I've been posting on this web blog about pedestrian safety. An alert came across my computer screen last Wednesday that is incredibly sad and for that reason I’m going to not mention any names of those involved.
No matter how sad this accident may be, it's still worth reporting on for the sake of avoiding other similar infant pedestrian deaths.
In my 28 year career as a personal injury lawyer I’ve done many death cases, but only two similar to this one. The one case I can't seem to forget occurred when I was first out of law school in the 1980’s . In that case a farm family had scheduled the local coop to spread anhydrous on a certain day. On the scheduled day the young man from the coop drove into the driveway stopping momentarily to speak with the young farm wife about which field he should start. It was a cool spring morning, sunny and damp. The mother had been watching her four-year-old daughter play on the swing set in the center grassy area inside the large circle drive that was to the side of this large and lovely Iowa farm. Standing on the driver’s side she spoke briefly to the driver. Without giving the mother enough time to locate the child the driver immediately began driving forward. The mother didn't feel right about how he'd started moving without her first seeing her daughter.
This spreader had those three-foot wide tall rubber tires; three of them to be exact. As this large truck cleared the mother she looked frantically for her child, but all she saw was the empty childless swing seat moving like a pendulum in the cool spring breeze. She paused momentarily not wanting to look but her motherly instincts took over forcing her to look furtively first right and then left. There where the huge truck tire had been was the lifeless child's body lying in the driveway. The three or four-year-old child had been run over by the tire of this agricultural implement.
Still today I’m terribly bothered by that case. As a young lawyer with small children at home I was emotionally shaken and didn’t relish the idea of even having the case let alone taking any depositions. Certainly the driver, who had fallen apart after he discovered what he had done, would be in certain anguish and make for a terribly difficult deposition. I was afraid I myself would begin to cry. I didn’t want to ask him any questions in front of the mother or to create a transcript that she might later, years later, read. I didn’t want to do any of the discovery and especially didn’t want to attend her deposition. At the time it was difficult for me to understand how I'd get through this case; but in the end it was the mother that got me through her deposition and in the process made me a better lawyer.
She was a young woman, and if I still remember it correctly she had one other young child. This child was a daughter. I do recall that, because at the time of the mishap she was wearing a light colored vinyl hooded wind breaker. The mother was a very pretty woman who'd been raised on a farm and after high school gone on to college. After college she’d come back to the rural county to marry and farm where they could raise their children safe from harm. As she herself had grown up, her parents had sent her to a finishing school where she had learned proper etiquette and poise. I remember distinctly how she sat in the deposition. With hands folded in her lap, her knees firmly together, spine erect and with a face that neither gave away anger or motive, she sat motionless. She was polite, answered questions directly and without any anger, no matter how senseless the defense lawyer acted. As he asked insensitive questions in rapid fire she paused as if measuring his insensitivity like she had learned in finishing school. She remained stoic right up until she described those terrible moments that followed the deadly events.
Looking back on it later that year I believed she was more concerned about us men in the room and carried herself with the greatest restraint of anyone finding themselves in that situation. I will never forget her; not in my entire life time. We did settle her case and I never heard from her again. But her memory still speaks to me guiding me through tough emotional depositions when a child is the person that tragically died. She is still a guiding force for emotional stability.
So this weekend when I read about a young man in a pickup truck stopping to talk with a mother of a two-year-old child at her mailbox and while driving away the woman’s child was run over and killed; it reminded me again of the 1980’s farm wife with the will to continue to move beyond her personal tragedy for the good of her family and the life the continued to enjoy. Like this mother everyone involved has to be grieving terribly. Second guessing yourselves won’t help you; it is best to simply move beyond this tragic event and be glad for what you still have.
Our readers should not simply ignore the lessons to be learned. When driving and you know there is or may be children near the car, truck, motorcycle, semi truck, tractor, combine or any other piece of farm equipment that moves, know where that child is before you put it in gear to go. Ask the pedestrian adult to assist with locating and maintaining control over the child. Put the car in park. Get out if you have to and look to find the child. If unattended by and adult ask the child to move where you can keep eye contact with them. Warn them to stay put; if they move you stop. It's that simple.
Tonight there is a mother grieving for her child. Tonight there is a driver second guessing himself for the six thousandth time. Our hearts go out for both of you.
This story was covered by the following news organizations.