Auto Incidents That Lead to Multimillion-Dollar Verdicts

Strong Tie Insurance July 2, 2021 StrongtieInsurance

Driving is a risky activity, especially for those operating large vehicles. Auto incidents are increasingly common, and they can have huge financial impacts on your company if you’re not sufficiently insured. 

You may think your general liability insurance for truckers covers every possible situation, but that may not be the case. When driving a large vehicle like a truck, the risks are high, and it’s possible to cause large amounts of damage.

Here are some auto incidents that have led to settlements of several million dollars. 

Companies Can Be Liable for Driver Negligence 

Owning a truck comes with a lot of responsibility, from screening potential drivers to maintaining the vehicle and dealing with truck insurance claims. The legal aspect of this responsibility is sometimes overlooked, however.

If a driver gets into an accident, the truck’s owner can potentially be held partially responsible for the incident, because of the concept of negligent entrustment. Owners are required to properly train their drivers, and keep trucks in working order, to prevent accidents.

This is part of the reason good insurance coverage is so important. In an industry with as many risks as transportation, it’s important to have adequate coverage for any potential incidents.

In all of the court cases explained below, the vehicle owners were found partially or entirely responsible for the actions of their driver employees. All of these cases resulted in judgments over $25 million.

1. The Cost of Running a Red Light

Running a red light is the kind of mistake most drivers have made once or twice. In this case, it had

One trailer-tractor ran a red light, and by doing so ended up hitting the side of an SUV in the intersection. Inside the SUV were a mother and her two children, a son and a daughter. Both the driver and son in the SUV were severely injured by the accident, including traumatic brain injuries. The daughter had scratches and faced psychological distress, including PTSD from the incident.

The family filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and the owner of the truck. In the lawsuit, they argued that the company was negligent for allowing the driver to use the truck, making them liable for the harm.

To account for the harm done to all three members of the family, they were awarded $24 million for their pain and suffering, and $36 million more for future pain and suffering. The total award was $70,578,289. 

2. Driver Impairment Results in a Fatal Crash

Every truck driver knows that reaction times are hugely important when out on the road.

Trailer-tractors take about the length of two football fields to come to a stop, so timing is important. Any kind of impairment, whether it’s sleep deprivation or substance use, can slow a driver’s reaction time and lead to risky behavior.

In this case, a dump truck driver swerved to avoid hitting a stopped vehicle, but ran head-on into a minivan in the process. The truck driver was found to have marijuana in his system at the time of the crash.

The collision was fatal for the driver of the minivan, and the deceased person’s spouse filed a lawsuit against the driver and the truck owner for negligence. The suit argued that the driver behaved negligently, and that the truck owner was also negligent in hiring the driver without using an ongoing drug testing program.

In this situation, the commercial trucking company that hired the driver became responsible for his behavior while on the job. According to the jury, the company didn’t exercise the necessary “degree of ordinary care,” and that was a contributing factor to the death of the minivan driver.

The total damages in this case were $32,144,972. 

3. School Bus Company Becomes Liable for Accident 

This case is a notable example of a situation when a suit was focused exclusively on the commercial vehicle’s owners, rather than the driver of the vehicle.

In a collision between a car with four high school students and a school bus, the occupants of the car faced serious injuries. 

The three passengers who were hurt filed a lawsuit against the person who was driving them, the driver of the bus, and also the bus company. In the end, they pursued the case against the driver of their car and the bus company, not the bus driver.

Lawyers for the passenger car driver argued that the bus driver was going over the speed limit, and was drinking coffee while driving. The lawyers for the bus company argued that the passenger car driver caused the accident by veering over the centerline. 

The final result found that both the vehicle driver and the bus owner were negligent. The 

judgment was $36,500,000. 

4. An Illegally Parked Truck Found Responsible for Death

A truck that is improperly parked can be a hazard to other drivers. The driver and owner may be found responsible for any injury or harm it causes.

In one case, a parked trailer-tractor affected traffic and resulted in a fatal accident. A woman driving down a state highway was forced to swerve out of the way of another driver, who was making a U-turn on the road. The woman rear-ended a trailer-tractor while swerving out of the way, and was killed as a result.

The woman’s parents sued the involved parties: the other driver, the driver of the truck, and the truck’s owner. However, the case went forward with only the truck driver and the truck owner as the defendants. 

The truck was illegally parked on the side of the road, so the court determined its presence was responsible for the woman’s death. The plaintiff’s counsel argued that not only was the truck driver responsible, but the company that owned the truck and hired the driver was also at fault, since they were liable for the driver’s actions. 

The court determined that the total damages were at $30 million. The required commercial insurance minimums would cover only a fraction of this cost. 

Finding the right commercial insurance for your trucking company can be difficult. Strong Tie Insurance offers a wide range of options to help you protect your business, no matter what you come up against. Contact us today to get a free quote.