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3 Ways to Push Back Against Reptile Theory Before a Trial

Est. 3 min read

Reptile theory is a trial strategy that seeks to use the primal, inherent, and often subconscious instincts and fears of jurors against fleets in a crash-related trial. Since 2009, the theory has taken the trucking industry by storms, with a number of high profile Nuclear Verdict cases being won by plaintiff’s attorneys employing reptile theory.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies fleets can use to head off reptile theory before a crash begins. Three of those are:

#1: Proactively Address Driver Risk

Under reptile theory, if a plaintiff’s attorney can potentially claim, “You knew this driver could have been at risk, but you didn’t intervene,” they will. The best defense is to deny them the ability to make that claim in the first place. When a driver displays at-risk behaviors, safe fleets will assign a corrective action or otherwise intervene before a crash occurs and they have to go to court.

#2: Make Safety Everyone’s Priority

After a crash, every member of your fleet is on trial. Suppose a fleet runs a well-equipped and respected Safety department, but the actions of their Operations department do not perfectly reflect their safety policies. In that case, that fleet is at risk. Fleets can improve their safety culture, document their steps to improve safety culture, and ensure their expectations are lived out in everyday practice to combat risk. On top of this, it is generally true that an unsafe fleet is an unprofitable fleet in the long run, so baking safety culture into operations doesn’t have to cost a fleet anything.

#3: Organize and Analyze Your Driver Data

Some of the most impactful evidence a plaintiff’s attorney can wield against a fleet is their driver data. By sifting through a fleet’s training, telematics, HR, or other data, they can find one or several oversights, misentered data, or omissions that could indicate shoddy or inconsistent safety practices. In response, fleets can employ technology that organizes and analyzes their driver data, giving them a clear picture of what their data is telling them and giving them the confidence to know they follow their internal best practices.

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