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Is driver fatigue to blame for New Jersey truck accident?

According to the criminal complaint made against a 35-year-old truck driver, failure to follow safety regulations and driver fatigue are the cause of an accident that took the life of a comedian and left another comedian, Tracy Morgan, in the hospital. The driver, who was operating a Wal-Mart big rig at the time of the accident, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was released after posting a $50,000 bail.

Reports are that the accident, which occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 6, happened after the 35-year-old failed to get adequate rest. According to reports, the man had been up for 24 hours prior to the incident. The complaint against him alleges that he drove recklessly.

Investigators say the man hit a limo bus, injuring three people on board. Morgan was one of those people. The crash also killed one of those on board the limo.

Wal-Mart issued a statement standing behind its driver. The company says that it believes the driver operated the truck according to federal regulations. Those regulations require drivers to limit themselves to 70 hours on the road without taking any extra breaks. Normally, drivers are permitted to drive 11 hours within a total 14-hour work day.

In this case, a number of issues could inform decisions about any personal injury claim or case. Defendants might include the driver, Wal-Mart and any third-party trucking company involved with the work. Whether or not the driver followed safety regulations is important for the criminal case as well as the civil case, though plaintiffs might argue that the driver was at fault for other reasons if he proves he didn't drive outside of safe time limits.

Source: NBC News, "Walmart Driver Kevin Roper Pleads Not Guilty in Tracy Morgan Crash" Tracy Connor, Jun. 11, 2014

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Gary D. Ginsberg is a Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who has been recognized as an expert in litigating cases in the courts of New Jersey.

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