150 million reasons why nuclear verdicts need to be addressed

July 29, 2022

Tyson Fisher


Werner recently settled a lawsuit for $150 million, but the facts of the case may surprise you, including that the carrier is avoiding a nuclear verdict.

On July 28, Omaha, Neb.-based Werner Enterprises published a news release announcing a $150 settlement of a crash lawsuit in Texas. Based on that hefty sum, one would think that the facts of the case are stacked against the carrier. That’s not the case at all.

From the news release:

“In May 2020, a passenger vehicle traveling on Interstate 30 near Sulphur Springs, Texas, stopped in the travel lane of the highway at approximately 5 a.m. Three adults walked away from the vehicle, leaving two children inside. Shortly thereafter, a Werner truck (traveling below the speed limit) struck the parked vehicle. The two children tragically died in the resulting collision. The investigating officers placed no fault on Werner or its driver, and one of the adults from the passenger vehicle was criminally charged in connection with the deaths of the children. The parents of the children subsequently filed a lawsuit against Werner and its driver. Out of respect for the family, Werner is not publicly disclosing the names of the individuals involved.”


Why is Werner settling the case for a nine-figure sum?

“The circumstances of this tragic accident were set in motion by the decision to park a vehicle on a highway in the lane of travel, as indicated in the investigating officer’s report,” Werner’s Chief Legal Officer Nathan Meisgeier said in a statement. “Nonetheless, corporate defendants are facing ‘nuclear verdicts’ in courtrooms across the country, including in Texas.”

Sounds like Werner is afraid of a nuclear verdict.

However, $150 million is considered nuclear by anyone’s standards. That being said, Werner appears to be on guard for an even bigger verdict against it despite the facts of the case (that we know of).

Nuclear verdicts are a major problem within the trucking industry. They are so bad that carriers are settling cases that they probably should win.

However, life does not always reflect reality. That is especially true in the courtroom.

Even though cases exceeding the $750,000 insurance minimum account for only 1% of truck-involved cases, the impact of nuclear verdicts are strong. An American Transportation Research Institute study from two years ago reveals that eight-figure jury verdicts against trucking companies are skyrocketing.

The average nuclear verdict with no children involved is about $2 million. However, when a child is introduced to the equation, the number shoots to $42.3 million.

Texas is a playground for personal injury lawyers who love to sue trucking companies. In the past, they have enjoyed nuclear verdicts. That may be why Werner decided to settle. With children involved, that $150 million could balloon to something much larger if the company was found negligent in the case.

What can truckers do about the nuclear verdict issue? Contact your state and federal lawmakers and let them know how the industry is being impacted. Refer to ATRI’s study when discussing details.

Go to FightingForTruckers.com for easy access to your lawmakers. LL