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Did Tracy Morgan contribute to his own injuries in NJ truck accident?

The issue of truck safety, while always an important one, received increased attention over the summer after actor-comedian Tracy Morgan was injured in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. The truck accident, as we previously wrote, was found to have been caused by a truck driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel after having been awake for over 24 hours, a violation of federal safety regulations.

The accident resulted in serious injuries for Morgan and two others, and killed comedian James McNair. For his part, Morgan filed a lawsuit against Walmart accusing the company of negligence in contributing the accident. His claim doesn't specify the amount of damages he is seeking, but does say he will be seeking punitive damages, which are only available in cases where a defendant's behavior is particularly egregious. 

In a recent court filing, Walmart responded to Morgan's claim by attempting to push blame back on Morgan for failing to wear a seat belt, accusing him of acting with "disregard of [his] own best interests." He had been riding in a limo bus at the time of the crash. The filing also said that Morgan's injuries may have been caused by third parties. Both of these statements are an attempt to deflect responsibility, even if they are more or less standard responses in such cases.

What could it mean, legally speaking, if it is found by the court that Morgan was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash? In some states, choosing not to wear a seat belt can lead to a finding of contributory negligence, which could reduce a plaintiff's award.  Other states consider such evidence to be inadmissible for the purpose of proving contributory negligence. West Virginia accident victims should work with an experienced attorney when pursuing car accident litigation so they understand not only this issue, but other aspects of the process. Doing so will help them to built a strong case.

Source: CNN, "Tracy Morgan: I can't believe Walmart is blaming," Topher Gauk-Roger and Kevine Conlon, September 30, 2014. 

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