The Chicago Tribune reports that a civil lawsuit brought against a teen driver in a “huffing” death car accident has been settled recently for an undisclosed amount. According to reports, the teenager had been driving in Highland Park when she lost control of her car and crossed over several lanes of traffic along Central Avenue ending up on the sidewalk, hitting a woman and her three children. One of the children, a five year-old girl, was killed. The family of the deceased girl brought a wrongful death action against the driver, alleging negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
In order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois, plaintiffs must allege that the decedent was killed as a result of the negligence (or other liability) on the part of the defendant. In such cases, the surviving dependents or beneficiaries may be entitled to monetary damages due to the defendant’s conduct. In this case, officers alleged that before the accident, the driver inhaled fumes from a computer-cleaning product, a practice that has become known as “huffing.” According to the authorities, a canister of the product was found in the car.
According to the Inhalant Abuse Prevention website, huffing is a serious matter. When people inhale chemicals, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, and rapidly distributed to the brain and other organs. Shortly thereafter, the person who inhaled the chemicals will experience intoxication. This has been described as a similar condition one experiences when drinking alcohol. However, with inhalants, the sensation of intoxication typically lasts only a few minutes. It is suggested that some users extend the “high” by inhaling chemicals, or huffing, continuously.
One of the most troubling aspects of huffing is the general availability of these “household” products. Some of the huffing products include: air conditioning coolant, computer cleaner, felt tip markers, gasoline, spray paint, air freshener, cooking spray, butane, glue, and paint, although there are many others. Because of the ease with which children and teens can access these items, the statistics concerning inhalant abuse are alarming. The data suggests that over 2.6 million children, between the ages of 12 and 17, use an inhalant each year to get high. Further, in the United States, one out of every four students has intentionally abused a common household product to get high by the time they reach the eighth grade. This same website also concludes that inhalants are the fourth most abused substance following alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
As we can see in the case above, the use of inhalants can lead to the death of innocent victims. Families of loved ones who are killed as a result of the negligence of another are entitled to receive compensation for their injuries. Before the Illinois Wrongful Death Act was amended, claimants were only permitted to bring an action for their economic losses. With the revised law in place, plaintiffs may now be eligible to recover for their grief, sorrow and mental suffering. Since each state’s laws may vary in any number of respects, it is important to consult with a local injury attorney who is fully familiar with the legal procedures of the Illinois court system.