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Civil and criminal actions in truck accidents can be concurrent

Most New Jersey residents who are following the case of comedian Tracy Morgan are aware that he is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in a devastating crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in June of 2014. When the incident first occurred, it was reported here on June 18, 2014 ("New Jersey truck accidents: Tracy Morgan, others hurt, 1 killed") that a civil action could proceed regardless of the status of any criminal prosecution. Recently, the federal judge presiding over Morgan's civil action agreed.

The man driving the Wal-Mart truck at the time of the accident attempted to delay Morgan's civil case by arguing that it could prejudice his criminal proceedings. The driver is not a party to the civil claim, but his counsel argued to the court that he will nevertheless be "on trial" since he was directly involved in the crash. The judge ruled that he had failed to prove his case.

Another motion by the driver is still pending, however. He asked the court if he could be allowed into the civil action in order to defend himself. It is not known when the judge will rule on that motion.

The Wal-Mart truck he was driving plowed into the rear of the limo van in which Morgan and others were riding. In addition to the injuries suffered by Morgan and others, one person died. The National Transportation Safety Board conducted a preliminary investigation into the crash and determined that the driver was traveling at approximately 65 mph at the time. On the night of the incident, the speed limit had been lowered to 45 mph due to construction.

In numerous car and truck accidents here in New Jersey, criminal charges are often filed against one or more parties. This does not affect the rights of the victims or their families in the case of death. Except under certain circumstances, a personal injury or wrongful death claim may progress simultaneously with the criminal case. If negligence is proved, damages could be awarded.

Source: Fox News, "Tracy Morgan has won latest round in bid to sue Wal-Mart", Dec. 13, 2014

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