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Read about the largest personal injury verdict ever.

In 1999 General Motors was hit with the largest verdict ever in a product liability lawsuit.  A California jury awarded $4.8 billion to six people who had suffered severe burns when their 1979 Chevy Malibu burst into flames.

On Christmas Eve 1993, Patricia Anderson along with her four children and a family friend were traveling home from evening church services, when a drunk driver plowed into a 1979 Chevy Malibu while stopped at a red light.  The impact from the accident damaged the car’s gas tank causing the car to burst into flames.  All six passengers in the car suffered severe burns.  One child had to have her hand amputated.

In the personal injury lawsuit, the victims claimed that the placement of the gas tank near the rear bumper of the car was an unsafe design.  The plaintiffs alleged that the severe injuries could have been avoided if the carmaker had moved the gas tank forward. 

During the trial several damning pieces of evidence came to light, which showed that GM was aware of the danger that the gas tank posed.  An internal memo written during the early 1970’s showed that GM could have made the gas tank safer at a cost of less than $10 per vehicle.  The company decided that it would be cheaper to settle the legal challenges resulting from the defect rather than making the cars safer.

The jury was outraged by the company’s callous attitude towards human life and suffering.  General Motor’s defense could not shake the impression that the company valued profits more than people.  The jury found that the manufacturer’s negligence was 95% at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Compensatory damages of more than $100 million were awarded to cover the plaintiffs medical costs and for their pain suffering and disfigurement.  However, this large award did not seem adequate to change the behavior America’s largest corporation.  The jury ordered the company to pay $4.8 billion dollars in punitive damages.  This is largest ever verdict in a personal injury lawsuit.

The severe burns suffered helped elicit sympathy from the jury.  Severe burns are extremely painful, require years of costly treatment and can cause lifelong disfigurement.  The fact that four of the victims were young children made the plaintiff’s case even stronger.  At the time GMC was the largest corporation in America, this fact convinced the jury that a large verdict would be necessary to influence the company’s action.  The impression that it was an innocent family challenging a large corporation that views people simply as numbers led to the huge award.

Subsequent, appeals have lowered the total amount that the company must pay.  However, this case illustrates to what extent personal injury law can hold large companies responsible for the safety of their products.

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Articles about Personal Injury Law

All about Head Injury Lawsuits in USA.
Head injury is a trauma to the head that may include injury to the brain and other parts of the head, such as scalp and skull. Head injury includes traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries can be life altering causing severe intellectual impairment, physical...  more

All you want to know about Chicago personal injury lawyer and accident injury claims
Personal Injuries can take place at any time and at any place in Chicago. You could be at your work place, at home, or even out in a shopping mall. There is no telling where or how a personal injury may happen, or who may be at fault. In order to properly...  more
Useful Tips
What is wrongful death and how is it claimed?
A good personal injury lawyer will tell you that a claim for Wrongful death can be made when someone dies due to the negligence of another person or party. The dependents can claim compensation due to the death. Most states have framed their own wrongful death statutes. For a wrongful death claim to be valid, there must be proven negligence, dependents or beneficiaries to file the claim and monetary damages as a result of the death. If you intend to file a claim for damages or compensation, we suggest you to hire a good personal injury lawyer.

What can be categorized as a slip and fall accident?
A good personal injury lawyer will tell you A skip and fall accident is a name given to an accident that you may be involved in on someone elses property as a result of hazardous conditions such as a slipper floor, uneven floor or wet floor etc. If the fall results in an injry, the house owner or owner of the business establishment can be liable for paying you compensation for the injury. For the injured person to get compensation, it will have to be proven that the fall was due to a hazardous conditions and had resulted in injury. These nature of cases are hard to prove in court without adequate proofs, so the injured person must collect as much evidence about his fall as possible. If you intend to file a claim for damages or compensation, we suggest you to hire a good personal injury lawyer.

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