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Walmart Truck Accidents

Updated February 26, 2024 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

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. Suppose there is an accident involving a Walmart truck crash. Is Walmart responsible? Is it the truck driver? Who should be held liable?

The cause of the truck accident is a significant factor in determining liability. Truck accidents are often much more complex than a collision between cars. A case may seem straightforward 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.

National Truck Accident Laws

Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 168 million people have driven while drowsy. About 11 million people said their dozing off resulted in an accident or near-accident. Drowsy driving is harmful, as we will see from the Walmart accident involving Tracy Morgan, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, and other passengers explained later in this article. 

FMCSA has rules in place, and its regulations are enforced to avoid injuries and fatalities. In addition to drowsy driving regulations, FMCSA and the United States Department of Transportation have cell phone policies to prevent distracted driving.

Commercial Truck Liability Insurance Laws

According to Indiana law, commercial vehicles must have insurance policies according to the following guidelines:

  • For-hire carriers transporting nonhazardous property in vehicles with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more must have at least $750,000 of coverage.
  • For-hire carriers transporting nonhazardous property in vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less must have at least $300,000 of coverage.
  • Private and for-hire carriers transporting hazardous materials must have $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 of coverage. 

You may be able to recover significant benefits if your attorney can prove that the truck driver or company was solely responsible for your injuries. At Wilson Kehoe Winingham, we are committed to improving your life by pursuing legal damages from the liable party. 

How Is Commercial Truck Insurance Different From Car Insurance?

Trucks typically have a higher safety rating than cars. However, the price of truck insurance coverage is often higher because of the damage they can cause. Large commercial semi-trucks often cause more injury and property damage in collisions than cars. 

Truck insurance policies must be able to cover more catastrophic accidents. 

Roper and the Tracy Morgan Lawsuit

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 truck’s driver, 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 including:

  • 14-hour window rule: drivers cannot be on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours with a 10-hour break in between
  • 11-hour window rule: after their 10-hour break following a 14-hour shift, a driver can drive only 11 hours
  • 30-minute break rule: A driver must take a 30-minute break minimum for every 8 hours of driving
  • 60/70-hour rule: If a driver is on duty for seven days, they can only work 60 hours; if duty is eight days, they can only drive 70 hours
  • Sleeper Berth Rule: drivers must spend 7 hours in a sleeper berth and another 3 hours off duty 

Roper had been awake for over 28 hours. Before his 14-hour shift, he drove his personal vehicle for 12 hours to start the job. Prior to the accident, Roper was 20 mph over the speed limit and did not brake in time to avoid hitting the slow traffic in front of him on the turnpike.

What Makes Accidents Like the Walmart Crash So Complicated?

Many company vehicle accidents follow the theory of respondeat superior or “let the superior answer.”

According to this strategy, the owning company can be held liable in the event of an accident. Even if a truck driver causes the situation, the company may be held responsible because the company employed the driver.

In order for this argument 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 happens within the employment scope, they must meet company driving standards. Standards about personal activities and type of work vary between companies, making each truck accident case unique.

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 a driver and their hiring company.

Determining Fault/Liability in Commercial Truck Accidents

In determining liability, many factors come into play. Taking a look at the Walmart car accident, the details of the liable parties include:

  • Roper, who was the truck driver
  • Walmart, the company involved in the truck accident

In many cases with commercial truck accidents, responsibility may also fall on:

  • The vehicle owner who the company leased from
  • Vehicle manufacturer if a manufacturing error elicited the accident
  • The truck loaders if improper loading contributed to the accident

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.”

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. Although the accident was not the passenger’s fault, it is still important to wear a seatbelt to avoid more severe injuries.

Negotiating Settlement Offers With Large Companies

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’s lawsuit settlement 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.”

Possible Compensatory Damages After a Truck Accident

Truck accidents can lead to serious injuries and expensive medical bills. If you are involved in a severe crash, you may be eligible for compensation from the liable party. Typically, that compensation comes in the form of special and general compensatory damages.

Special compensatory damages after a truck accident include expenses with a set monetary value: any vehicle repairs, medical bills, or lost wages. 

General compensatory damages after a truck accident are more subjective. These benefits are paid for issues like emotional and physical suffering. Since there is no specific amount to be compensated, a lawyer must negotiate how much a victim deserves. 

Truck Accident Punitive Damages

Commercial truck accident victims are also more likely to recover punitive damages. When dealing with a large company or corporation, the accident may indicate a larger negligence pattern. A business may be ignoring regulations to save money. Punitive fines often result in significant compensation for the victim. 

Avoiding Commercial Truck Accidents

It’s not rare that large commercial companies will show a disregard for the safety of non-employee truckers. Retailers like Walmart are getting better at protecting their internal employees but still use abusive trucking practices when it comes to third-party truckers. 

As a driver on the road, it can be difficult to tell how long a truck operator has been awake. If you see any signs of drowsy driving, you should give the truck ample space and spend minimal time around it. If you are confident that the truck driver is a hazard, it’s okay to call the police to prevent any major crashes. 

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney at Wilson Kehoe Winingham

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. 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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