DEAR ABBY: This letter concerns your advice to the mother of the young woman "Allie," who had been drinking and got into a car accident that killed the other driver. The mother said her daughter felt terrible about it and asked if her daughter should send a sympathy card to the grieving family. You told her that instead of a sympathy card, an abject letter of apology was more appropriate.
My daughter was released from jail last Valentine's Day after serving seven months of a one-year sentence. She was at fault for the death of a man because she tried to pass a car and ended up in a head-on collision. My daughter was speeding, sober and nearly died herself. She, too, was very sorry and insisted on sending the family a letter –- against her attorney's advice.
A letter will not make the deceased's survivors feel better. They will use it against her in court. The courts will punish Allie. That girl doesn't need a lynch mob; she needs to leave it alone.
Today my daughter wishes she hadn't written the letter. Accidents happen, and they change lives forever! -- LET GO AND LET GOD
Dear L.G.: I have a stack of letters echoing your sentiments on this subject. When I wrote my answer, I did not take into consideration that there could be legal ramifications. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: While I have no sympathy for drunk drivers, that girl should not contact the other family at this time. Although the mother didn't say so in her letter, her daughter, "Allie," will likely be charged with some form of homicide. Any letter she writes might be seen as an admission of guilt by the prosecuting attorney. Allie should apologize only when any trial is over. -- NANCY IN GAYLORD, MICH.
DEAR NANCY: Thank you for pointing that out to me and my readers.
DEAR ABBY: As a risk manager, I can tell you that putting an apology in writing would be detrimental to the girl in the lawsuit that is sure to be filed soon. Everything she says can and will be used against her.
I suggest that "Allie" get counseling for her feelings, and also enroll herself in an alcohol abuse program. Doing it before it is court-ordered will benefit her, and it will also confirm the guilt she feels. -- LUCI IN HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF.
DEAR LUCI: Counseling is an excellent idea, as soon as the girl is up to it.
DEAR ABBY: I can tell you from experience that the family of that victim will not feel better after receiving a letter of apology. It will only hurt the survivors by highlighting that the young woman survived, but their child, wife, sibling, etc. did not. Whatever peace they may have attained so far (if any) will be shattered and their emotions inflamed.
Speaking as a family member of a victim, I assume the other driver is sorry. I am not interested in letting that person unburden him– or herself to me or having any personal contact with them. It is almost insulting that the person would think a written note would make me feel better. (It goes without saying that cards should not be sent to the grief-stricken family -– notes only.) Your advice should have been that any kind of communication at this time would be inappropriate without knowing more of the facts. -- STILL GRIEVING IN HOUSTON
DEAR STILL GRIEVING: Please accept my sympathy for the tragic loss of your family member. And thank you for discussing your feelings on this painful subject. I retract my answer to that question.