This summer, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released a report on “nuclear verdicts” in the trucking industry. Reactions to the report vary, but one of the strongest comes from the non-profit trucking safety group, the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA).
The co-founder of the organization made this powerful statement:
“Verdicts aren't strangling the trucking industry. Bad trucking companies are strangling the trucking industry.”
About Nuclear Verdicts
Nuclear verdicts are large verdicts against trucking fleets. Some define them as verdicts in excess of $10 million, but the ATRI study tracks cases worth over $1 million. According to the ATRI:
“large verdicts against trucking fleets are increasing dramatically, both in number and in size of awards.”
While this is not untrue, the ATRI has linked this statistic to a rise in insurance costs, as well as some trucking companies going out of business. This is where the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys objects. The ATAA claims that trucking companies would not face nuclear verdicts if they simply “[did] what they’re supposed to,” and admitted fault and settled when things went wrong.
Instead of calling for legal reform, argues the ATAA, the trucking industry should be looking at itself, as the tort system is designed to keep everyone safe from harm. Without truck accident lawsuits, the ATAA imagines a grim future:
“The worst of the worst truck companies will knowingly continue unsafe practices unless they know they will be held responsible with large verdicts when they are at fault.”
What Types of Cases Lead to Nuclear Verdicts?
In its report, the ATRI highlights which types of accidents lead to nuclear verdicts. Nuclear verdicts are more common when children are involved in a crash and when collisions lead to spinal cord injuries. One of the largest nuclear verdicts of all time was granted in 2016, after a driver fell asleep at the wheel, crossed over the highway median, and killed 5 people. The crash cost $280 million, but those who have lost loved ones to a trucking accident know that no amount of money can truly account for human life.
As the co-founder of the ATAA explains:
“Good companies with good drivers rarely kill families, maim motorists, and destroy lives. When they do, they admit fault and settle. Nuclear verdicts are the result of nuclear injuries—paralysis, brain damage and death, when the truck company has acted extremely recklessly—sometimes with impunity—and refuse to be accountable.”
Have You Been in a Serious Truck Accident?
Lawsuits are not only one of the best ways to keep people safe from truck accidents on the road but also a method of coping with the consequences of these crashes. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a truck accident, you are likely facing several unexpected expenses.
Filing a lawsuit today can help you account for medical expenses, missed work, pain and suffering, and even funeral and burial expenses.
We will fight for a fair settlement, and we are not afraid to pursue nuclear verdicts if trucking companies refuse to acknowledge their mistakes.