• ITVI.USA
    12,814.390
    -64.910
    -0.5%
  • OTRI.USA
    28.180
    -0.280
    -1%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,761.130
    -64.740
    -0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    3.290
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.060
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.080
    -0.090
    -2.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.180
    -0.060
    -4.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.210
    -0.070
    -2.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.630
    -0.090
    -5.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.360
    0.070
    2.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    121.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    12,814.390
    -64.910
    -0.5%
  • OTRI.USA
    28.180
    -0.280
    -1%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,761.130
    -64.740
    -0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    3.290
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.060
    2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.080
    -0.090
    -2.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.180
    -0.060
    -4.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.210
    -0.070
    -2.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.630
    -0.090
    -5.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.360
    0.070
    2.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    121.000
    1.000
    0.8%
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Commentary: The trucking insurance crisis, part 2: Lawsuit abuse

The system is rigged, and it’s time for change

The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates. This is part two of a two-part series of articles focused on the current trucking insurance crisis. The first article, It’s time for less talk and more solutions to trucking insurance crisis, was published Jan. 17 and can be read here.

In one notable personal injury case, a medical provider billed more than $14,000 for a procedure that’s typically reimbursed by insurance at less than $400. Grossly inflated claims are costing the industry dearly and in some cases are driving trucking companies out of the marketplace because they can no longer afford insurance.

Part one of this series (“It’s time for less talk and more solutions to trucking insurance crisis”) described the financial vise that’s gripping the industry and outlined upstream measures operators can take to avoid these costs by reducing risk. In part two, the focus is on the critical need for changes in a “worst practices” system in which doctors and lawyers scheme to inflate costs.

How does this happen?

Commercial liability insurance rates continue to spiral, with costs passed through to businesses and consumers. A primary culprit is a corrupt personal injury legal system where attorneys drive medical care. In this unethical alliance, certain attorneys and medical providers maximize settlements using arbitrary, grossly exaggerated medical costs.

It starts when plaintiffs’ attorneys refer clients to defined medical networks in which damages are wildly inflated. While they may never take place, unnecessary surgeries are recommended to inflate the damages claims and then included in settlement demands. These procedures are then claimed to collectively cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the actual cost.

In this system, a claimant is instructed not to use health insurance or workers’ compensation insurance, which preclude attorneys and providers from claiming that the full inflated charge is owed. Instead, the covered individual is directed to a defined medical provider network that specializes in personal injury claims, i.e., one that will sidestep insurance. One medical provider was found to have testified more than 200 times at the request of the same law firm in less than four years.

A provider may accept insurance at contracted rates from other patients. But in a personal injury case, medical providers often sidestep those rates. The provider can then “charge” exorbitant amounts that oftentimes are more than 20 times the amount the provider actually gets paid for the services.

The bloated costs are used to leverage a settlement. While multimillion-dollar verdicts make headlines, abuse more frequently occurs in routine settlements under $1 million. These unwarranted settlements burden the system as much as, if not more than, the occasional extreme verdict.

Case in point

The trucking industry is being taken for a ride, and society is paying the price. Here is just one example:

In October 2015, a man named Joe Cantu was involved in a car accident in Austin, Texas. His lawyer referred him to the medical group Pain Care Physicians (PCP). PCP accepted Cantu’s United Health Care insurance. But he chose not to use it, allowing the provider to submit over $80,000 in excessive medical bills and claiming those were actual amounts owed. PCP charged $14,290 for a procedure for which expert testimony showed medical providers typically get paid less than $400. PCP also charged $3,893 for a back brace that’s available for $150 on the manufacturer’s website.

The defense asked for a copy of the United Health Care contract to reveal maximum rates that could be charged. But PCP fought to protect the secrecy of its contracted rates, and the matter went to the Texas Supreme Court.

While the court was considering a possible landmark decision, Cantu withdrew the claim for medical bills. With a pending ruling that could have jeopardized the scheme to inflate costs, the claim was dropped, and the Texas Supreme Court was forced to dismiss the appeal. As a result, the court did not get the opportunity to weigh in on this issue.

The Cantu case is an example of abuse that occurs every day and needlessly inflates claims and insurance costs for the trucking industry.

It’s time for a change

Given this sad state of affairs, how do we restore ethics, integrity and fairness to the judicial system? The answer is to advocate for legal and insurance industry changes. Truckers must tell their stories and enlist other fair-minded people in the effort.

