Verdicts against trucking companies show dramatic increase of 51.7% annually, study shows

Verdicts against trucking companies show dramatic increase of 51.7% annually, study shows

By Cliff Abbott -June 24, 2020

Judge with gavel and files
A study released by the American Transportation Research Institute revealed that jury verdict awards against trucking companies grew at a rate of 51.7 percent per year between 2010 and 2018.

In the nine-year period between 2010 and 2018, jury verdict awards against trucking companies grew at a rate of 51.7% per year. That’s a lot, especially when compared to an annual standard inflation-rate growth of 1.7%.

That’s just one of the findings in a recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released on June 23.

Using data collected from a trucking-litigation database, ATRI studied detailed information about 600 cases between 2006 and 2019. In the first five years of the study, 2006-2010, there were 26 cases in which jury awards totaled over $1 million. In the most recent five years (2015-2019), there were 300 such awards.

In 2019, ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee identified so-called “nuclear verdicts” against the trucking industry as the highest research priority for the group. The results released today are the initial result of a continuing study.

In recent protests held by small-business truckers in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the country, rising insurance rates were listed by many participants as an issue the government should address. Larger carriers, including the 4,000-employee Celadon, cited high insurance costs as a reason for economic troubles. With freight rates plummeting due to COVID-19 closures and slowdowns, insurance-premium increases have been difficult for many small carriers to bear.

The ATRI study sheds some light on the reasons behind premium increases that are harming trucking businesses of every size.

As part of the research, ATRI interviewed and surveyed attorneys from both sides of litigation cases, as well as insurance and motor carrier experts. The study contained recommendations for pre-trial strategies and mediation approaches designed to help avoid large post-trial verdicts.

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

Another attorney, Rob Moseley with Mose

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