Judith Sutherland: Have we lost civility in this country?


Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi, quoted in E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful

It has been said that when the story breaks, the ambulance-chasing lawyers rush in. It will soon be two years ago that my husband was injured in a car accident when a woman ran a stop sign and turned his full-size truck completely around in the road, fracturing a vertebrae in his mid-back.

When the woman got out of her car, unharmed, she immediately began worrying her plight. She admitted she was driving without a license, without insurance, and the car she was driving belonged to someone else.


Though the accident was clearly her fault, she seemed defiant and angry about how this was going to impact her life. When law enforcement arrived, she inquired which judge would hear the case, saying, “Oh, great. That judge and I don’t ever see eye-to-eye. I’m probably going to jail.”

The pain of the injury has changed my husband’s life as well as our lives here on the farm, especially after the doctors told him no more baling hay. He quietly has accepted doctor visits and pain that is worse some days than others.

Two weeks ago, our son was on his way home from work, stopped at a stop light, when a woman hit his car from behind, doing considerable damage to his vehicle. The woman was kind and considerate, provided her insurance information immediately, and was apologetic to Cort.


The biggest difference we have all noticed in this situation? Cort has received lots of mail, offering him legal representation, urging him to call various 800 numbers to sign on for his very best interest.

My husband, on the other hand, never received a single letter. There was no insurance, and nothing for attorneys to grab on to. My husband picked the wrong road that day in more ways than one, is basically the tongue-in-cheek moral to this story. Those attorneys are not concerned with the injured, only with the dollar signs attached to those at fault.

Several years ago, a school bus filled with my children’s classmates was involved in an accident with a car crossing the highway. The young driver of the car, failing to yield to the bus in the median, was fatally injured.


The very next day, parents of the girls on the school bus began receiving calls and letters from attorneys offering to represent the girls, though no one on the school bus was injured. I talked to a father of one of the girls on the school bus, and he was livid at the thought of an attorney trying to make money off of someone’s tragedy.

We have lost civility in this country. Will we ever get it back?

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.