  • It’s time to pull the Band-Aid off the festering lawyer/doctor sore and expose it to the light of day. Attorney-provider relationships should be fully disclosed at trial. Juries must know whether the provider is part of a network that is incentivized to overcharge and overtreat.
  • Jury awards should be based on objective standards, with contracted reimbursement rates heavily weighted in determining the reasonableness and amount of damages. State legislation should limit recovery of medical or healthcare expenses to the amount actually paid or incurred by the claimant.
  • Claimants must be required to mitigate damages, as in any other legal matter. If a claimant has health insurance that would cover an injury, there is no reason he or she should be allowed to submit charges into evidence that are 10 times the amount allowed under the claimant’s insurance.
  • The practice of litigation financing — the loaning of money to litigants or law firms by third-party lenders — should be regulated.
  • Insurance companies must be willing to fight. Too often, the choice to settle a case is a business decision that has little to do with health outcomes or a company’s ongoing viability. The certainty of a settlement is considered preferable to the risk of losing at trial. This paves the way for even more lawsuit abuse.

Let’s take control

This article reflects our personal experience, which we know is replicated every day across the country. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have come to view trucking companies and their insurers as slot machines. They pollute the airwaves with an endless onslaught of inflammatory ads. Tragically, the industry is allowing the plaintiffs’ bar to sensationalize and distort a good story.

Ultimately, the cost of lawsuit abuse will be passed through to shippers and consumers. It’s time for the trucking industry to take the lead in righting these wrongs.

Brian Fielkow is CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery and executive vice president of  Montreal-based The GTI Group. He is co-author of “Leading People Safely; How to Win on the Business Battlefield.” Fielkow received the National Safety Council’s Distinguished Service to Safety Award, the council’s highest-level individual recognition.

Robert Fuentes is a Texas attorney and founder of The Fuentes Firm P.C. He serves on the board of directors of the Texas Transportation Association and remains engaged in the Texas legislative process, advocating for reforms to protect against abusive litigation.

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48 Comments

  1. 8 times out of 10 it’s the car that is at fault..I drive a truck also and almost every time a car will cut in front or won’t use their blinker. But know matter what it’s the truck driver who is at fault…

    1. Your info is so wrong. I drove a passenger vehicle for 10 years. And 99% of truck drivers are assholes. They go 10 to 20 over the speed limit. Tailgate and cut you off.

      1. TC
        You’ve got a lot stupidity in your head! You say you drove a passenger vehicle and 99% of truck drivers are assholes, take a good look in your rearview mirror, you’re one of the biggest assholes I have ever read a reply from.
        My husband is a “PROFESSIONAL TRUCK DRIVER” AND A GULF WAR VET. HE’S DRIVEN TRUCK FOR 25 YEARS AND NEVER HAD A TICKET OR ACCIDENT OF ANY KIND. He’s constantly having to deal with four wheelers pulling in front of him without using their blinker, doing brake checks in hopes that he’ll hit them so they can sue him and his company and as for speeding and tailgating, well if you weren’t speeding they wouldn’t be able to speed either. The real truth about that statement is they drive the speed limit and you tailgate them. THE SIGN ON THE BACK OF THE TRAILER IS THERE FOR A REASON
        “IF YOU CAN’T SEE MY MIRRORS I CAN’T SEE YOU!!!!!”
        You make yourself sound like someone who has absolutely no respect for the ONLY people who make damn sure you have everything you need to live your life, remember what you do for a living couldn’t be done without the semi that delivered your passenger vehicle to wherever you purchased it from. Everything people like you complain about regarding TRUCK DRIVERS makes it harder for them to do their jobs, look at it this way, NO PROFESSIONAL TRUCK DRIVERS AND YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS WORLD WILL FAIL TO LIVE. TRUCKERS move the world all while leaving the families and friends they love sometimes for 2 or more months at a time (yes, mine does this frequently), eating, showering, buying essentials in truck stops, sleeping in the sleeper of their truck on a mattress that most people wouldn’t sleep one night on. Their trucks are cold in the winter and hotter than hell in the summer, if they want any relief they have to leave their truck running and listen to the noise all night (I’ve ridden in one for weeks and never got use to the noice or the tiny mattress that is supposed fit two but barely fits one).
        So please don’t compare what you do to what a truck driver does, from the comment you left you, you wouldn’t last an hour in a real truck! Instead of being part of the problem try being part of the solution. If you’re not going to do the speed limit get out of the way of others who are, back off (remember, legally if you hit someone from behind it’s your fault, of course unless you hit a trucker, then all the laws change), stop cutting them off and braking in front of them, you may think it’s funny but how funny is it when your irresponsible actions end up with someone being killed, not so funny anymore is it? I know, you’ll just sue the company and ruin the drivers life forever. You people think that if YOU cause an accident with a semi and someone dies that it only affects your family and loved ones, IT DOESN’T!!! NOT ONLY IS THERE A GREAT POSSIBILITY THAT THE DRIVER COULD LOOSE HIS JOB, LICENSE AND THE ONLY CAREER HE HAS EVER KNOWN BUT THE IMPACT OF KNOWING THAT HE KILLED SOMEONE EVEN IF IT WASN’T THEIR FAULT, WILL LEAVE A PERMANENT PICTURE, THOUGHT AND NIGHTMARE IN HIS/HER LIFE AND WILL ALSO AFFECT HIS/HER FAMILY FOREVER.
        Instead of bitching about the bad you think they do why do you and everyone else that feels this way stop trashing them and start thanking them for making sure you and yours have everything you need, want and the things you don’t. While you’re at home with your family and friends they are out on the snow and ice covered roads trying to reach their destination on time alive. YES, they do have lives outside of trucking, their families and friends are waiting for them to come back home just like me. My husband hasn’t been home for a holiday, birthday, anniversary or any other day we would have liked to have him home for in the last 18 months, how many did you miss????
        GIVE THEM SPACE, DON’T CUT THEM OFF, DON’T BRAKE IN FRONT OF THEM, DON’T FOLLOW SO CLOSE BEHIND THEM THAT THEY CAN’T SEE YOU, IF THEY HAVE TO BRAKE THEY HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING YOU ARE THERE IF THEY CAN’T SEE YOU, REMEMBER THEY CAN’T STOP ON A DIME, DON’T PUT THEM IN THE POSITION TO HAVE TO TRY. AND MOST OF ALL THANK THEM, WITHOUT THEM YOU COULDN’T EXIST IN THIS WORLD YOU WOULDN’T HAVE FOOD, CLOTHING, VEHICLES, HOUSES, STORES OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO SURVIVE.
        TO ALL THE GREAT TRUCKERS OUT THERE HAVE A GREAT YEAR AND STAY SAFE, WE WANT YOU HOME IN THE SAME SHAPE WE SENT YOU OUT IN…

