If you happen to come across any trucking industry publications online, you will likely see articles lamenting the high costs of truck accident litigation – Specifically, high-dollar jury awards. There is even a term coined to describe jury awards over $10 million: “nuclear verdicts.”
It is true that truck accident litigation is high stakes, but significant jury awards are not excessive in most cases. Truck accidents are very likely to result in death or catastrophic injury for occupants of smaller vehicles, while truck drivers rarely get injured and vehicle damage to trucks is comparatively minor in many of these crashes. If it weren’t for litigation, victims would be left physically and financially devastated (more so than they already are) and trucking companies would have almost no incentive to make safety a priority.
Thankfully, litigation (and especially “nuclear verdicts”) have gotten the attention of trucking companies and leaders within the transportation industry. And while some companies are merely complaining about the seeming unfairness of litigation, others are investing in solutions that can greatly reduce the number and severity of truck accidents.
Recent studies have shown that technological features already on the market could greatly reduce certain types of truck accidents. One example is an IIHS study demonstrating that forward collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking could reduce the number of rear-end collisions caused by truck drivers by 44 and 41 percent, respectively. And in situations where these technologies don’t completely avert an accident, they could reduce crash speeds by about half, resulting in fewer fatalities and milder injuries.
One industry publication recently discussed other technological innovations that could reduce rollover accidents in trucks. Unlike smaller personal-use vehicles, which can handle most bends in the road at higher speeds, trucks are prone to rolling over if they turn too sharply too quickly. Certain safety systems installed in a truck could tell the driver how slowly to take turns based on the weight of the truck and the angle of the curve.
Finally, trucking companies would be wise to invest in technologies that allow them to closely monitor their drivers. Avoiding distracted driving, on-the-job alcohol and drug use and preventing drowsy driving could substantially reduce accidents and liability. Most employees behave quite differently if they know they could be monitored at any time.
It is true that technological innovations cost money, and many trucking companies don’t feel that they can afford the extra costs of these safety devices. But compared to the high costs of litigation (and the knowledge that lives were needlessly lost in a preventable truck accident), front-end investments should be a no-brainer.