Together, with the American Trucking Associations, we’ve achieved success on the federal and state level in creating a fair playing field in the court room.
By Tony Trenzulek – Director of Government Affairs, Sentry Insurance
At Sentry, we not only help protect our customers, but also the industries our customers work in. In particular, our Government Affairs team is advocating for much-needed legal system abuse reform for the trucking industry.
Working with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association
(APCIA), we address the rising cost of litigation that burdens your industry and, in turn, impacts insurance costs.
One of the most pressing concerns facing trucking companies today is nuclear verdicts, which can result in massive legal settlements that threaten the financial stability of even the most well-established businesses.
A nuclear verdict is a legal judgment where the awarded damages are exceptionally high, often exceeding $10 million. With increasingly sympathetic juries and an evolving legal landscape, trucking companies face the risk of astronomical settlements even in cases where liability may be questionable.
Legal system abuse is a significant factor that contributes to nuclear verdicts and escalating litigation expenses. Our goal is to disincentivize frivolous lawsuits and create a fair and accountable legal environment that benefits all stakeholders.
Federal level: Combatting staged accidents
On the federal front, we’ve been instrumental in promoting legislation aimed at making staged accidents—such as brake checking—a federal crime. This effort isn’t only about reducing fraudulent activities. It’s also about fostering a safe driving environment and reducing costs for commercial motor carriers.
State-level success: Florida
One of our most significant achievements has been the passage of the comprehensive tort reform bill in Florida— Bill 837. For more than a decade, the legal environment in Florida has favored plaintiff attorney firms, leading to inflated jury awards. Recognizing the need for change, the Florida legislature passed a bill, which was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, designed to level the playing field and provide juries with complete information on damages.
Our commitment to this legislative effort spanned more than seven years, during which we tirelessly advocated for tort reform that would ensure a more equitable legal system for all Florida residents—whether it was buyers of personal auto coverage, motorcycle riders, auto dealership owners, or truck drivers.
This reform brings several key changes:
- Limits contingency fee multipliers: Aligning with federal standards, contingency fee multipliers for attorney fee awards are now limited to only rare and exceptional circumstances.
- Repeals one-way attorney fee statute: The one-way attorney fee statute for admitted and surplus lines has been repealed, ensuring a more balanced legal landscape.
- Reduces statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for general negligence cases has been reduced from four years to two years.
- Modifies bad faith framework: The bill clarifies the definition of bad faith tender and emphasizes that negligence alone is not bad faith.
- Establishes uniform standards for calculating medical damages: This will assist juries in accurately assessing the value of medical damages in personal injury or wrongful death actions.
- Change in comparative negligence system: Florida’s comparative negligence system has shifted from pure to modified, so plaintiffs who are determined to be more at fault for their injuries than the defendant can no longer recover damages from the defendant.
State-level challenges: Illinois and Iowa
While we celebrate our success in Florida, we acknowledge ongoing challenges in other states. In Illinois, we’re actively opposing harmful bills, including HB 2203. This bill could significantly impact personal lines rate approval and risk-based pricing. We’ve registered our opposition to this bill and deployed a grassroots toolkit to engage our associates in Illinois, urging them to contact their legislators.
In Iowa, we helped advocate for liability reform legislation that will impose a cap on non-economic damages in trucking cases. This initiative is in partnership with the APCIA. We’ve developed grassroots materials to drive engagement among our associates and agency partners.
Your role in driving positive change
As we continue to navigate these complex legal landscapes, we recognize positive change is possible through collective effort. We rely on people like you to help lead the way in creating a legal system that’s fair, accountable, and supportive of the trucking industry.
Our Government Affairs team remains steadfast in its commitment to advocating for legal system abuse reform. Our partnership with the ATA and APCIA, along with our successful endeavors in states like Florida, demonstrate the positive impact we can achieve when we work together.