Nuclear verdicts happen when a claim goes to trial and a large and unexpected financial penalty is awarded, usually over $10 million. Plaintiff attorneys are successful in getting juries to award these large sums by playing into fear, sympathy and the hope similar incidents will be prevented because of it. Not only are the financial penalties steep, nuclear verdicts also cause insurance renewals to see significant premium increases.
Nuclear verdicts are most frequent in product liability (23.6% of the total), auto accident (22.8%), and medical liability (20.6%) cases.* According to the American Transportation and Research Institute (ATRI), the average size verdict for a trucking company is $22,288,000, a 967% increase from 2010 to 2018. If a child is involved in an accident, the verdict amount increased and average of 1600% regardless of who is at fault (ATRI).
Nuclear verdicts in many cases are lose-lose situations, meaning no amount of money is going to change the outcome of an accident and the verdicts cause significant trouble for the insurance market. Often a claim that results in a nuclear verdict is preventable. The most effective strategy to avoid claims that result in nuclear verdicts is to have a safety and risk management program in place that includes best practices and proactive claims management. Engaging a safety consultant to review your current plans to identify risks can reduce the number of work-site accidents and the number of claims that have the potential of going to trial.
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*Nuclear Verdicts: Trends, Causes, and Solutions – ILR (instituteforlegalreform.com)