In my previous post, The Enabler, I wrote about a young woman who failed to take responsibility for a fatal traffic accident that she caused. Her attitude caused even more emotional pain. Today I am sharing a couple other stories from my law practice.
I represented a woman I will call Tessa (not her real name). Tessa is a grandmother who has been married to her husband since they were teenagers. Her husband is retired. Prior to the accident, she was working part-time at WalMart. The subject accident was caused by a young man driving over 100 miles per hour, who side-swiped Tessa’s car and sent it into a ditch along the highway, “de-gloving” her right hand and causing back and hip injuries. Her medical bills exceeded $200,000.00. I won’t describe the details of her case. You will just have to use your imagination about what an excellent lawyer I am. Although I like to talk about that subject, I am writing to make another point, which is that there was another aspect to this case as well. In addition to my dealings with three different insurance companies for the civil case, the young driver at fault also faced criminal charges. I accompanied my clients to his sentencing for the “victim impact statement” to the judge.
At the sentencing hearing, after we addressed the court, the young defendant was given an opportunity to speak. He turned to my client, her husband, adult children and even some grandchildren who attended. He told Tessa and her family how sorry he was. He wept with remorse about the damage he had caused. That meant a lot to Tessa. She told me how much better she felt after meeting him and hearing him say he was sorry. Her attitude toward him changed. She lost the bitterness that she had been feeling. She forgave him. And that did her heart good. And his.
As another example of the healing power of forgiveness, I represented an older woman who had a premises liability case against Albertsons, a supermarket. Albertsons had fought the claim. We filed suit. We went through the litigation process, which included a settlement conference with a mediator prior to trial.
The vice president for risk management for Albertsons flew to Colorado from corporate headquarters in another state. He wanted to attend the settlement conference. He wanted to meet my client. He was a nice man in person. He told my client how sorry he was about what happened to her at his store, which was a bad fall into a display case, causing injuries that required back surgery. He came up with enough money to settle the case. After we settled, my client remarked, “Now I can shop at Albertsons again.” That was her neighborhood grocery store, but during the case against them she felt that she was not welcome there.
The settlement involved more than money. It allowed her to feel regarded as a person with a valid claim that Albertsons wanted to make right.
There is power in a sincere apology and acceptance of the apology with forgiveness.