In determining the damages that should be awarded to suffering family members, a court must weigh the evidence related to the accident carefully. The question may arise what evidence, exactly, should be considered? Are the circumstances surrounding the death relevant?A United States District Court case, Hammond v. System Transport, Inc., provided an answer to this question.
A deadly collision
On July 30, 2011, a semi-tractor trailer collided with a vehicle at the intersection of U.S. Routes 136 and 24 in Fulton County, Illinois. The collision killed both the driver and the passenger in the vehicle. The son of the victims brought suit under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, and, in part of the suit, sought damages for the grief, sorrow and mental suffering caused by his parents’ death in the trucking accident.
The question posed to the district court was what evidence was relevant under the law to prove the son’s damages for mental suffering?
The court noted that under changes made to the wrongful death law, the Illinois legislature had chosen not to define the terms grief, sorrow, and mental suffering, instead contemplating that the courts would make such interpretations. In making such an interpretation, the court would need to decide if the words referred only to the grief from the mere fact of death, or if the words could more broadly include the manner or circumstances of the death.
A family member’s violent death may increase sorrow
The court stated that anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the manner in which he or she died can be the source of a large portion of the grief that ensues. Therefore, it would make sense that the Illinois legislature intended to compensate for that emotional suffering. Just as a peaceful death might bring comfort to grieving loved ones, knowing that a loved one died a violent death could understandably increase the resulting grief.
Thus, the court determined that the manner of death was within the scope of the source of damages allowable for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering. The fact that the victims died suddenly in a serious trucking accident might make it more probable that their next of kin experienced compensable sorrow. Evidence concerning the circumstances and manner of the victims’ deaths was relevant and would not be excluded.
Compensation for grief and sorrow
The sudden loss of a family member in a trucking or other motor vehicle accident caused by the negligence of others is an extremely painful experience. An experienced attorney can seek the full compensation that everyone, including family members of the victims, are entitled to receive for the subsequent grief and sorrow.
The evidence that is crucial in a trucking accident, in particular, may be different from evidence that might be used to prove liability in other claims. Considering the complex nature of truck accident claims, it is critical that you retain an attorney who is experienced in this area of the law.