FACTS: NUCLEAR VERDICTS IN TRUCKING CASES NOT “STRANGLING” INDUSTRY
LEADING TRUCK SAFETY ORGANIZATION RESPONDS TO ATRI REPORT
WASHINGTON, DC (TruckingNewsNow.com) — The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) just released its study on trucking verdicts over $10 million, which it has dubbed as “nuclear verdicts.” Eight months prior to the release of this report, Chris Spear, the President of the American Trucking Association claimed that “nuclear verdicts are strangling the trucking industry.”
This is counter to any evidence-based data.
Ten Percent of the Trucking Industry Causes 45% of Recordable Crashes
The study lumps together all motor carriers—the one-truck motor carrier with a $750,000 insurance policy and the 3,000+ truck motor carrier with over $200 million insurance. Andy Young, the Education Chair for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) points out that the report ignores the fact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has found that motor carriers that have identifiable patterns of unsafe behavior (approximately 50,000 motor carriers, or about 10% of the total active population of 550,000 motor carriers) were responsible for 45% of the recordable crashes.
While there are more than one-hundred thousand people injured in crashes with trucks each year, only three or four of these a year result in nuclear verdicts. The ATRI report defines nuclear verdict as $10 million or more, but never identifies how many verdicts meet this definition. Rather, it spends the bulk of the report describing $1 million+ verdicts.
The so-called nuclear verdicts almost always involved extreme misconduct by the truck company and truck driver, and they almost always involve horrifyingly catastrophic injuries or deaths. The injured people often have suffered either the loss of limb or traumatic brain injuries, relegating them to a long life of suffering and no ability to care for themselves or loved ones. The very term “nuclear” is a mischaracterization of verdicts litigated on facts and not generalities. The ATRI report does acknowledge that Plaintiffs won 100% of the trials when there were false log books, a bad driver history, drug use and leaving the scene or failing to call 911.
So-called nuclear verdicts deter misconduct.
It is undeniable that eight-figure verdicts receive attention in every trucking industry publication as well as guidance documents prepared by their safety consultants and insurers. Most of these documents encourage truck companies to do more to operate safely in order to avoid a crash that leads to a large verdict. That is the ideal effect of a five-hundred-year old tort system.
In our research, not one motor carrier has declared bankruptcy after a nuclear verdict. ATAA co-founder Michael Leizerman states that, “the real problem is that insurance minimum limits haven’t been updated in over 40 years. Taxpayers end up paying for the lifetime care of trucking victims when at-fault motor carriers should pay. Large truck companies don’t have to pay the few $10 million+ verdicts; they have insurance to cover this. But the trucking companies with only minimum insurance can’t pay for the harm they cause. Here’s a link to a short video on current efforts in the U.S. Congress to increase insurance minimums as part of the INVEST in America Transportation Bill.”
ATAA co-founder Joe Fried states that, “nuclear verdicts are a result of the way truck crash case are defended. The public is tired of baseless denials of obviously dangerous conduct and bad truck companies. The way the public responds is with these large verdicts. It is rare to see a nuclear verdict when bad conduct is admitted.” Civil cases case help call attention to these bad carriers.
Founded by nationally renowned trial attorneys Michael Leizerman and Joe Fried, the Non-Profit Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) includes more than 500 attorneys dedicated to promoting safety and accountability in the trucking industry by representing clients injured or killed in crashes involving tractor-trailers.
ATAA CO-FOUNDER MICHAEL LEIZERMAN. 1-866-491-2345. Email.
ATAA CO-FOUNDER JOE FRIED. Email. 404-591-1800.
ATAA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR ANDREW COLTON. 1-877-484-4611. Email.