Out of Control or Controlling the Outcome?

September 05 2023

Categories: Business Insurance, P&C Solutions

Out of Control or Controlling the Outcome?

Nuclear Auto Liability Verdicts

In the fast-paced business world, the ability to make wise decisions is crucial for success.  As a business executive, you carry the responsibility of protecting your company's assets, maximizing profits, and safeguarding its reputation.  

Investing time and effort into preparing your employees to drive safely minimizes the risk of accidents and demonstrates your commitment to their well-being.  Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of work-related deaths.  They are also the leading source of verdicts that award excessively large sums of money to plaintiffs.  Because they can have a catastrophic impact on the defendant, they are referred to as nuclear verdicts and can potentially devastate business finances.  Nuclear verdicts also indicate a disproportionate relationship between the settlement and the actual economic or physical damages incurred by the plaintiff.  The verdicts are rarely based on facts, more often determined by emotion. 

Factors contributing to these large verdicts include:

  • the severity of injuries
  • emotional impact on the jury
  • perception of corporate negligence
  • the viewpoint that corporations should pay more due to deeper pockets
  • the use of advanced technology in courtrooms

Six of the leading causes of action in auto liability suits that conclude with nuclear verdicts include the following:

  1. negligent hiring of drivers
  2. negligent training of drivers (or providing no training)
  3. negligent entrustment of a vehicle
  4. negligent maintenance of vehicles
  5. failure to follow your own fleet safety and safe drivers policies
  6. no written company policy regarding distracted driving and fatigue management (or a policy that is inconsistently applied)

Take steps to eliminate deficiencies in these areas before a loss occurs.  For example, continuously monitoring employee motor vehicle records (MVRs) along with appropriate action when poor driving decisions are discovered will diffuse plaintiffs' arguments contending either negligent hiring or negligent entrustment of a vehicle. On the other hand, if your company only checks MVRs annually (or not at all), plaintiffs' arguments reinforcing these complaints are easily made. More importantly, moving to continuous MVRs and implementing other safety tactics to address these six complaints will also make your fleet safer and reduce the possibility of an accident leading to a liability claim in the first place.  

By implementing safety programs and good business practices to address these issues, companies can demonstrate in court that they are good corporate citizens, paying attention to their legal obligation and moral responsibility helping to avoid the tactics used to arouse the fear and anger that results in nuclear verdicts. 

The ability to make wise decisions is a key trait of successful business executives. By prioritizing the protection of business assets, maximizing profits, and safeguarding reputation, you can steer your company towards its full potential. At Koppinger & Associates, we are committed to helping you achieve these goals. Our professional, honest team approach ensures that you receive the guidance and support you need to make informed decisions that drive growth and generate results.

Set goals, partner with Team Koppinger to make them a reality.


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