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Injured Pennsylvanians Can Learn From Dear Abby Column

December 7, 2010, ERIE, PA — In October, we blogged about a recent Dear Abby Column in which a mischievous child (of unknown age) slammed a car door on an adult’s hand, breaking two fingers. The mother of the child says she felt terrible and apologized profusely for the harm. But when it came time to compensate the injured person for the harm caused (medical bills & lost wages) mom balked. She said she felt it was “just an accident.”

Abby wrote that mom’s attitude was “appalling” and that she ought to make up for the injured person’s losses and send the boy over to the house to do chores.

Today, Abby revisits that column. While most of her readers agreed with her position, some still don’t get it. One reader wrote that the injured woman’s request that her medical bills and wages be paid was “absurd…accidents happen, and people think they deserve cash for it.”

This is the attitude that Pennsylvania injured people face every day. People injured through no fault of their own are unable to work, facing thousands in medical bills, sometimes looking at a life permanently altered by injury and when they try to merely replace their lost wages and medical bills, some people insist on seeing them as just trying to get cash.

Look, cash is how we make up for lost cash. Is that so hard to understand? When you have to pay medical bills because I carelessly smashed your hand in a door, I should have to reimburse you your costs. When you can’t work because I ignored a STOP sign and T-boned you in an intersection, I should have to pay you your lost wages. Compensation is not about a windfall or a cash lottery. Compensation is about fixing what can be fixed, helping what can be helped and making up for what can’t be fixed or helped.

Fortunately, most readers understood this and agreed with Abby (and us). This general understanding of right and wrong is what makes our system of injury compensation (ultimately) work. But the opposite view, that accidents just happen and the injured shouldn’t get cash, is why so many innocent injured people have to hire Pennsylvania injury lawyers to get some measure of relief.

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