RICHMOND, OCT. 30 -- An out-of-court settlement that could pay a paralyzed Midlothian man and his wife as much as $9 million may be the largest personal injury settlement in Virginia history, lawyers said.

Ronald R. McLarn, 39, was injured in a 1986 traffic accident in Petersburg, Va. John C. Shea, McLarn's lawyer, said today that the settlement is worth at least $4.7 million and could top $9 million if McLarn and his wife have normal life spans.

Shea said he believed that the settlement is a state record. Other lawyers experienced in personal injury cases said that some jury awards might have been larger but that McLarn apparently will set the record for the most money actually recovered.

The suit was to be tried Nov. 11 in U.S. District Court. Shea said the settlement was possible because Carolina Freight Carriers Corp. of Cherryville, N.C., had good liability insurance coverage.

He said Ronald McLarn's neck was broken in August 1986 when a tractor-trailer with failed brakes slammed into the rear of his pickup truck at a toll booth.

Shea said the settlement includes $400,000 to be used by the family to build and equip a house designed to accommodate Ronald McLarn.

He will receive $120,000 a year for life, while Violet McLarn will receive $21,700 a year for life.