Photo: Brandon Majewski, via his Facebook
I should preface this post with the full disclosure that I was once hit by a car while cycling. Suffice to say, I've always been a bit militant about the ongoing Cyclists vs. Drivers debate -- which group is composed of reckless a-holes and which group is just obeying the rules. That said, it really shouldn't matter which side you're on or whether you've had an experience like mine. This story speaks to basic humanity, and not necessarily who was to blame for this particular accident.
Back in October of 2012, Sharlene Simon was driving her SUV after dark near Toronto, Canada when she struck three teenage boys while they were riding their bikes. 17-year-old Brandon Majewski was killed and his two friends Richard McLean and Jake Roberts were seriously injured. An independently conducted accident reconstruction indicated that Simon was unable to avoid hitting the kids who, objectively speaking, probably shouldn't have been riding after dark. Likewise, Simon presumably had functioning headlights, brakes and a steering wheel. Perhaps one cause of the accident was the fact that she was driving 90 kilometers per hour, ten kph over the speed limit (that'd be roughly 56-in-a-49 in the U.S.).
Regardless of whose fault it was, Simon has anointed herself as the villain of the story.
Last week, Simon filed a $1.35 million lawsuit against the family of the deceased boy, along with the other two victims, McLean and Roberts. Why? Emotional distress. Simon claims she's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and consequently is unable to work.
That's right, Simon -- the driver who killed a 17-year-old boy -- is the real victim here and so she's suing a dead child. The lawsuit claims in part: "They did not apply their brakes properly... They were incompetent bicyclists... [Simon's] enjoyment of life has been and will be lessened." While PTSD is an understandable consequence of such a tragedy, using it as a pretense to file a million-dollar lawsuit against someone you killed, accidentally or otherwise, is outrageous. Another possible motive: perhaps the lawsuit is in reaction to the Majewski family's $900,000 lawsuit against Simon -- not a difficult conclusion to draw.
The boy's mother told Toronto CVT News, "I’m devastated, I’m in shock. She killed my child and now she wants to profit from it? She says she’s in pain? Tell her to look inside my head and she will see pain, she will see panic, she will see nightmares."
Shocking and cold-hearted barely begin to describe how unconscionable this is. Accidents like this are rarely if ever prosecuted, absent alcohol, and adding the precedent of drivers suing the people they've injured or killed radically amplifies a "blame the victim" mentality, both on the road and, indeed, anywhere else.
Just to repeat: even though I suppose it's debatable who technically was to blame for the accident, it's undeniable that Majewski, McLean and Roberts were the victims, and not only will Simon have to live with the irreversible fact that she killed a teenage boy with her car, but that she's ruthlessly tried to sue his family rather than making amends with them and beginning the long healing process. Put another way: she's made a horrendous situation far worse by compounding the pain of a fatal accident with a deliberate attempt to damage the lives of the victims.
I hope she can live with herself. I know very few people who could.