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Death Notification Can Result in Trauma for Survivors of Drunk-Driving Accidents in Massachusetts, Nationwide

Families who get the news that a family member or other loved one has been killed in a drunk driving accident in Worcester, Brockton, Waltham or elsewhere in the state can’t usually take the news standing up. If you have never experienced it, it must certainly feel like a knife piercing through your heart.
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In many cases, local police officers or state law enforcement officials are the ones who have to deliver the excruciating news to a family. Sadly, most of them aren’t trained in how to offer condolences or remorseful news.

Essex County drunk driving accident lawyers experience working with a family or victims of a drunk-driving accident long after the initial blow has been delivered so we can only imagine what the first few minutes are like for family members. In our experience, family members are devastated and want justice served which is nothing short of understandable.

According to an article in USA Today, how you deliver the news is critical in how soon a person or family can begin to recover from the pain of losing a loved one. Last year, a minimum of 32,788 people, often a spouse, parent, sibling or partner, had to be notified that a loved one was killed in a car accident. A third of these deaths were caused by a drunk driver.

A professor of grief counseling at the University of Georgia has studied death notifications for 14 years, and finds the way a person is told can reduce the amount of trauma they may feel in learning the news. For example, if a police officer is abrupt, holds back information, lacks empathy, is unavailable, gives the news over the phone rather than in-person, or offers misinformation it can cause a family member or loved one to be more traumatized.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has taken strides to help prepare officers to deliver the sad news to family members. A study by the University of Florida in 2001 found that 41 percent of death notifiers had no classroom or experiential training for informing family members that a loved one had been killed in an accident. In the group studied, 70 percent admitted they had already served a minimum of one death notification.

Since 1988, MADD has been working with police officers and training them in death notification. In 1995, the organization received a grant to develop a standardized death notification training program which now trains between 700 to 1,400 police officers annually.

MADD death notification training includes:

-Offering 4-5 hour training sessions to law enforcement officials on how to notify a family in-person when a loved one has been killed in a drunk-driving or other car-related accident. This includes tools or practices that have reduced trauma in telling families in the past.

-Development of a wallet/pocket card that police officers can hand to survivors or victims of drunk driving when they want to speak to someone from MADD.

-A national conference that offers sessions on death notification basics specific to law enforcement officers.

MADD is also hoping to launch an online course by October 2012 that will help first responders, medical personnel, social workers and police officers to learn compassion when delivering death notifications.

Contact the Massachusetts drunk-driving accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC if you or a loved one is a victim of a drunk-driving accident in Boston or the surrounding areas. Call 1-877-617-5333 for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your case.

Additional Resources:
Police trained in delivering tragic news, by Larry Copeland, USA Today.

More Blog Entries:
Take the Pledge to Help Prevent Drunk-Driving Accidents in Boston and Maybe Win Some Cool NFL Gear, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, November 3, 2011.

State Troopers’ Efforts to Curb Drunk Driving Accidents in Massachusetts, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, October 25, 2011.