Category Archives: Blog


A few weeks ago a friend came upstairs with me so I could show her something on my computer. On the way downstairs, she was ahead of me, so I did not see her fall — all of a sudden, she was on the floor at the foot of the stairs, trying not to cry but in obvious pain. I helped her over to the couch, put ice packs on her knees, and together we took inventory and determined that she did not need to go to the emergency room. Instead, I drove her home when she felt able to get up and made sure she got inside safely.

By the time I returned home the familiar refrain had begun. What had I done? Did I accidentally injure my friend? Was I to blame for her fall? I had to remind myself that the stairway was well lit and clear of obstacles, and that neither my dog nor I were close enough to trip her. Still, I worried that I had done something wrong. I’m not proud of the fact that I also worried that she might blame me. Would she suggest that my stairs were slippery or that my dog got underfoot?

My friend did not blame me; she went out of her way to remind me that she has a bad knee, which probably gave out as she was walking downstairs. She was injured, though — she broke a bone in her foot and must wear a heavy and uncomfortable therapeautic boot for the next few weeks.

I consider this preoccupation with blame, and my tendency to blame myself for anything bad that happens to anyone around me, to be a legacy of my long-ago car accident.  A child ran in front of my car — I wasn’t speeding or distracted, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it was my car that hit him; I bear a measure of responsibility even though I wasn’t at fault.

For years, I secretly thought I carried some darkness inside me that caused bad things to happen to other people. Why did that child run in front of my car and not some other car? Might another driver have been able to swerve and avoid the accident? These are questions without answers.

I am a scientist — I know the idea that I have a dangerous “vibe” or essence is ludicrous, but I believed it for a long time and still have to guard against these thought patterns. I also know that such ideas might serve me in some way. For instance, the notion that I am a dangerous person reminds me to be especially careful, to minimize the chances of future accidents. Also, accidents demonstrate that people have far less control over the world than we generally like to believe. It’s scary to acknowledge how much I cannot control. When I blame myself, at least I give myself back a measure of personal power and control.

Instead of ruminating about my friend’s accident and my role in it, I am trying to simply be a good friend to her — help her out around the house, walk her dog, listen with caring when she complains about the discomfort of the boot she must wear and how much she misses going to the gym. I couldn’t prevent her from falling, but I can control how I respond to her accident, so that is what I choose to focus on.

A note about lawyers

I often hear some version of the following question from CADIs shortly after their accident: “I don’t need a lawyer, do I?” I am not a legal expert, and the circumstances of the accident matter tremendously, but I generally advise consulting a lawyer sooner rather than later.

This advice often leads to disagreement. “If I get a lawyer, it’s like an admission of guilt,” or “My insurance company said their lawyer will represent me,” or, “If the victim’s family finds out I have a lawyer, they’ll be even angrier and that will make everything worse,” or, “I’d rather wait and see what happens. I’ll get a lawyer if I get arrested (or sued).” And, consulting a lawyer means you’ll have to tell the whole horrible story to a near-stranger, and that can feel overwhelming.  And, of course, lawyers cost money.

I still recommend consulting a attorney. Doing so does not mean you’re guilty, it means you recognize that you have landed in a very complicated situation, that the consequences for you and your family can be serious, and that you may not be thinking very clearly in the midst of this trauma.  A lawyer can help you in a variety of ways — by providing information, for example, about the accident investigation and possible consequences, by advising you on how to respond, and, if necessary, by representing you if you are charged with a crime or sued. A lawyer assigned by your insurance company can do some of this — but at the end of the day, that lawyer is working for the insurance company, not for you, and there may be times when your interests will diverge.

It’s important to find a lawyer that will listen to you and consult you at critical junctures.  For example, you should talk with your lawyer about whether or how to negotiate a financial settlement. Some lawyers will advise you not to express any words of apology, since that could be interpreted as an admission of responsibility. On the other hand, some lawyers will help convey such messages if the victim or his/her family are open to receiving them.  Some lawyers are knowledgeable about “restorative justice,” in which alternatives to financial settlements and/or jail time are considered, such as public service.  If finding the right lawyer feels overwhelming, you can ask a friend or family member for help — they want to support you and might welcome an opportunity to hear from an attorney.

Keep in mind that the victim’s family is also traumatized and their thinking will evolve. I know of situations in which, months later (but before the statute of limitations expired), lawsuits were filed, even though this seemed very unlikely in the weeks immediately following the accident.

In short, my attitude is that it is better to consult an attorney and find out later you didn’t need the help than to not have an attorney and find out later you did need the help.

Have you had good or bad experiences with lawyers? Write and tell me about it. Thank you, and take care.



For Family & Friends Who Want to Offer Support

Many of the people who contact me have not personally been involved in an accident, but are concerned about a friend or relative who was.  They want to know how to help. Here are a few tips.

First, I do not recommend pushing the individual to talk about the accident. If he or she wants to tell you what happened, you can listen with compassion and support. If he’s not ready, that’s okay. If you think your friend wants to talk, but is concerned about upsetting you, signal your readiness to listen without judgment, or offer a referral to a therapist or counselor trained to deal with trauma. Other well-meaning advice that is not always helpful — “You have to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible,” “You should resume your daily routine as soon as possible,” “You need to let your feelings out,” “Let me give you a sleeping pill (or buy you a drink),” “I don’t believe in true accidents — this must have happened for some reason.”  My advice — be careful with advice!

Second, offer tangible assistance. Let your friend know that you are available to help with transportation, baby-sitting, and errands. Bring a meal over. The routine chores of life can feel overwhelming after a serious accident. It may even be helpful to — gently — offer to accompany your friend to a lawyer’s or doctor’s office, since your friend may find that memory and analytical abilities are worse than usual.

Third, if your friend was drinking or otherwise impaired at the time of the accident, this is the time to encourage him or her to seek treatment. You might want to consult with a therapist or addiction specialist about how to approach this. While it’s important to offer love and support, it’s equally important not to collude in denying a serious problem.

Finally, let your friend or relative know that you love him/her and that the accident doesn’t change your feelings for them. You can do this verbally, in a note, or with a big hug.

Please comment– what did you say or do that was most helpful to the person in your life who caused an accident? And, for CADIs reading this, what did friends and family members offer after the accident that was most helpful to you?



January 22, 2014

Welcome to the website and blog for CADIs — those of us who have caused accidental death or injury. Many CADIs feel very alone, but the truth is there are many, many thousands of us. Social isolation plus a lack of good information and support made it much harder for me to cope after my accident. This website is one small attempt to spare others some of the fear, confusion, and loneliness I felt.

I hope readers will write in with their comments, suggestions, stories, and ideas. What has been most helpful to you, or to other CADIs you know? What advice would you offer a friend who accidentally injured or killed someone in a car crash, workplace accident, or sports-related accident? I will add your recommendations to the site, so we can together improve the resources available to CADIs.

If you are a CADI — please reach out for help. If you are a friend or family member of a CADI, thank you for caring. I look forward to hearing from you.

With hope,