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ATRI: Trucking sees increase in ‘small’ verdicts, settlements

Nov. 24, 2021
New report from American Transportation Research Institute investigates industry impact of verdicts, settlements under $1 million

Consensus within the trucking industry is that “small” verdicts—those less than $1 million—and settlements are increasing in both frequency and severity, according to recent analyses by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

The rise of these cases, according to ATRI, can be attributed to loose state tort laws, negative public attitudes towards trucking, harsher legal restrictions in other industry sectors, litigation fraud, and growing coordination among plaintiffs' attorneys.

In a Nov. 18 report, ATRI released a follow-up analysis to its 2020 hallmark report on The Impact of Nuclear Verdicts on the Trucking Industry. The new report investigates the impact of verdicts and settlements under $1 million in civil lawsuits over truck-related crashes. 

During its research on nuclear verdicts, ATRI determined that a different plaintiff litigation model is impacting the industry: small cases. The research used a new ATRI dataset of more than 600 cases resulting in either a settlement or verdict award of less than $1 million. The report provides rich insight into key crash characteristics and litigation factors that contribute to substantial payments to plaintiffs.

This study showed that settlement payments are about 37.7% larger than verdict awards, and 393% more likely to occur in incidents involving a fatality. Additionally, incidents involving a severe injury were 217% more likely to settle and 199% more likely to result in payments to plaintiffs over $600,000.

ATRI’s report, which is available to download, provides an overview of the small litigation landscape in the trucking industry as well as strategies to assist carriers and attorneys in preventing more costly litigation outcomes.

“This analysis proves a theory that I have always had; there are two markets as to the value of cases—the settlement market and the trial market. There should be one market, and that is what a case is objectively worth,” Doug Marcello, attorney at Marcello & Kivisto LLC, said in a press release. 

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