How Defense Attorneys Can Avoid Trucking Case Nuclear Verdicts
The transportation and trucking industry has historically been an easy target for litigation, with nuclear verdicts, remarkably, a consistently increasing theme over the past several years. Litigation research proves that success or failure in civil cases is driven primarily by the performance of witnesses. Because of this, the strength and credibility of witnesses in depositions and during trials is a crucial component in trucking case outcomes and in preventing nuclear verdicts.
In an era of neuropsychological manipulation and plaintiff reptile tactics, a trucking or transportation company can prepare and protect themselves from nuclear verdicts by ensuring witnesses are effectively trained. Thwarted by their own emotions, witnesses in these cases may be more susceptible to experiencing an amygdala hijack or succumbing to the fight-or-flight response during questioning, frequently causing them to come across as argumentative, defensive, or evasive.
Courtroom Sciences knows that preparing these witnesses and avoiding nuclear verdicts involves having these witnesses go through a scientifically-proven neuro-cognitive witness effectiveness training program to prepare them for a combative deposition or reptile attack.
How can a defense attorney overcome negative emotions towards trucking companies?
Defense attorneys must address the narrative that truckers and trucking companies are unsafe and reckless, posing a danger to the driving public. Trial attorneys can overcome negative emotions by humanizing truckers and pushing back against the notion that just because a truck driver was in an accident doesn't automatically mean that they did something wrong. Humanizing truckers includes presenting them as a member of the community who serves a critical function, works hard to earn a living, and keeps commerce moving. Defense attorneys can also put forth the concept that they're still human and accidents happen, no matter how experienced a person is.
How to Approach Defending Trucking Cases
Plaintiff attorneys in trucking cases are notorious for executing both reptile theory and securing nuclear verdicts. Defending these trucking cases often becomes a two-phase approach. The first phase determines whether or not you have any liability defense to the accident itself, and the second phase looks specifically at damages as trucking cases tend to be high exposure and high-value cases.
Often, the key to defending these cases is getting involved early; in serious accidents, trucking companies will often involve a defense attorney from the day of the accident. Being involved early not only creates an attorney-client privilege regarding everything that transpires from that point forward, such as interviewing the driver or talking to witnesses, but a defense attorney can immediately seek to determine if the case can be defended on its merits.
Defense attorneys may find themselves representing just the trucking company or both the trucking company and the driver. Trucking cases often have many different elements at play, such as:
● reviewing any hours of service violations;
● any accusations on the trucking company regarding negligent hiring;
● the driver potentially being tired;
● any distractions to the driver such as headphones or their cell phone.
If a defense attorney is retained to defend the trucking company and not the driver, it's also essential to avoid creating a conflict of interest. Defense attorneys need to be clear to the driver that, not knowing the facts and circumstances of the accident, it is the company being represented. Otherwise, it could become an issue if the driver begins placing blame on the trucking company.
Common Difficulties in Defending Trucking Cases
Plaintiff attorneys will often try to appeal to emotion rather than logic to sway jurors or secure a more significant damages amount. Trucking companies are subject to various rules and regulations imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. Part of doing this may fall under the guise of extensive discovery requests, seeking to have the trucking company produce all manner of information to show that they have complied with all of those rules and regulations. Often, these requested documents will bear no relation to the accident itself. Still, instead, they will be used to show that the trucking company doesn't care about the public or doesn't have their best interests in mind in keeping the public safe. Defense attorneys can be aggressive in suppressing this kind of information and keeping it from impacting their case.
The other preeminent common difficulty with trucking cases is the scope of the damages. When there is a case with a catastrophic injury, the sympathy factor almost immediately goes towards the plaintiff. Additionally, many trucking companies and truck drivers face negative perceptions from the general public. This may stem from a personal experience with an accident, or they may feel nervous when they get next to a truck on the highway.
Preparing Truck Drivers for Deposition
Unfortunately, sometimes the truck drivers themselves provide the obstacle to their defense as they frequently fall into the traps of the reptile theory and aggressive plaintiff attorneys. Therefore, extensive deposition preparation becomes vital to ensure that the driver is mindful, aware and prepared for the whole reptile theory in advance. This way, during their testimony, they are not surprised by any aggressive questioning and can remain calm and compelling.
One technique that is often successful in preparing truck drivers for deposition testimony is videotaping the preparation sessions. This videotaped preparation, which should happen over multiple sessions, is an opportunity to ask pointed and challenging questions and review testimony performance with the witness. In particular, videotaped sessions can help witnesses see themselves, see what they are doing and how they're responding, and notice what their body language is indicating.
Defense attorneys should understand that this deposition preparation for trucking cases may take a little longer as some of these concepts, such as reptile tactics, may be unfamiliar. It's crucial for the preparation to be thorough and for the driver to be comfortable with their testimony.
Courtroom Sciences knows that the economic risks presented by trucking case nuclear verdicts are enormous and that traditional witness preparation does not prepare witnesses for how to counter neuropsychological manipulation. Our psychology experts deliver sophisticated neurocognitive training from behavioral experts that helps witnesses thwart plaintiff reptile attacks. Discover how our methodical litigation approach leads to predictive results and favorable outcomes. Please speak with one of our experts to get started.
● The economic risks presented by trucking case nuclear verdicts are enormous.
● The strength and credibility of witnesses are crucial components in trucking case outcomes and preventing nuclear verdicts.
● Trucking cases are where defense attorneys are likely to see both reptile theory and nuclear verdicts in play.
● Courtroom Sciences' methodical litigation approach leads to predictive results and favorable outcomes.
Preventing Nuclear Settlements at Deposition