Anatomy of a Cottage Industry
Over the past few weeks, we’ve highlighted the phenomenon of nuclear verdicts in Texas, and some of the questionable tactics used by personal injury trial lawyers pursuing trucking litigation in the Lone Star State. While trucking litigation has always existed, it seems a new cottage industry has sprung up in the last several years.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, trucking is big business in Texas:
- 1 in 16 Texans are employed by the trucking industry
- 73% of goods manufactured in Texas are transported by truck
- 85% of trade between Texas and Mexico is handled by trucks
- Texas has more interstate mileage than other state (3,200 miles)
- There are over 66,000 trucking industries in Texas
- Trucking industry wages exceed $22.5 billion with average salary of $45,000
- There are over 185,000 truck drivers employed in Texas
But what is it about the trucking industry, specifically, that landed it in the litigation crosshairs? To answer this question, all you have to do is follow the money.
While you and I may only have $30,000 in motor vehicle liability insurance, trucking companies often have multi-million-dollar insurance policies. In other words, they have deep pockets.
While it makes sense for trucking companies to carry a lot of insurance because accidents involving trucks tend to be more serious than those involving smaller vehicles, we’ve seen instances where the truck involved in the accident wasn’t at fault and the carrier still got sued.
Personal injury trial lawyers just cannot resist a deep pocket.
The increase in litigation has been so drastic that trucking companies are facing significant insurance rate hikes. As we all know, the increased cost of insurance is passed along to consumers in the form of increased prices for goods—yet another example of the Tort Tax at work. Because transportation costs are a meaningful component of the retail prices of consumer products, the costs of unnecessary lawsuits and unreasonable verdicts will ultimately be borne by Texas consumers.
With the outsized role trucking plays in Texas’ economy, we are hopeful the Legislature will take a close look at trucking litigation in the 2021 legislative session.