Risky Behavior

Police state that a negligent motorist on Interstate 75 in Lamar County was operating a mobile meth lab.

Dustin McMillan told police he fell asleep while driving and crashed into a guardrail near the Highway 36 interchange. When first responders arrived, they found a functioning meth lab in the car. Crews in hazmat suits subsequently arrived on the scene to search for evidence. Mr. McMillian and the vehicle’s passenger, Jeremy Fulgham, were treated for injuries at the scene and subsequently taken into custody. They now face a variety of charges, including possession of methamphetamines and drug production. Other charges are pending, as authorities are still trying to identify some other substances seized from the vehicle.

The incident created seven miles of gridlock on Interstate 75.

Special Damages

Lawyers and judges often use the term “special” damages to describe the compensatory damages in a negligence lawsuit, because they are unique to that individual case.

Economic damages are one component of special damages. This money is designed to compensate the victim for the out-of-pocket expenses associated with the defendant’s negligent conduct. Some specific items include:

  • Property Loss: In most cases, the plaintiff can introduce evidence of replacement value, cost of lost use, and the item’s emotional value to determine the amount of damages.
  • Lost Wages: In addition to prior missed work, plaintiffs are entitled to the reasonable value of future lost wages if, for example, they may need to undergo future corrective surgeries or a disability prevents them from returning to their previous occupations.
  • Medical Expenses: By the same token, plaintiffs are entitled to prior medical expenses, like doctor bills and rehabilitation costs, as well as future medical expenses.

To determine future economic damages, an attorney often partners with an accountant, doctor, or other expert.

Most juries also award noneconomic damages in these cases, including compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Loss of consortium (companionship), and
  • Loss of enjoyment in life.

The amount that a lawyer demands to settle the case is very subjective, and normally depends on the probability of success on the merits, the severity of the crash, and the prior awards that juries from that jurisdiction have made in similar cases.

Punitive Damages

If the defendant’s conduct was so reckless as to constitute a conscious indifference to the potential damages, such as is evident in the above story, a jury often awards exemplary damages. The plaintiff must offer clear and convincing evidence that “the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”

In most cases, there is a $250,000 limit on punitive damages in negligence cases. That cap does not apply, however, if the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is no limit in a products liability case, but 75 percent of the award goes to the state.

If you or a loved one was hurt or killed in a car crash, there may be significant compensation available. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Fayetteville, contact the Wade Law Office. We represent victims in all Georgia counties.

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