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There may be several reasons a jury will render a significant verdict in a trucking accident case. Despite what the specific individual reasons may be, together, they usually add up to a particularly egregious or negligent set of circumstances that evokes the juror’s emotional and moral conscience. However, as a victim or loved one of a victim, it is not quite as simple as filing a lawsuit and getting a large verdict in a trucking accident. Proving negligence in trucking accidents can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly. It takes the right team to challenge trucking companies, truckers, and insurance companies. Investigating trucking accidents takes time and resources. At Gerling Law Injury Attorneys, we have what it takes to get your case from inception to verdict. Contact us today.

What Is a Nuclear Verdict?

A nuclear verdict is a jury award that exceeds $10 million. Broadly, it is a jury award that significantly surpasses what would reasonably be expected, given the economic damages in the case.

Depending on the circumstances, a truck accident verdict can be a nuclear verdict. Several factors can contribute to a large verdict in commercial vehicle accidents, including truck accidents. Let’s look at three common reasons a jury will reach a nuclear or large verdict in a trucking case.

Failure to Admit Fault

Generally, if a case proceeds all the way to trial, at least one reason it gets that far is that the defendant refuses to admit guilt. This often does not sit well with jurors, especially when this refusal is combined with other factors such as an unsympathetic defendant, negligence, or misconduct.

Disregard for Safety

Verdict in a Trucking Accident

Trucks are enormously powerful pieces of machinery with many different parts. If a trucking company has a history of neglecting safety protocols, routine maintenance, servicing recalls, or any other safety breach, jurors see this as egregious misconduct that endangers us all. Jurors will often render a verdict to “make them pay” and punish the company for their particularly bad behavior. The same can be said for failing to implement training courses and negligent hiring practices.

Emotional Anxiety

Jurors responsible for reaching a truck accident lawsuit verdict often relate to the victim on some level. They often put themselves in the victim’s shoes and think about what they’d feel if it had been themselves or someone they love who ended up on the wrong end of the truck crash. It pulls at their emotions and the anxiety many feel about sharing the road with these enormous rigs.

In the News

In 2021, a Florida jury shattered a previous $411 million record by awarding the family of an 18-year-old truck accident victim one billion dollars in damages. Most of those damages were punitive because of the particularly atrocious circumstances surrounding the crash. In this case, the truck driver was going at a very high rate of speed, in cruise control, and failed to brake as he approached a line of stopped traffic. The data recorder showed the trucker did not even attempt to brake until one second before he crashed into the victim’s vehicle. The verdict, in this case, sends a message to trucking companies nationwide—and it will certainly not be the last. 

Compensatory vs. Punitive Damages

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are meant to compensate an accident victim for their actual losses. Compensatory damages include both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are easily quantifiable because they are based on direct financial loss and include medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, etc.

Non-economic damages are subjective to the individual and can be more challenging to quantify into a monetary figure. These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. 

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not compensatory. Instead, they are meant to punish defendants for their especially egregious actions. The court or jury must find the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent before they can award punitive damages. These damages are often referred to as exemplary damages because they “make an example out of” a defendant. Generally, punitive damages are awarded on a much more limited basis than compensatory damages. However, in trucking accident cases, it is not unheard of for a jury to award punitive damages. Many trucking accident cases involve particularly negligent or egregious behavior, and such behavior can justify granting a punitive award.

To better understand the damages you might be entitled to following a trucking accident, contact Gerling Law today. Our experienced lawyers will access the events that unfolded and provide you with a more tailored projection.  

Contact a Lawyer Today

Getting a large verdict in a trucking accident takes expertise, knowledge, and skill. At Gerling Law, we have been helping truck accident victims get the compensation they deserve for over 50 years. Our clients are our top priority. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced truck accident attorneys. We are standing by and ready to help you get the justice you deserve.

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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