They were friends and classmates, each girl 18 years old and two weeks from high school graduation when they went for a ride after school. The driver inexplicitly pulled out from a stop sign on a county road and started to cross a busy U.S. highway into the path of a semi-tractor trailer, which crashed into the passenger side of the car, instantly killing the passenger. The driver survived. Her injuries were not serious.
The parents of the girl who died belonged to our church. They came to me to represent them in the wrongful death case.
Understandably, they were grief-stricken. Their Christian faith and community of friends comforted them. Still, they struggled to come to grips with the tragedy. They wisely went to grief counseling. Their out-of-pocket charges amounted to something around $400.00. Money well spent.
We recovered all the liability insurance available. That is my job. They generously used the money to set up a foundation in honor of their daughter. The foundation provides scholarships for students at the university she would have attended; the driver did attend that same school where the friends had planned to go together. They had planned to stay friends in college. They had looked forward to that next stage of life. Sadly, that was not to be.
The young driver faced some charges. I think it was “careless driving resulting in death.” At the sentencing hearing, the District Attorney asked for some restitution. Although we had recovered substantial money in the civil case, the criminal case is separate. The settlement money came from the insurance company for the driver who caused the collision. The criminal case is for punishing the defendant driver. The parents of the girl she killed attended the sentencing. They did not want revenge. They told the D.A. they did not want their daughter’s friend to go to jail. I told the D.A. before the sentencing that it would be a nice gesture for the defendant to be required to pay for the grief counseling as a condition of probation. It was not much money, but would be appropriate and even symbolic. The D.A. agreed.
So, at the sentencing, the D.A. recommended that the defendant pay $400 to the parents as restitution for the grief counseling sessions. The mother of the defendant was also present. She addressed the court, “My daughter can’t pay that. She is in college and is in a sorority. She needs all the money she made this summer for those expenses.” Apparently, this mother had no empathy for the mother and father who lost their daughter through the fault of HER DAUGHTER. Apparently, she saw her daughter as some kind of victim for being asked to pay $400 that she would rather spend on sorority fun. And that is what she is teaching her daughter, rather than the hard lesson that there are consequences to one’s actions, rather than the importance of remorse.
The daughter who died in the accident did not get to attend college and party at a sorority.
Parents, teach your children, starting when they are around two years old, that when they hurt someone, they need to learn to say, “I’m sorry.”