TruckRight Insight

Nuclear Verdicts: Reduce Your Company’s Risk of Facing a Courtroom

In the fall of 2019, Country Wide RV Transport – the second-largest RV and motor-home transportation provider in the U.S. – was forced to shutter its doors after facing a $2.66 million nuclear verdict.1

Earlier that year, a $280 million jury verdict was awarded against a U.S.-based steel hauler following a collision that killed five people in Alabama.2

In 2018, Werner Enterprises, a “leader in transportation and logistics,” faced a nearly $90 million judgement following a 2014 crash. 3

These three cases alone paint a bleak picture: nuclear verdict cases are steadily increasing, and the numbers (at least according to the American Transport-ation Research Institute) aren’t showing signs of slowing anytime soon.

“Nuclear verdicts are on the rise and here to stay,” says Renea Hooper, partner at Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C. “This is attributed, in part, because jurors are no longer shocked by high numbers, there is a higher caliber of plaintiff’s attorneys handling trucking cases and there is an inherent prejudice against trucking companies.”

As such, it’s no surprise that the topic of nuclear verdicts is trending these days. A simple Google search will display thousands of articles, studies and whitepapers on these multi-million-dollar cases; the staggering number of results no doubt fueled by fleet owners concerned they could eventually be the one making news headlines.

This begs the question: how can you reduce the risk of your company facing a nuclear verdict? Allow us to harken back to a famous quote by Greek fabulist and storyteller Aesop, “it pays to be prepared.”

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1"Nuclear Verdict" kills 540 truck carrier, FreightWaves, Oct. 11, 2019 | https://www.freightwaves.com/news/nuclear-verdict-kills-540-truck-carrier
2"280M jury verdict against steel hauler may be the biggest ever…by a lot" FreightWaves, Aug. 27, 2019 | https://www.freightwaves.com/news/georgia-verdict-against-steel-hauler-may-be-the-biggest-ever-by-a-lot
3"Werner to appeal $90M verdict in 2014 crash lawsuit", Commerical Carriers Journal, May 2018 | https://www.ccjdigital.com/werner-to-appeal-90m-verdict-in-2014-crash-lawsuit/

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The true cost of an accident can be staggering. Besides direct costs, indirect costs like poor publicity, lost clients and lost productivity can take a toll. The average cost for a truck accident is $148,279, not including litigation. It would take an additional revenue of $7,413,950 to pay the accident costs, assuming an average profit margin of 2%. A study of over one million lines of data on truck violations discovered that over 28,000 trucking companies, representing over 200,000 trucks, operated with safety violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s (FMSCA) settlement for non-compliance was $36,262,097 in 2014 with an average fine of over $7,000 per case.