In an unbelievable update regarding the dump truck that plowed into a group of motorcyclists--killing four innocent people--it was reported yesterday that the truck operator was under the influence of methamphetamine. In fact, police believe the driver to be an addict, meaning this reckless and abhorrent driving may not have been an isolated incident.
If this is true, as police suspect, this case has gone from tragic to unforgivably criminal.
Police reported that the driver had dilated pupils, a high pulse rate, and he couldn't maintain his balance. There was no evidence that he even attempted to break before slamming into the unknowing victims. It probably wouldn't have mattered, however, since three of his six brakes were out of adjustment. Did this guy do ANYTHING to be remotely safe? What about his employer?
Two weeks ago, a local attorney, beginning a trial in
Do you agree with them? Given the facts of this horrific truck-motorcycle collision, how do you feel now about this issue?
No doubt, there will be a slew of criminal charges against the driver: Murder or manslaughter, aggravated assault, endangerment, etc. But what about the victims and their families? What recourse do they have? How will they be compensated for something that can never be replaced? And how does this news about the dump truck driver's drug influence impact the victims' case against the man and his company?
In our first blog about this issue, I explained what
happens when a responsible party doesn't have enough insurance. In this
posting, however, I'd like to discuss what happens when the responsible party
is found to be extremely--and criminally--negligent in a case of wrongful death
and personal injury in
Compensatory damages are intended to “compensate” the
victims, or families of the victims for their losses. Medical bills,
funeral and burial costs, pain and suffering, disfigurement, lost income, lost
relationships, etc… are all types of ‘compensatory damages”. In most
losses—particularly as horrendous as this, there is no true measure of
compensatory damages that can be awarded. Money is not enough, and, no
matter how much, it is always too little. We would never trade our loved
ones for money. However, under the law in
Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to “punish” the wrongdoer(s). The primary focus of punitive damages is to punish the “evil hand guided by an evil mind”. However, it is not necessary for the existence of “evil”, and, that meaning is more broadly defined by the law. Punitive damages may well apply to reckless disregard of life and the well being of others, such as the intentional ingestion o drugs or alcohol, and then choosing to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and recklessly endangering the lives of others.
I'll be watching closely as this case develops, and I'll be
sure to keep you posted on the legal implications of the story as it develops
in the news. I have extensive experience in the areas of personal injury
and wrongful death in the state of
Our hearts go out to the families of the victims.