Over the last 10 years, nuclear verdicts have wreaked havoc on the trucking industry. Even if there isn’t a huge payout ordered, the consequences from these verdicts can include incredibly high insurance premiums and, in some cases, shutdowns for motor carriers.
Using the reptile theory, the plaintiff’s attorney will play on the jury’s emotions, encouraging fear and anger by attacking the reputation of a trucking company as opposed to focusing on the specifics of the accident. According to a FreightWaves article, these attorneys “have even gone so far as to create elaborate schemes to conspire against and sue trucking companies in order to maximize their profits.”
For just over two years, Bluewire, an artificial intelligence company, has built data software that detects carriers’ vulnerabilities and recommends corrections — thus helping protect its customers’ from nuclear verdicts.
“We wanted to create a new kind of data platform, populated with data that would be meaningful in the fight against the rising occurrence of these runaway verdicts, or nuclear verdicts, specifically driven by the legal theory that trial lawyers have recently adopted — also known as the reptile theory,” said Steve Bryan, CEO of Bluewire.
In the summer of 2020, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) conducted a study on the impact of nuclear verdicts in trucking. This study listed the top safety-related issues used by plaintiffs as “discrepancies with driver HOS or logbooks, a driver’s history of using a controlled substance, if a driver left the crash scene or failed to call 911 and any sort of driver health-related issues.”
Bryan said the reptile theory comes from a book written in 2009 by David Ball. It’s a how-to guide on using data to play on the emotions of jury members to win a case.
To best arm and prepare its customers, Bluewire deploys what it calls the “white hat movement.” Bryan said it’s similar to the role of a white hat hacker, an individual hired by a company to protect it from cybercriminals.
“We borrow this concept from cybersecurity. In the cybersecurity realm, companies get hacked by bad guys — they hack their securities, firewalls and databases and they steal card information and Social Security numbers by hacking into corporate, online properties,” Bryan said. “We at Bluewire consider ourselves the white hat trial lawyers. Our job is to help you be prepared ahead of time.
“The biggest challenges we see in companies are the self-inflicted wounds of fear, denial and overconfidence,” he added. “At the end of the day, they are going to tell the story that they want to tell — not the authentic story about all the things you do as a motor carrier to keep safe.”
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