The Largest Personal Injury Awards in History

When you or someone you know suffers an injury due to the carelessness or neglect of another, or when someone intentionally tries to cause bodily harm, the injured party is entitled to monetary compensation. The damage award may include medical costs, lost past and future wages, and property damage. Depending on the severity of case and the actions of the defendant, a judge and jury may award punitive damages in an effort to punish the bad actor and put others on notice. Some states across the nation limit the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded by law, while others do not. In Nevada, NRS 42.005 generally caps punitive damages at $300,000 if the amount of compensatory damages awarded is less than $100,000, or three times the amount of compensatory damages if the award was $100,000 or more.

Below are the largest personal injury awards in history to date:

Big Tobacco Awards

There have been two large tobacco-related lawsuit awards after the $145 billion one in Florida that was initially awarded to a class of consumers but then overturned. Since then, two individual awards are at the top of the list.

A California jury agreed to a $28 billion punitive damages award to a plaintiff who started smoking at 17 and developed lung cancer, which eventually spread to her liver when she was 64 years old. The plaintiff was also awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages. Shortly thereafter, a Los Angeles judge reduced the punitive award to $28 million. The lawsuit was against Philip Morris.

Another plaintiff was given a $23.6 billion punitive damage award in addition to a $16 million compensatory damage award. The jury found R.J. Reynolds was negligent in failing to inform the plaintiff’s husband, who died at the young age of 36, that smoking could cause cancer when he started smoking at 13 years of age.

Chevy Malibu Fuel Tank Award

The poorly positioned fuel tank of the Chevy Malibu resulted in numerous injuries, but one particular case caused four children who were sitting in the back seat of the car  to suffer severe burns when it was rear-ended and the fuel tank exploded. Evidence revealed that the manufacturer, General Motors, failed at least 16 test runs, and its engineering team suggested relocating the fuel tank - a change that would cost $6-$9 per car. A jury ordered General Motors to pay $107.6 million in compensatory damages and an additional $4.8 billion in punitive damages. The award was later reduced by a judge to $1.2 billion.

Personal Injury Lawyers

While the above awards are well above the average award given in a personal injury case, when someone acts negligently or recklessly and this behavior leads to an injury, a judge or jury could award a significant amount in compensatory and punitive damages. The Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at Parry & Pfau can analyze your case and explain what award you may expect.

(image courtesy of Pepi Stojanovski)