Record truck accident verdicts, settlements spur changes to insurance coverage, safety regulations

by John Chapman

Trucking companies and independent truck driving contractors have faced increased insurance premiums in recent years as a result of several verdicts in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits filed in the wake of trucking accidents. Although the number of trucking accidents in the U.S. has fallen by about 20% in recent years, record verdicts in several truck accident lawsuits have made damages from these cases hard to predict for insurance companies.

Earlier this year, both the Zurich Insurance Group and American International Group (AIG) – two of the biggest insurance providers in the trucking industry – announced that they would no longer issue insurance coverage for most for-hire trucking fleets. Other companies announced premium increases of 10-30% on for-hire fleets. Both Zurich and AIG said that they would still provide insurance coverage to trucks directly operated by manufacturers or retailers.

Truck industry experts say that AIG – the leader in the truck carrier insurance market – was caught off-guard by several recent trucking accident verdicts and settlements. These cases included a $10 million settlement involving a 2014 Wal-Mart truck accident that injured several people, including comedian Tracy Morgan.

AIG’s exit from the trucking insurance market created a scramble for truck fleets to find coverage for their drivers. Under federal law, trucking companies must carry insurance coverage for their vehicles of at least $750,000 per accident. Many carries purchase policies of $1 million or more.

Brokers who work with trucking companies say that large settlements and verdicts in trucking accident lawsuit began to become more common around 2011. There have been at least six cases with verdicts or settlements of more than $20 million so far in 2016 – the highest total since 2012.

Legal experts say that part of the reason behind these record verdicts and settlements is because plaintiffs’ attorneys are starting to target trucking companies that violate federal safety regulations. In many of these cases, safety violations have occurred fleet-wide for trucks operated by the company, not just for the vehicle involved in the truck accident.

In addition to the $10 million settlement in the Wal-Mart 18-wheeler accident – which also included an undisclosed settlement with Mr. Morgan – several other record verdicts and settlements have occurred in recent years. These cases include a $42 million settlement between Landstar System and the widow of a man killed by a truck driver in Georgia. Landstar has been hit with several additional high profile verdicts since that case.

Prior to these verdicts, Landstar had $5 million per accident in insurance coverage from AIG; they were later dropped by the insurance giant, causing their insurance premiums to climb by 20%. Other carriers have seen similar rate increases after losing coverage with AIG.

Increased trucking insurance premiums combined with new federal safety laws have prompted many trucking companies to adopt new safety measures to prevent accidents. Starting in 2017, all trucks will carry monitoring devices to ensure that truck drivers do not spend too many hours behind the wheel. Many trucking companies are also voluntarily equipping their vehicles with accident prevention technology.

Injured in a Truck Accident With an 18 Wheeler? You Have Legal Rights.

Trucking accident victims should not entrust their case to lawyers who are inexperienced in cases involving complex incidents involving trucks or other commercial vehicles. Trucking companies and their insurers have the time and money to fight against your claim in court. To properly pursue a claim against a trucking company, the attorneys you entrust with your case must not only work diligently on your behalf, but be able to spend what it takes to force the truck companies to take responsibility for their actions.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a 18 wheeler or other large commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit in order to seek compensation for your injuries, pain, and suffering. The first step in taking legal action is to talk with an experienced attorney about your case to learn more about your legal rights and options.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled dozens of cases involving injuries caused by trucking accidents. Our lawyers have achieved verdicts or settlements involving damages of millions of dollars in several cases involving trucks and other commercial vehicles. Our law firm has the financial resources to help our clients stand toe-to-toe with even the biggest trucking and insurance companies.

For more information about the truck accident lawsuits filed by the attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson, and to learn whether you may be eligible to file a case, contact our law office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following this link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few short questions about your history to get started.

by John Chapman

John Chapman is a licensed attorney with experience in complex commercial litigation (including securities fraud, RICO, shareholder oppression, and derivative actions) and personal injury litigation.