Tracy Morgan and Wal-Mart: A Comedian's Tragic Accident Provides a Cautionary Tale

P. Christopher Guedri

Author: P. Christopher Guedri, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

The collision last summer between a Wal-Mart tractor trailer and a van carrying actor Tracy Morgan and his entourage is a tragic example of what not to do while on the road. The six car pileup occurred on June 7th and resulted in the death of comedian James McNair. There were also a number of serious injuries spread between the two trucks and four cars involved in the collision, most notably, to actor and comedian Tracy Morgan. As of this writing, both Morgan and McNair’s family have filed suit.[1]

Overview of Accident

The investigation into the cause of the accident is still ongoing, but early evidence  suggests the Wal-Mart driver was at-fault. Delivery schedules show that the driver was expected to complete a commute of more than 700 miles. As a result, he had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.[2] Unconfirmed reports that the driver was dozing behind the wheel continue to surface, but police have refused to officially comment on their open investigation.

What is clear is that when traffic slowed on the New Jersey Turnpike, the Wal-Mart driver failed to notice the stopped cars and plowed into the back of Tracy Morgan’s limousine. The Wal-Mart driver has been charged with both death by auto and assault by auto.[3]

Result of the Accident

After the accident, Tracy Morgan was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. It was later determined that he had multiple broken ribs, a broken ankle, and had sustained a traumatic brain injury. As with many brain injuries, Morgan’s recovery has been slow and his return to acting or comedy is still in question. Regardless of his future, Morgan says he plans to hold Wal-Mart accountable for what he sees as gross negligence. His lawsuit seeks not only compensation, but also punitive damages for the company’s failure to recognize and correct the amount of time its drivers were on the road. Wal-Mart is fighting back, claiming that Morgan and his entourage contributed to their injuries by failing to wear seatbelts.[4] The stage is set for a long and difficult courtroom battle unfolding in the public eye, potentially offering an opportunity to educate the public about the dangers of drowsy driving, the importance of hour restrictions on commercial driver’s and the protection seatbelts provide.

Conclusion

In this case, it appears that unsafe company policies, irresponsible drive times, and failure to buckle up combined to create a perfect storm of tragedy. The lessons imparted by this accident could not be more clear. Current federal regulations fail to prevent more than 5,000 deaths every year from tractor trailer accidents when simple enforcement could cut that number significantly.[5] The number of trucks on America’s roadways is increasing every year, and this case represents a unique opportunity to reform the regulations and enforcement procedures designed to keep us safe.

About The Author: Chris Guedri is an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, Virginia. He was named "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers in America for 2015 in the Personal Injury-Plantiff's category. Additionally, he is listed as a Super Lawyer by Virginia Super Lawyer Magazine.

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