An article from a personal injury firm in our nation’s capitol starts by saying “Tracy Morgan Shocked By Walmart’s Accusations.” The article was an interesting read. The crash that injured Tracy Morgan generated months of media headlines. If you’ve avoided all news for the last few months – A Walmart truck driver crashed his truck into the limousine carrying Tracy Morgan. Morgan suffered severe injuries. Another passenger, comedian James McNair, died in the collision.
Morgan later sued Walmart claiming its truck driver had not slept in 24 hours before the accident. Did Walmart take responsibility for the collision which caused so much injury and damage? No. Walmart refused to take responsibility. Instead, Walmart played the blame game. Walmart answered the lawsuit by blaming Tracy Morgan for his own injuries. I have represented clients in the past with claims against Walmart. I’m not surprised Walmart tried to blame an innocent victim. In a prior work comp case of mine, Walmart initially claimed the accident never happened even though it possessed video of the event! Sadly, Walmart’s actions are not unusual. Too many defendants attempt to blame the victim instead of accepting their responsibility.
How do corporate defendants attempt to shift the blame? At first, the defendant ignores its own recklessness (like putting a truck driver on the road for 24 hours without rest) and falsely asserts the other driver must have contributed to the crash. When that effort fails, many defendants then attempt to shift blame for the actual pain and injuries. They begin to claim falsely that the victim exaggerated their injuries, lied about their condition, or refused rehabilitation.
Sometimes, insurance companies even hire IME doctors simply to create a medical record raising questions about the injured person’s motives or condition. Many of these injured individuals spent a lifetime working, are deeply depressed about their injury, and desire to return to work more than anything in the world. These individuals worked hard to recover. Why is it acceptable to allow the insurance carrier to create reports questioning the injured plaintiff’s motives? Why is it acceptable for an IME doctor to sit in an office and generate questionable reports? Many IME doctors simply use the same form in each case, changing only the patient name. Some of these IME doctors have no real medical practice outside the generation of reports for court. I’ve written previously about these biased and inappropriate IMEs. We even have a couple of these biased IME doctors in Huntsville and Birmingham who make lots of money simply raising false doubts about hurt people. In his book, Polarizing the Case, attorney Rick Friedman offers some great advice on how to handle these doctors who try to raise issues about the victim.
For some defendants and their lawyers, blame is a game. It should NOT be. These issues are very personal. For people who care deeply about their families and their work, it is devastating to face such an accusation. As the old expression goes, the defendant added “insult to injury.” It is wrong. We should not accept it.
Too many personal injury lawyers run from these accusations. Why? By ignoring false accusations you give them credibility. Instead, you should counter them head-on. Highlight that the defendant is not just avoiding responsibility but is also doing the unacceptable by blaming the victim. Don’t allow your client to suffer twice – first by being needlessly injured and second by being blamed for simply seeking justice.