Plantiff Lawyers Target Trucking Company Safety – Transport Topics Online

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A recent study that explored the skyrocketing rise in jury awards against trucking companies went beyond the numbers to seek expert input from attorneys, insurance industry experts, motor carrier safety personnel and industry economists on what fleets can do to protect themselves.

The study, from the American Transportation Research Institute, examined data from 600 court cases. It concluded that awards in what are commonly called “nuclear” jury verdicts against motor carriers — those generally totaling $10 million or more — have been on a steep rise since 2010. In fact, from 2010-2018, the average size of jury verdicts in trucking trials rose from $2.3 million to $22.2 million — an increase of 967%.

The ATRI study and interviews with experienced trucking defense attorneys offer some advice on what motor carriers can do to protect themselves from this rising tide. Starting with the basics.

“Make sure all your paperwork is in compliance as to driver-qualification files, hours-of-service records and employment verifications,” said Ted Perryman, a trucking defense attorney with the St. Louis-based law firm of Roberts Perryman. Also, he said make sure the trucks are in tip-top shape and receive a thorough going-over during pre-trip inspection. He noted the importance of maintenance since police will often inspect a truck after a crash.

Ted Perryman


“If there’s an issue, even if it’s unrelated to the accident, plaintiff attorneys will focus on that,” he said. “I think juries will hit you pretty hard if the truck is not well-maintained.”

Perryman said plaintiff attorneys also tend to home in on driver training,