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Parents Lose Child in Car Accident, Denied Emotional Damages

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Six years ago, Michael Garrison, 18, was riding his minibike near his home when a car struck him. His dad, Jerry, said his son was “barely breathing” and there was “blood flowing everywhere,” according to his testimony. His wife, Martha Garrison, said she screamed for her son, “telling him I was there and to hang on.” They waited with their wounded son for over an hour for emergency responders to arrive. Their son passed away at the hospital.

Any parent can understand how this event would cause painful and invisible scars that never heal. The Garrisons filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that the driver was intoxicated and driving on the wrong side of the road, and that seeing their child in such a horrific condition caused the Garrisons to suffer “grief, fright, shock, depression, loss of sleep and other problems.” However, since these were not physical injuries, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided that Jerry and Martha did not deserve compensation for emotional damage.


State Farm Insurance Company said that mental or emotional damages were not covered by the “bodily injury” component of their policy. A trial court sided with the Garrisons, saying that Tennessee law contained a broader definition of “bodily injury” that could include mental distress. Specifically, the terms “sickness” and “disease” could mean a variety of afflictions.

Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court sided with the insurance company, saying that “[I]n the context of purely emotional injuries, the phrase ‘bodily injury,’ as defined in the policy before us, is unambiguous.”

We are saddened by the Garrisons’ loss, and the insurance company’s refusal to compensate for damages that, while not physical, are still very real. If you are suffering from the loss of a loved one in a tragic accident, please take advantage of our free consultations to learn about your options. Call now at (615) 866-3938, or visit our site to learn more about traffic accidents.

“Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” – Psalm 58:11

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