This past week, a great example of how personal injury lawsuits progress was provided by beloved American comedian Tracy Morgan, as his accident case against Wal-Mart moves forward. The case is far from trial and no jury has been picked, but already the defendant is attempting to limit its liability by pursuing defenses against the victim.
Comedian Tracy Morgan (2008)
Image: Alex Erde, Wikimedia Commons
This happens all the time.
The defendant and his insurance carrier have the goal of avoiding any liability for the accident, or finding arguments that their legal responsibility should be far less than 100% liable for the damages that the victim has sustained.
Defendants will urge all sorts of things in the injury lawsuit fight.
There are defenses like the plaintiff filed his claim too late (i.e., failed to meet the deadline set by law in the statute of limitations), or that the plaintiff wasn’t as hurt as he claims to be (e.g., conflicting medical expert testimony).
However, particularly shocking is when the defendant offers a defense that seems so uncaring and callous as an argument that the injury victim is responsible for what has happened to him.
Sadly, this kind of argument happens a lot: slip and fall victims, for instance, will often hear defendants argue that just because they fell, they’ve got to be partially at fault (regardless of how blatant the slippery surface negligence may be).
It’s done for a reason. If the percentage of fault can move from 100% toward the defendant, to even 80% fault on the part of the defendant, then the defendant is looking to find a way to pay less in damages, if any at all. (This will depend upon how “comparative fault” is handled under the law of the state where the accident happened.)
In Tracy Morgan’s situation, reports are that he may never be able to take on a TV role, do a film, or entertain on a stand-up comic stage because of the traumatic brain injuries he suffered in the crash between the Wal-Mart truck and Mr. Morgan’s limo van.
Flying in the face of this news is the defense argument being advanced by Wal-Mart that Mr. Morgan is at fault in the accident because he was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.