A tragic car accident in September 2008 caused the death of Helen’s husband Ronny when the driver of a Dodge Ram pickup truck entered an intersection without yielding the right of way. The Dodge smashed into the passenger side of the Honda Accord where Ronny was sitting. As a result of the impact, Ronny suffered life threatening injuries and died at the scene in the arms of his wife. The driver of the pickup truck was cited for careless driving causing death. Helen also sustained very severe injuries and was taken by Flight for Life to a local hospital. Helen had slow progress recovering from her physical injuries, and had a very difficult time dealing with the emotional loss of her husband as well as her feelings of guilt and responsibility for her husband’s death.
Shortly after the accident, Helen noticed that her children were turning the other driver into an evil person and becoming increasingly angry and filled with hatred. She knew that this was not good for them and wanted to give her children an opportunity to speak with the other driver and express their feelings. Through the district attorney, she asked to meet with the responsible party and he agreed. Before doing so, she needed to be sure that he was remorseful, which she could sense after attending several court hearings. A facilitated meeting was set up for the parties and was attended by Helen and her three older children, ages 20, 24 and 27. The responsible party attended along with his wife. Each party was provided an opportunity to talk about what happened and how they were dealing with the situation. After some time, the responsible party acknowledged his responsibility for causing the accident and offered a heartfelt apology to Helen and her children. At the end of the meeting, much to everyone’s surprise, they all exchanged hugs.
Shortly after the meeting, Helen settled her wrongful death claim with the insurance company for a fair value and without a lawyer. She has since begun the process of healing from the emotional trauma caused by the accident. She has indicated that: “the restorative mediation process was essential, and helped start the process of being able to forgive him…it was the first step towards closure”.
Helen, injury victim
In a medical error claim, as reported by a patient in the COPIC 3R Program newsletter: “The positive nature of the program allowed us to heal rather than to grieve. In my case, the program helped to facilitate a reasonable agreement with the doctor. I feel that this gave the doctor an opportunity to address the issue while allowing us to respond in good conscience.”
After the tragic death of her son, Sandy has said that "using a restorative mediation process saved us from a lifetime of pain and agony". Before our restorative mediation, I was so full of anger and frustration and wondered why hadn't it been the responsible party that died. My son was in the prime of his life. So many questions racing around in my head, day and night. It was so painful and unbearable. I felt like dying. Why and how did this happen???
Several months after the accident, I got a call from the District Attorneys's Office asking if we would be willing to attend a restorative mediation session with the responsible party and his attorney. I didn't hesitate as I said YES. I had never heard of this before but was more than willing to try so we could ask him so many lingering questions. To our surprise (David's brother's and myself) the responsible party was EXTREMELY remorseful , crying and shaking. He even asked me if I would work with him when he gets out of prison, to go and talk to schools on the dangers of drinking and driving. I was so shocked and amazed to see how sorry he was. Much to my surprise at the end we were hugging and crying and exchanging addresses so he can keep in touch. My shoulder was soaked from his tears. It was clear that my sons friend who was driving the car that night, just wanted to say how sorry he was. The minute we walked out of the building, into the fresh air, we felt like we had been reborn. We were full of hope for our future. And because of that, we have been doing so many wonderful things to honor my Son David. We have created the David Mueller fund for which we are doing fundraisers to raise money to help student athlete's participate in track and field, who may otherwise not be financially be able to do so . The restorative mediation process gave us the opportunity to sit eye to eye with the person responsible for my sons death, and ask questions we would have never been able to ask. I am sure that we would still be suffering from pain, sickness and agony if we were not able to particpate in the process.
Sandy, mother of David
The power of apology. Several years ago, Angie R. was helping to set up a booth for a public event in downtown Colorado Springs for the media company she worked for. Unfortunately, the company who provided the helium tanks to be used to blow up balloons did not secure them. The tanks fell over and crushed Angie’s hand. The company admitted that they failed to properly secure the tank as they had done in the past. Unfortunately, Angie has developed a loss of dexterity. Angie hired an attorney who, after investigating the claim and documenting her injuries, suggested that the parties attend a pre-filing mediation. Although the parties arrived at a mutually acceptable financial settlement, there was still something missing for Angie: an apology. As part of the settlement process, the company agreed to give Angie a written letter of apology. Angie has described several times how important this was to her. In fact, to this day, she still keeps the letter as a positive reminder.
Angie, injury victim
In commenting about the use of apology, a successful claimant’s attorney in Atlanta, Georgia noted that:
These are but a few of a growing number of stories that show the success of using a restorative process to resolve personal injury and medical error claims.