Updated May 17, 2022
When truck accidents occur, determining fault can quickly become complicated. Since many trucking accidents involve a major transport company, determining responsibility and liability come into question. Say there is an accident involving a Walmart truck crash. Is Walmart responsible? Is the truck driver? Who should be held liable in the Walmart crash?
The cause of the truck accident is also a major factor in determining liability. Truck accident causes are often much more complex than a collision between cars. A case may seem clear at first, but collecting information about the cargo, the truck, the company, and the driver are important components of making a case in a commercial truck accident claim.
On June 7, 2014, a Walmart truck struck a vehicle containing actor-comedian Tracy Morgan, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, and other passengers on the New Jersey Turnpike. The crash left Morgan badly injured and killed comedian James McNair.
Kevin Roper, the driver of the truck, had reportedly been driving for over twenty-four consecutive hours when the accident occurred, which is a clear violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.
FMCSA has established time limits for the number of hours a truck driver can operate a vehicle which include:
Roper had been awake for over 28 hours. Before his 14-hour shift, he drove his personal vehicle 12 hours to start the job. Before the accident, Roper was 20 mph over the speed limit and did not break in time to avoid hitting the slow traffic in front of him on the turnpike.
Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 168 million people have driven while drowsy, and about 11 million people said their dozing off resulted in an accident or near-accident. Drowsy driving is harmful, as we can see from the Walmart accident.
FMSCA has rules in place for this reason. Their regulations are enforced to avoid injuries and fatalities like McNair and his family experienced in the Walmart car accident. In addition to drowsy driving regulations, both FMSCA and the United States Department of Transportation has cell phone policies to avoid distracted driving.
Many company vehicle accidents follow the theory of let the superior answer, or the Latin respondent superior.
This strategy states that the owning company can be held responsible for an accident. Even if a situation may be caused by a truck driver, because the employer hired the driver, they may be held responsible.
In order for the let the superior answer to be legitimate, there needs to be proof that the truck driver acted within the company’s policy and the accident was unintentional. If the accident does happen within the scope of employment, they must meet company driving standards. Standards about personal activities and type of work vary between company to company, which makes each truck accident case different.
Additionally, a truck driver may be an independent driver. If this is the case, the company may not be held responsible. The hiring company does not have control over the independent truck driver. Each state has different laws concerning the relationship between driver and hiring company.
The July 2014 Walmart truck accident lawsuit alleged that Walmart officials were aware of Roper’s driving schedule. The complaint accused the retailer of having a “custom and practice of recklessly and intentionally allowing its drivers to drive for prolonged and unreasonable periods of time.”
In determining liability, many factors come into play. Taking a look at the Walmart car accident, the details of the liable parties include:
In many cases with commercial truck accidents, responsibility may also fall on:
Other aspects of the Walmart personal injury settlement were the behaviors of the passengers. McNair, Morgan, and some fellow passengers did not have their seatbelts on. The absence of seatbelts can contribute to injuries sustained. That the accident happened was not the fault of the passengers, but it is still important to wear a seatbelt to avoid more severe injuries.
Roper first plead not guilty to one count of death by auto and multiple charges of assault by auto. He attempted to delay Morgan’s lawsuit, arguing that evidence presented in Morgan’s civil case could be harmful to the driver’s criminal defense in relation to the accident. Roper’s petition to delay the civil case was denied.
Roper eventually plead guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter in addition to four counts of third-degree aggravated assault. For his guilty plea, he was let into the PTI program which is a pretrial intervention program. He had to fulfill three years of the program and complete 300 community service hours.
Morgan reached a settlement offer from Walmart in his lawsuit against the retail giant involving the New Jersey auto accident. Walmart announced the settlement on its website, stating that the conditions of the settlement were confidential.
Shortly after Walmart lawsuit settlements announcement, Morgan issued a statement saying that he was satisfied with the terms of the agreement. “Walmart did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families. I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably,” Morgan said.
If you are involved in a truck accident settlement, it’s important to examine the initial offer. Usually, the first offer from a settlement is less than you may deserve. Working with an experienced attorney can help when gathering evidence and calculating damages for a car crash lawsuit.
After the accident, Walmart CEO Greg Foran issued his own statement to the press: “While we know there is nothing that can change what happened, Walmart has been committed to doing what’s right to help ensure the well-being of all of those who were impacted by the accident.” He went on to say, “We are deeply sorry that one of our trucks was involved.”
If you or a loved one has been involved in a commercial truck accident similar to the accident at Walmart and with the company potentially at fault, contact us today. The experienced truck accident lawyers at Wilson Kehoe Winingham can help you through your entire litigation process. Fill out an online form for a free, no obligation case evaluation today.
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