What Is Driving Up Jury Awards in Personal Injury Lawsuits Involving Trucks?

Three white semi-trucks lined up at the loading dock

Crashes involving tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles often result in serious injuries that require costly medical treatment and ongoing care. Although it’s not uncommon for a trucking company to be sued for damages, in the past decade, the number of “nuclear verdicts” has increased dramatically. The truck accident lawyers at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices, providing services throughout eastern Pennsylvania, explain why.

Personal Injury Claims Have Been On the Rise Since the 1990s

It’s no secret that awards for many personal injury lawsuits have increased since 1994, when a woman was awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages after being burned by scalding coffee served at a McDonald’s restaurant. Although the verdict was appealed and settled for an undisclosed amount, the buzz surrounding it changed the face of personal injury claims.

Trucking Companies and Independent Operators Must Meet Insurance Policy Requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires commercial liability insurance minimums that range from $750,000 to $5,000,000, depending on the size of the vehicle and the type of cargo being hauled. In some cases, policy requirements may be more.

FMSCA regulations can be complex, so it’s crucial to hire a seasoned truck accident attorney if you or a loved one is hurt in an accident. Lawsuits involving tractor-trailer accidents are quite different from those that include only passenger vehicles. Knowledge of how to properly investigate a crash, a deep understanding of the law, and the ability to put it all together and negotiate a fair settlement or convince a jury requires an experienced team of personal injury lawyers. 

There Has Been an Upward Trend in Truck Accident Awards Since 2011

According to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) in 2011, a truck driver failed to obey a stop sign, resulting in serious injury to one passenger and the death of two others. One victim was a prominent business owner. His truck accident attorneys calculated the crash resulted in a future lost income of $15 million to $42 million for a business venture that hadn’t even started. Jury deliberations didn’t take long. After five hours, they came back with a verdict of $40 million. The jury surmised that $28.7 million of this verdict was for the value of the life of the prominent businessperson based on his future business endeavor.

After this noteworthy case, truck injury lawyers began to be more aggressive in pursuing policy limits in claims involving catastrophic injury and death. Data compiled by a company called CaseMetrix shows that in 2012, the average verdict against a trucking company after a crash was about $2.6 million. It’s now more than $17 million. Truck accident settlements that are resolved outside a courtroom are increasing as well, although at a slower pace. In 2017, the average settlement was $2.25 million, while in 2019 it was $2.88 million.

Why Juries May Be Awarding More in Truck Accident Lawsuits

Although personal injury lawsuits involving truck accidents can be tough to win, when negligence by a driver or company causes significant harm to victims and their families, juries tend to award liberal verdicts. One reason for this could be a shift in attitudes about corporations and large companies. Many people have become tired of seeing organizations get away with shirking responsibility for their careless, negligent actions or inaction.

Winning Truck Accident Cases Is Still Challenging

It’s important to keep in mind that not every person who sues a trucking company wins. The vast majority of truck accident lawsuits are settled out of court, which is actually a good thing, as it enables victims to get the medical care and compensation they need to protect their health and financial stability. Regardless of whether you or a loved one is involved in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor-trailer, smaller commercial truck, or a car, it’s always prudent to have your case evaluated by an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney

At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad, we’re not afraid to take on trucking companies and their insurers. Although our truck accident lawyers fight aggressively to help injured victims recover compensation, it’s not just about the money. We’re passionate about holding companies fully accountable in the hopes that others don’t have to suffer the same fate in the future. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, contact us online or call us at 610-867-2900 to schedule a free consultation. Our personal injury lawyers serve clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania.


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