        1. Amen! Way to go Sophie. And Thank your Husband for his Service to our Great Country. M.A.GA. GOD BLESS AMERICA. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

      2. TC, there may be good news in your message… You said you drove a passenger vehicle for 10 years… that’s past tense. Ideally all you do now is drive folks crazy with your dim witted commentary.

        The vast majority of truck drivers drive at or below posted speed limits as that’s one of the few ways left that they can manage their costs and stay in business. A business that brings even ungrateful people like you everything that you own and consume.

        Sophie, YOU ROCK!

  2. Been driving 15yrs.in tn.4wheelers still don’t get the cellphone law some co.put all the blame on truck drivers cameras watching drivers.its sick.drivers get fired over no seatbelt while backing under trailer forced to drive equipment that’s not safe.15 yrs. Pays the same as 6mo.

  3. These new cars driving around are welfare cars . when I was at a Toyota dealer people came in and said I’m a welfare recipient can I get a new car. THE TOYOTA DEALER SAID WE DON’T PARTICIPATE IN THAT PROGRAM GO TRY GENERAL MOTORS.

  4. If truckers want to have lower insurance rates. They should learn how to drive. 99% of truckers are assholes
    They speed. Tailgate. Cut people off. And camp out in the
    #1 lane. Wich is illegal in most states

    1. (T)wisted (C)oncept

      You just described 90% of the non commercial drivers and about 10% of the commercial drivers .

      Oddly the collision stats agree !

      So you got it backwards , 90% of truck drivers cater to azz*ole’s needs with a smile in every mile ! Since you can’t appreciate that , perhaps hauling rates should climb to compensate for insurance rates . Then when your loaf of bread costs you $10 rather than $2 , and your gasoline $15 per gallon , we’ll be seeing much less of you and insurance rates will start to decline , LOL !

  5. Due to all the hate I haven’t been able to even re enter that 20 year field and becomes me one of the homeless soon and will spit on the end of all your company BS! Graves.Dont spit on mine though, it’s a tough industry if you make it impossible for good and knowledgeable driver’s.

  6. Texas workers comp insurance and law is the worst I’ve ever experienced as an employee. Most doctors will not even see patients with a work injury, because the insurance companies control the entire process.
    If God forbid you need surgery, you’ll only find so few surgeons who will work in the network.
    Doctor’s know workers comp is horrible in Texas.

  7. You can start by making it illegal for attorneys to run bill boards near hiways as soon as a car driver reads it they try to tangle up w a semi truck hurt by big truck what are they they thinking. Ride w a truck driver u will see

  8. Or you could be like me and be begging to get help from the insurance company that’s supposed to be helping give me back to work. But all they have done is fight me and my treating doctors the whole entire time. This company is out of the state of Washington and by the way the state of Washington is full of criminals as far as I’m concerned. Last year I broke five ribs falling off the back of my semi truck due to a faulty strap snapping. I’ve been off work for a year with no sight in deal of when I’m going back to work. If you ask me it’s the insurance companies that need to be regulated heavily fined for infractions and jailed if committed felonies. The only thing that’s keeping me from going back to work is it possible hip surgery that I need to be able to walk correctly again and lift heavy weight. What the a hole Insurance Company won’t even approve the MRI my doctor needs to make sure what’s wrong with my hip. This company has used predatory tactics against me and my family threats every moving my benefits if I spoke out of turn. They have been caught lying to my doctors by my doctors confronted about it and then lied to cover up a lie. I could go on but I’m not going to bore you anymore

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