It’s no secret that America is very polarized right now, and not just when it comes to politics. It seems like many groups are adopting an “us vs. them” mentality where none needs to exist. In fact, this attitude often shuts down productive discussion and makes progress all but impossible.
A good example is the attitude that some prominent voices in the trucking industry have adopted. A recent article in an industry publication focused on the “war” that the trucking industry is waging against “excessive jury verdicts in accident litigation.” It quotes the president of the American Trucking Associations saying the trucking industry is being “picked on,” and that truck accident litigation is “an all-out assault against the industry, and we need to be in a position to fight back.”
To be clear, absolutely no one is picking on the trucking industry. In fact, most Americans realize that our access to food and consumer goods that we rely on daily is heavily dependent on truckers and other freight carriers. The problem is not the industry as a whole – it is the irresponsible truck drivers and trucking companies that fail to take the necessary steps to ensure that their vehicles are safe and that their drivers behave responsibly.
The civil justice system is designed to allow individuals or groups who have been harmed to seek financial restitution from those who caused the harm through negligence or intentional action. Truck accident victims do not sue the trucking industry. They seek compensation from the specific companies, drivers and insurers liable for causing serious injury and death in specific truck crashes.
Finally, the word “excessive” to describe jury verdicts is misleading. It is true that jury awards and settlements in trucking accident cases often add up to millions of dollars, but those totals are usually an accurate reflection of the costs of negligence.
Some 87 percent of fatal automobile accidents involve large trucks – and the injuries and fatalities are almost entirely one-sided. When truck accidents occur, the occupants of smaller vehicles are far more likely to suffer catastrophic injury or death than in any other auto accident scenario. The medical bills and dramatic life changes that accompany serious injury or disability/paralysis are going to be prohibitively expensive for most victims without seeking millions in compensation from the at-fault parties.
If leaders within the trucking industry are concerned about the high costs of litigation, they would do well to stop focusing on the courtroom “war” and instead focus on adopting technology and best practices that reduce the likelihood and severity of truck accidents. Such changes would be a win for everyone – including and especially victims of truck accidents.