Congratulations to Steve Setliff, managing partner of Setliff Law, for his recent recognition by the Commercial Carrier Journal as an expert in the area of advising the trucking industry in managing CSA claims. Setliff presented on “Preventing Penalties with CSA Improvements” to the Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Las Vegas on February 17, 2020.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
The record number of motor carrier bankruptcies last year was due, in no small part, to higher insurance premiums from rising accident claims and jury-awarded verdicts, said a trial defense attorney, Feb. 17, at the 2020 Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Las Vegas.
According to data compiled by CaseMetrix, the average verdict this year for trucking cases in the Southeast, for example, is approximately $17.5 million. This is up significantly from last year’s average of $16.9 million.
Insurance companies have become “horrified of trucking accident claims,” said Steve Setliff, managing partner of Setliff Law. They are paying inflated claims, he believes, to avoid protracted legal battles but in the process are creating a “death spiral” for insurance costs in the transportation industry.
The Reptile strategy
Setliff shared advice for motor carriers to protect themselves from plaintiff attorneys and escalating insurance costs. The main strategy that attorneys use when going after trucking companies is found in the book “Reptile” published in 2009 by David Ball and Don Keenan, he said.
Plaintiff attorneys seek maximum punitive damages by depicting motor carriers as bad actors who don’t care about people. During trial, “they’ll summon up that inner fear that everybody has when they get close to or anywhere in proximity to a big truck — it’s frightening,” he said. “They take that inner fear and then they start to track and trade information to demonstrate that your company is a bad actor.”
Setliff recommended that motor carriers list all of their safety achievements and showcase their safety culture on social media and on their company websites.
“If I Googled your company right now, what would I see?” he asked. Judges tell jurors not to talk to anyone about the cases they are involved in, but “it lasts until the jurors hit they jury room and then they’re Googling.”
The social media presence of a fleet’s safety director and other people in positions of responsibility also matter. “Is it a bunch of pictures of them hanging out at the Daytona 500 passed out on the hood of a truck and everybody with Bud Light cans?” he asked.
Having a solid policy for driver hiring, retention and training policies is also critical. Those who are in charge must be able to articulate in one sentence what standards they use for each of these processes and have documentation, he said.
To read the article its entirety, click here.