This blog frequently mentions wrongful death as a cause of action arising from an accident in which one or more individuals were killed. A common question is the value of a wrongful death claim; is it worth as much as a claim for serious bodily injury, lost income and extensive medical expenses? A recent jury verdict in Detroit has provided a partial answer to this question. Depending on the skills and talents of the decedent, damages in a wrongful death verdict can be substantial.
The facts of the case
In the case in question, a talented baseball player from New Jersey and his father died in a collision with a semi tractor-trailer in a construction zone on I-75. Plaintiffs uncovered evidence that the driver of the truck was careless, that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and that he had several other physical ailments that should have caused his employer to restrict his driving.
The young man who died was only 20 years old and had shown himself to be a promising pitcher. At the time of his death, he had enrolled in Florida State University and was attracting the attention of major league scouts. After the crash, the player’s high school said that the boy’s jersey number would be retired.
The response of Challenger Motor Freight
The semi tractor-trailer was owned and operated by Challenger Motor Freight. The company had acknowledged fault for the accident but decided to submit the issue of damages to the jury. The company, which is based in Canada, offered condolences to the family but nevertheless announced its intention to appeal the damage award. Its attorney described the accident as “tragic” but said that the verdict is “highly excessive for several reasons.”
Who is liable?
The defendant’s decision to concede liability and restrict the case to damages was most likely a tactical choice intended to keep the facts of the accident hidden from the jury, probably in the belief that the fairly obvious fault of the company would only exacerbate the amount of damages. Such cases can usually benefit from the eye of an experienced personal injury attorney.