Never Again: The Little Things Really Do Count

neveragain-graphicWhen it comes to risk management, a few extra steps — literally — can prevent a tragedy.

By Michael J. Bemi

Anne was a devoted and highly regarded parish volunteer. She was well-known for her sunny personality, kindness, patience and reliably positive “way with people.”
Anne enjoyed working with people of all ages and from every station in life, but she disliked paper work and similar organizational activities. Accordingly, she readily volunteered to transport people for attendance at various parish-
sponsored events.
The parish itself was well-versed regarding transportation risk control measures, having received some excellent guidance from both its insurer, and also sources such as the National Safety Council, AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Consequently, the parish required that Anne comply with several measures to ensure her ability to safely transport individuals. These included:
•    Agreeing to annual MVRs (motor vehicle report – driving history checks);
•    Submitting a letter annually from her personal physician
that she had no physical conditions or disabilities that
might impair her driving proficiency;
•    Providing records of regular vehicle maintenance;
•    Submitting evidence of appropriate, high-quality auto insurance;
•    Agreeing — via written documentation — that her coverage would be primary to that of the parish, with parish coverage being excess; and even
•    Submitting to an “on the road” driving skills test administered by the parish’s insurer.

Anne was not disturbed by any of these parish requirements. She had not been involved in any auto accident for more than 35 years. She’d had no moving violations for more than 30 years. Her vehicle was only two years old and excellently maintained. She was in excellent health. She had voluntarily taken (and easily passed) a defensive-driving training program developed by the National Safety Council. And, her personal auto policy easily met all the required insurance standards demanded by the parish’s insurance agent. Finally, she and her insurer were comfortable with the requirement that her coverage be primary.

Bases covered? Not so fast
One day, Anne was dropping off an elderly couple who no longer owned a car. She pulled into their driveway, but not very far; they indicated they were happy to get out and walk up the rest of the way to their front porch via the curved entry walk that connected the porch to the driveway.
Anne dutifully waited until they safely entered their home. Then — after checking both her side and rearview mirrors, and then rotating her body so she was looking backward as she pulled out, she proceeded to drive in reverse.
She heard a sickening thud, a crunching sound and a scream. She exited her car in a panic to find she’d driven over a 4-year-old girl seated on her tricycle on the sidewalk, directly behind Anne’s car.

The tragic result?
First and foremost, a beautiful little girl is now a quadriplegic for the remainder of her lifetime, requiring intubation and stomach tube feeding. Yet, she retains undamaged and high-level mental capacity, allowing her to be intimately and perpetually aware of her diminished
state of life.
Anne suffered — and is still suffering — from extreme emotional anguish, depression, guilt and unremitting remorse. She repeatedly states that she will never forgive herself. Undoubtedly, Anne’s life is also forever diminished.
Finally, both Anne’s insurer and the parish’s insurers combined to provide a settlement well in excess of
$15 million to provide for the intense daily nursing care necessary to sustain the young victim throughout her
projected lifetime.

Small steps, big reasons
In an earlier article in this series, I made the point that risk control need not be expensive, cumbersome or unduly time-consuming.
While a back-up camera and / or radar would have prevented this incident (Anne’s vehicle was not so equipped), they were unnecessary. In this case, a simple walk to and glance behind the vehicle prior to exiting the driveway would have prevented a tragedy.
The little things really do count — so don’t overlook them.

Michael J. Bemi is president & CEO of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (Lisle, IL) — a recognized leader in risk management. To learn more about available coverage — and to get valuable tools, facts and statistics — visit

Upcoming “Never Again” installments will spotlight additional insurable risks — incidents that occurred in churches, plus the valuable lessons they taught all involved.


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