The Legal Investigator Summer 2011 - Vol.36, Issue 2 : Page 2

civil focus THE INVESTIGATORS G UIDE TO Editors Note: Shortly after the Spring Edition of The Legal Investigator came out, Kathleen Cunningham, the author of the cover story, Antidepressants Made Me Do It , had an opportunity to put her research to use. She read news reports about a murder-suicide in Great Falls, MT, in which a well-known Air National Guard officer shot his wife, a well loved 4th grade teacher, then shot himself. Several young children were left behind. To Cunningham, the facts suggested the involvement of an SSRI drug (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). But, the presence of SSRIs are not a part of a routine toxicology screen during autopsies, so the potential role would not be found. Cunningham contacted local police suggesting that the shooter’s blood be by Kathleen Cunningham A SSESSING D AMAGE tested for SSRIs, which they did. Later, through a pastor, Cunningham approached the mother of the dead woman. The family showed her the autopsy reports which confirmed the shooter had citalopram (Celexa, an SSRI) in his system at the time of the deaths. His blood-alcohol level was also notable at 0.16. “This information has the potential to provide the children with the comfort that their father was literally ‘not himself’ when the shootings occurred,” Cunningham said. “The children may now understand that their father was not a murderous monster, but rather a victim of pharmaceutical hell over which he had no control.” Cunningham said making a difference in matters like this is what inspires her as a legal investigator. “ 4 An investigator may be called upon to give an estimate of damages for a injured or deceased client. In doing so, investigators can widen their scope of services, thereby increasing their value to their attorney-clients. A major component of personal injury and wrongful death litigation is determining the damages suffered by the client. Legal investigators can provide that service to civil attorneys. Damages are often broken down into groups: Special Damages are non-subjective, monetary damages such as medical bills, repair or replacement costs, lost wages, etc. General Damages are subjective, intangible damages such as pain and suffering to which no exact dollar figure can be assigned. Punitive Damages are those damages with are paid as a form of punishment resulting from negligence, recklessness or malice. Compensatory Damages are damages given to make the injured party “whole.” For example, when a vehicle is totaled in an accident, compensatory damages would be only the fair market value of the vehicle and nothing more. the legal investigator

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