Thursday, February 20, 2020 By Jasmin Sharp

In the last few years, the phrase “nuclear verdicts” has become more and more common in the fleet industry. This phrase refers to a lawsuit where the verdict exceeds $10 million. While these verdicts happen in every industry, they are the most concerning in the fleet industry. Nuclear verdicts are often high-profile cases where a commercial vehicle is involved in a crash. Big risk factors that affect nuclear verdicts are when a fatality is involved or when another traffic violation occurs that leads to the crash. In 2012, Coca-Cola faced a $21.6 million nuclear verdict for a fatal crash caused by a distracted driver. In 2019, RAI Transport had a $70.5 million verdict ruled against them for a crash caused by a driver running a red light. Also in 2019, Country Wide RV Transport shut down completely after a fatal crash that led to a $26.6 million verdict

The risk to heavy-duty commercial vehicle operators is higher than to anyone else: bigger vehicle; more chance for major damage; above average chance of a big verdict against them. Risk managers & legal counsel at companies with fleets are keenly aware of the trends in the industry for nuclear verdicts to be levied against companies involved in an at-fault crash. Obviously, every company wants to do all they can to mitigate their risks, and chances of getting involved in one of these high-profile cases. So, what are the factors that lead to a nuclear verdict, and is your fleet at risk of a nuclear verdict in the case of a crash?

The leading cause of a fleet being slapped with a nuclear verdict, obviously, is a fleet being involved in a crash. The primary goal of every risk & safety manager should be to take preventative actions to eliminate the chance of a crash occurring in the first place. Not only is this the best chance a company has to protect their drivers, assets, & the public, preventative fleet safety measures have a 3x ROI. That makes it a great investment for your fleet. This starts with setting a written policy for your drivers detailing safe driving behaviors. Regular driver training is also key to ensure that drivers are aware of and practicing the company’s policy and being safe while on the road. However, driver training has an exceptionally short half-life, and some bad driving behaviors are easier to slip back into than others, such as driving distracted. Proactive technologies that can mitigate the risk of a crash before such an event occurs are the best way to protect your fleet from the risk of a nuclear verdict. 

No one safety solution is completely effective by itself; they need to be combined to create a comprehensive safety program that shows your company is taking an active approach to safe driving. Just like a puzzle; there are several pieces necessary in fleet safety management to create a comprehensive program. This is the best way to eliminate your company’s risk of a crash, and minimizing your company’s risk of being involved in a nuclear verdict.

NOCELL is a solution that can effectively prevent distractions before they occur by removing distracting apps from a smartphone while in motion, and provide alerts to company administrators when a driver attempts to handle their phone or bring a rogue device in the vehicle with them to get around adhering to company policy.
Click HERE to demo the best commercial-grade distracted driving risk management solution for fleets.