The Impact of Nuclear Verdicts: Proactive Measures for Trucking Companies in Texas

As the transportation industry attempts to get back into the swing of things, one silent factor hurting the bottom lines of trucking companies is the rising cost of commercial truck insurance in Texas. Truck insurance premiums reached 8.7 cents per mile in 2020— driven heavily by litigation-related accident settlements, which ranged from small settlements to “nuclear verdicts,” or jury awards of more than $10 million. Texas is one of the many states that has a reputation for having a high number of legal cases related to crashes, particularly in terms of the verdicts reached in these cases. 

Such large verdicts will continue to lead to rising insurance costs, and smaller carriers will pay 2-3 times as much as larger carriers. Many trucking companies have found themselves on the wrong end of the high-dollar jury verdicts. Unfortunately, many of these trucking companies lacked the assets needed to pay the judgments that were awarded, which led to them shutting down their trucking operations for good. 

What Can Carriers Do To Mitigate Nuclear Verdicts?

For trucking companies involved in a truck accident lawsuit in Texas, the whole ordeal will involve much more than just the accident itself. Not will the other side go after the driver of the truck, but the trucking company itself will be placed under a microscope and dissected. One of the key aspects commercial trucking companies can focus on is identifying any vulnerabilities ahead of time to reduce the chances of a nuclear verdict.

  • Prioritize rigorous driver screening during the hiring process.
  • Look for candidates with clean driving records and no prior violations or red flags that could raise concerns.
  • Implement a remote monitoring program to track and analyze drivers’ behaviors on the road.
  • Conduct regular reviews(maybe on a quarterly basis).
  • Take ongoing driver training seriously–this includes thorough instruction on driving in certain weather conditions and on potentially dangerous roadways.

There are several steps that drivers can take to ensure he or she is doing everything to promote safe driving on the road, and while taking these steps will not guarantee that a plaintiff in an accident case will not receive a nuclear verdict, they can at least help drivers control their own narrative.

How Can Carriers Respond If They Are Faced With A Claim?

In many cases, the legal team for the plaintiff will play the waiting game. Why? The legal team knows that as more time passes by, there will be a greater chance that the plaintiff will be awarded a high-dollar settlement. This is why it is important for trucking companies to have the proper resources and procedures in place to get the claims processes started early. With technology, especially telematics data, carriers will have the information needed to really prove who was a fault. 

One of the great things about telematics data is that you will receive that data more quickly, and you will be able to determine if a court proceeding is needed. Since the cost of claims is rising, there are some insurance companies that will prefer to settle instead of going to court. When a nuclear verdict is awarded, it is generally due to some type of gross negligence. This is why all carriers will need to show there were processes in place and that the driver did not act in bad faith at the time of the accident. 

We know that bad things will indeed happen to good trucking companies in Texas, but if you run a solid operation, have commercial truck insurance, equip your drivers with the proper tools and resources, utilize the latest technology, and follow best practices, your legal team will be in a better position to defend you should a truck accident occur. 

David Ott

David Ott