Most personal injury cases seek a relatively small amount of money for damages, including pain and suffering. However, some cases involve negligence that is so obvious or so heinous that the jury feels moved to give the plaintiff a large sum. This was the case in a recent lawsuit in which a four-year-old boy’s family was awarded $150 million from Chrysler-Jeep as the result of an explosion which killed the child.
Chrysler-Jeep was ordered to pay the boy’s family this large sum due to an accident in which a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was rear-ended. Investigators determined that the explosion was caused by the position of the gas tank, which was mounted behind the rear axle. The rear-end collision caused a leak in the fuel tank, which engulfed the Jeep in flames, killing Remi Walden.
Two years ago, Chrysler compromised with a federal safety agency by agreeing to a partial recall of older-model Jeeps with tanks mounted on the rear. These tanks have been determined to be susceptible to puncture and fire in a rear-end collision. At least 75 people have died due to fires caused by these rear-mounted fuel tanks.
The jury ruled that the driver of the pickup truck that rear-ended the Jeep was one percent at fault while Chrysler was 99 percent at fault. They awarded the Walden family $30 million for the child’s pain and suffering and $120 million for the value of his life.
Chrysler plans to appeal the decision.
Two factors that can affect a jury verdict are comparative liability and punitive damages.
Comparative liability is the idea that more than one person can be responsible for an accident in differing percentages. For example, this jury decided that the man driving the truck that rear-ended the Jeep was slightly responsible for the accident, but the ensuing fire was 99 percent Chrysler’s fault. In other cases, juries may decide that the victim was partially at fault for his or her own injuries. In those cases, the victim’s award may be reduced by a certain percentage.
Punitive damages are often present in very large verdicts. Punitive damages go beyond the compensatory award by the jury and attempt to punish the defendant for its actions. It is not common to see punitive damages awarded unless the victim can prove that someone was deliberately negligent.
If you have suffered any type of injury, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help. Contact Dan Gilleon in San Diego to discuss your case at no cost and with no obligation.