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Minimize Your Potential Exposure with the Golden Rule

posted by TrueNorth Transportation on Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Today's final webinar in the Litigation Mitigation series featured attorneys from Pion, Nerone, Girman, Winslow & Smith, PC focused on Settlement Strategies related to Nuclear Verdicts.

What is a nuclear verdict?

A nuclear verdict is defined as an award that is our of proportion with the damages suffered. The trucking industry has borne the brunt of such verdicts over the past decade.

"What used to be a very infrequent event is now becoming almost a regular occurrence. We are seeing a disproportionate number of nuclear verdicts in the transportation industry. They have cost the industry billions of dollars and countless trucking companies have gone out of business," says John Pion.

The best way to avoid a nuclear verdict is to avoid the accident!

Easier said than done - but there are steps you can take to minimize your risks.

  • Run consistent with federal regulations
  • Have a safety program in place so that you aren't creating any of the issues that personal injury lawyers are looking for to expose you and to drive home the factors of the reptile theory

Avoid the trap of the Reptile Theory.

Simply put, the Reptile Theory occurs when plaintiff attorneys stoke fear in the jury to spike verdicts. It is based on the part of the brain that either promotes fear or flight. Reptiles typically have small brains to process things. They are afraid, or they attack.

In the past, the entire theme of a plaintiff's case was based on sympathy. Sympathy isn't working like it used to on juries. Now, it focuses on fear and protection. There are steps you can take so that you are not feeding into the reptile theory.

First, says Tim Smith, look at your handbooks.

1. As a whole, what does it say about your company?

  • What are you concerned about
  • What are you teaching drivers?
  • Are you putting an emphasis on safety or on profits?

2. Do you raise the bar with your own policies?

  • Do you take what would be a negligent standard and make it harder to get a defense verdict?

We are feeding this animal, with our own actions, policies and procedures, and it all comes back in the litigation.

Follow the empathetic approach

Exercising empathy with families can often create goodwill and lead away from a nuclear situation. Advances that a family needs can be a great way to help yourself while helping the family at the same time. It means a lot to families to do these things for the sake of doing them. It's important not to attach strings to these gestures. Examples include:

  • Travel arrangements for family members
  • Funeral expenses
  • Fungible items, etc.

To learn more, contact TrueNorth Transportation at









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