money by producing dangerous and addictive substances. Tobacco products typically contain nicotine, which causes addiction, and a whole raft of other substances which cause cancer and cardiovascular problems. In the United States, tobacco giants did everything in their power to convince consumers that their products were safe – much to the annoyance of medical staff and patients. Around 480,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in the United States every single year.
In 1998, 46 US states banded together to seek civil compensation from tobacco firms for the care of cancer patients and the compensation of victims. They also sought to punish big tobacco companies for deliberately misleading consumers about the dangers of smoking. The jury sided with the prosecuting states, and the judge eventually ordered that big tobacco firms had to pay a total of 206 billion dollars in compensation. Although this is a vast sum of money, it is actually a small change in comparison to the number of money states and individuals are paying for the care and rehabilitation of tobacco victims.