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ATRI documents the scale of nuclear verdicts in trucking

June 29, 2020
A newly released report from the American Transportation Research Institute reveals that nuclear verdicts against trucking companies are increasing dramatically.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) just released comprehensive research that confirms that large verdicts against trucking fleets are increasing dramatically, both in number and in size of awards. ATRI’s research is partially based on a newly created trucking litigation database that provides detailed information on 600 cases between 2006 and 2019.  In the first five years of the data, there were 26 cases over $1 million, and in the last five years of the data, there were nearly 300 cases. 

This study was identified as the highest research priority for the industry by ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee in 2019.

In response to arguments that nuclear verdicts reflect real-world cost increases, the research documents that from 2010 to 2018, the size of verdict awards grew 51.7% annually at the same time that standard inflation grew 1.7%, and healthcare costs grew 2.9%.

The research also surveyed and interviewed dozens of defense and plaintiff attorneys as well as insurance and motor carrier experts, and generated a qualitative analysis for why the litigation landscape has changed, recommendations for modifying pre-trial preparations, litigation strategies and mediation approaches, and how large verdict awards impact both safety and insurance.

“This issue has had a stifling impact on motor carriers and industry stakeholders – well beyond those involved in a truck crash,” said Rob Moseley, founding partner with Mosely Marcinak Law Group.  “ATRI’s research on litigation provides important guidance on leveling the playing field between truckers and trial lawyers, both in and outside of the court room.”

“Runaway verdicts are increasing in both size and numbers. This study documents a frequency in excessive awards that, while not surprising, tells us that the trial system has gotten off track.  Foundational changes are needed in the way we determine non-economic and punitive damages,” said Clay Porter, partner at Porter Rennie Woodard and Kendall.

ATRI’s report, “Understanding the Impact of Nuclear Verdicts on the Trucking Industry,” is available for download.

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