Bryn and I have reached a terrifying moment as parents: Our oldest will soon be driving. We’ve tried to teach him that a second of misjudgment can forever change many lives. “A motor vehicle is the most dangerous weapon you’ll ever own,” we tell him.
Recently, we had the pleasure of representing a man whose life was permanently worsened by a sixteen-year-old girl’s momentary misjudgment. Our client expressed sincere compassion for the young woman, despite his life-changing injuries.
Terry was sixty-seven years old, lived alone, and enjoyed riding his motorcycle. He worked part-time, and was saving money to take his first and only trip to Italy. One day he was driving his motorcycle when sixteen-year-old Lori* turned in front of his motorcycle. Terry suffered horrific fractures to both legs and underwent dozens of surgeries, including hardware placement and extensive skin grafting. He may still require a leg amputation. His right leg is grossly disfigured, and he will forever walk with the use of crutches or a walker.
Lori had a valid driver’s license. She did not have drugs or alcohol in her system. She was not texting or using her cell phone. It was simply an act of negligence, but an act that nearly killed Terry.
Parties in personal injury cases are often strangers brought together by a traumatic incident. Occasionally one of the best ways to facilitate settlement of a serious injury case is to get the person injured and the person who caused the injuries together to meet and talk. Too often, folks on both sides of the lawsuit make decisions based upon anger, or are advised by their lawyers, usually correctly, not to have any contact with the other person.
I called Lori’s attorney, whom I had known and respected for many years, and requested that we hold a meeting in my office among the attorneys, Terry, Lori and Lori’s parents. We would not discuss settlement, but would have Terry, Lori and her parents talk and hopefully gain a better appreciation of all the people affected by this tragic incident. Terry expressed deep compassion for Lori, now eighteen, in college, working two jobs, and obviously a product of a loving home with a terrific future. With tears in his eyes, Terry looked at Lori and told her, “You made a big mistake. Don’t let that mistake define the rest of your life.” After they left my office, Terry said, “I have maybe fifteen years left in my life. This poor young woman has to live with what happened for the rest of her life. I only hope she doesn’t let this incident cause too much pain for her going forward.”
Terry is truly a compassionate and amazing man. Ultimately, we were able to get his case resolved. He will always remember and appreciate how difficult this has been for Lori, a young woman with many productive years in her future.
We’re still waiting to get a postcard from Terry as he sits in an Italian bistro enjoying a nice pasta dinner and a glass of Italian wine somewhere in Rome, Florence, or wherever his travels take him. Buon viaggio, amico mio.
*Not her real first name.