Traffic and legal experts are calling on the government to regulate the compensation given to those who suffer mental anguish from traffic accidents.
In doing so, they say they are trying to better protect victims, provide judges with guidance and avoid unnecessary disputes.
Accident victims are increasingly asking for compensation for the mental anguish they often suffer. Such payouts are now made with few official guidelines and thus tend to vary greatly from place to place, according to experts speaking in the lead-up to World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which fell on Sunday.
In 2011, 62,387 people were killed in more than 210,000 road accidents in China, according to traffic authorities.
Of the 162 traffic accident cases heard from January to October in the Pingyin county people's court in Jinan, Shandong province, 131 were related to compensation for mental anguish, according to Li Mingjun, court enforcement officer.
A Hebei province man whose son's leg was fractured when he was hit by a car in July has been asking for compensation for the mental anguish the boy has suffered.
The 37-year-old man named Zhang said he is worried the injury will affect his 4-year-old son for the rest of his life.
"I'm handicapped, and I don't want my son to become like I am," he said. "After the crash, he'd cry all of the time and had difficulty expressing himself."
"I heard from my friends about how you can get compensation for mental anguish and I tried to learn more about that after my son was injured. I even talked to a lawyer about it, and then I asked for the compensation.
"My son must have been traumatized by the accident, so I think he deserves to be compensated."
Zhang Hui, 40, a driver in Beijing, finds himself in a similar situation, although the compensation he is struggling to obtain is for the mental anguish he himself has suffered since being in a crash in August.
"I know that this sort of compensation can be obtained under the current laws, so I applied," he said. "I was not only injured physically, but also mentally."
Zhang Zhuting, a professor specializing in traffic laws with the Management College of the Ministry of Transport, said the law does not contain many details about compensation for mental anguish.
He said it is important that victims of traffic accidents receive payouts, saying the money will also be a source of comfort to their families.
According to Zhang Zhu-ting's research, 72 percent of the civil cases heard by the courts last year were related to traffic accidents.
Despite the prevalence of such cases, China has no special rules or unified standards governing the awarding of compensation for mental anguish.
"The current regulations haven't specified how the compensation should be counted, which has also proved difficult for legal workers," he said.
He called on legislators to ensure that the amount of compensation increases in accordance with the extent of victims' injuries and disabilities.
"Injuries in China are categorized from one to 10, with one being the most severe," he said. "That can be used as a reference to determine how much compensation victims should receive."
Ding Limin, a professor specializing in traffic safety at Chinese People's Public Security University, said a lot of attention should be paid to how much money is being paid in compensation to victims, saying the amounts should fall within a set range.
In the past, many people did not know what steps they should take to apply for compensation for mental anguish. In recent years, though, far more have become aware of their rights under the law, he said.
"In Western countries, if victims have enough evidence or reason to ask for the compensation, the courts will support their appeals in accordance with various detailed rules and clear standards," he said.
"Traffic accidents cause a lot of harm, not only to victims, but also their families," he said. "Some victims became handicapped or suffered serious injuries, putting both them and their families under a lot of pressure."
He said it will not be easy to adopt standards that ensure that the amount of compensation awarded varies in accordance with the severity of victims' injuries.
"After all, identifying mental damage is a complicated thing," he said. "Different people who have suffered the same injury may still yet exhibit varying extents of mental anguish."
If a man dies in a traffic accident in Beijing, the compensation awarded his family for the mental anguish they suffer is 50,000 yuan ($8,020), according to Ju Xiaoping, a lawyer who works on traffic accident cases at the Yingke Law firm.
"Those who get handicapped in these accidents can also receive the compensation, but this is only a convention in the capital," he said.
In Shandong province, the amount awarded to those who suffered the most severe injuries is about 30,000 yuan, according Li Mingjun.
Yu Lingyun, a traffic law professor at Tsinghua University, said both amounts should be increased. He also called for the amounts awarded to be larger in cities than in rural places.