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New Research Reveals Impact of Nuclear Verdicts in Trucking Industry

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) today 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. 

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%.

Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton said this quantifies the increasingly difficult environment in which Arkansas trucking companies are attempting to operate.  “The excessive amounts of these verdicts are a burden on the entire industry. They raise insurance costs and limit businesses from investing in their employees and safety technologies,” she said.  “These verdicts don’t buy safer roads for anyone. They just line the pockets of trial attorneys.”

The research 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.

Insurance costs increased 12% between 2017 and 2018, and 18.3% over the last 5 years. The study also pointed to a “trickle-down effect” on the cost of living for all consumers, when carriers pass along costs due to rising insurance rates.  “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 in Greenville, South Carolina. 

A geographic analysis was also conducted to study how the percentage of verdicts for plaintiffs can vary widely. Some states like Kansas and Georgia awarded 100% of cases in the database to the plaintiff, and Alabama awarded only 7.7% of the cases to the plaintiff. The data from litigation in Arkansas fell in the middle with 42.9% of cases awarding the plaintiff, and neighboring Texas, with the greatest number of cases included in the study (86), had over 55.8% awarded to the plaintiff.

Earlier this year, Arkansas Trucking Association reported one of its members who received a $7.5 million verdict for a 2015 crash in Texas had to close its doors. “The threat of nuclear verdicts is no longer something that happens to someone else, someplace else,” said Newton. “It is so important that we understand that this trend is affecting the industry everywhere.”

You can download the full report from ATRI”s website at

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You are here: Home News In Brief New Research Reveals Impact of Nuclear Verdicts in Trucking Industry