MOST PERSONAL INJURY CASES SETTLE OUT OF COURT
When comedian Tracy Morgan’s limo was rear-ended a year ago by a Walmart tractor trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike, one passenger was killed and several were injured. Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury that he is still struggling to recover from, and he and his fellow passengers initiated a claim against Walmart to get compensation for their injuries. A wrongful death claim was also initiated on behalf of the children of comedian James McNair who died in the accident.
There has been some public wrangling from both sides over who is ultimately responsible (the Walmart driver was speeding and hadn’t slept in 24 hours, while Morgan wasn’t wearing a seat belt), but Walmart settled with McNair’s heirs this winter, and yesterday they announced a settlement in Morgan’s personal injury lawsuit against the company. The details of the settlement were not disclosed, but Morgan and his lawyer issued a statement saying that the company “did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families.”
An out-of-court settlement of this type is typical in many of the injury cases we handle at Burnett & Williams, and usually it is negotiated with lawyers for the defendant’s insurance company, which will ultimately be paying the claim. As our partner Don Culkin notes in this video about the merits of settlement vs. litigation, “Very few personal injury cases end up in trial… If a case makes it to a jury trial, that’s an indication, perhaps, that one side or the other has not properly analyzed their position.”
At Burnett & Williams we prepare every case as if it will go to trial, but we always work diligently to convey the full merits of the case to everyone involved so that it can be fairly settled before the expenses and risks of a trial come into play.
In the case of Tracy Morgan’s accident, the lawyers likely made a strong case on behalf of each injured passenger that Walmart (and their insurance company) should cover all medical expenses incurred, lost wages and diminished future earnings, and pain and suffering. The two sides usually start with widely different numbers in these types of cases, but proper analysis of the case details, coupled with diligent communication will usually bring those numbers closer together, and a settlement can be reached. If not, the case will go to trial, where a judge and jury will analyze all of the relevant details and make their own determination of proper compensation figures.
For more on the typical case process in a personal injury or wrongful death case, check out our Case Process page, or give us a call for a free case analysis at one of our six convenient offices in Northern Virginia and the greater Richmond area.