In his advocacy for victims of distracted driving, Joel Feldman of Anapol Weiss, also advocates a paradigm shift in how personal injury lawyers conceive and respond to families’ grief.
Mr. Feldman described in a contribution to the Legal Intelligencer how his own tragic loss inspired deeper insight into the grieving process of his clients and their need for information in wrongful death settlements. He explains that, with the best intentions, wrongful death attorneys often pursue swift settlements when auto insurers approve the maximum claim. They assume, as Mr. Feldman once did, that this is the best “closure” that they can provide a grieving family, however he advises that for a grieving family, "closure" is both elusive and frequently undesired—tantamount to forgetting their loved one.
Mr. Feldman advocates a shift in both procedure and attitude in wrongful death cases. First, he explains how his experience taught him the value of detailed information in comprehending loss and that he now makes a specific effort to obtain a written statement from the defendant addressing his client’s need for as much detailed information as possible. Secondly, he advises attorneys that in responding to their client’s grief, they must avoid suggestions of “closure” that may feel disrespectful to their loved ones’ significance and proscribes a deeper understanding of the grieving process that suggests seeking meaning through loss, a distinction that appreciates that a family can not close-the-book on their loved one, but can, in their post-trauma, open a new chapter that honors their memory.