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When someone dies in a car accident, the family members of the victim often choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused it. But in some cases, the blame ends up falling on the city or town where the fatal accident happened. That's because roads or intersections that are poorly designed or in bad condition can be extremely dangerous for motorists, bikers or pedestrians.

One case currently tied up in litigation involves a 12-year-old girl who was killed while crossing a street in Novato, California, which is just 11 miles north of San Rafael on Highway 101. The girl was hit by an SUV on her way home from school one day in late September and died of her injuries within two hours. Her family says that drivers typically speed through the stretch of road she was crossing, which has a posted limit of 45 mph. Their lawsuit also claims that the city's failure to trim the overgrown vegetation along the road contributed to the accident because the overgrowth obscures signage indicating the speed limit and the pedestrian crossing.

Police said that the driver who hit the middle school girl was not at fault, though the family's attorney is contesting that finding, saying the man -- a local utility worker driving to a job -- was distracted and speeding at the time. But the civil lawsuit's main focus is on the condition of the road, which is frequently used by neighborhood residents, bicyclists and dog owners because of the nearby bike path and dog park. If drivers could clearly see the signs for the trail crossing and the reduced speed limit, the family's attorney has said, everyone in the community might be safer.

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Often in this blog we talk about the difficulty of losing a loved one in a traffic crash or other accident. But imagine how you would feel if a family member were killed not in a car accident, but at the hands of those hired to serve and protect. That was the plight of a Kern County, California, family who was recently awarded $4.5 million in compensation for the beating death of their son by sheriff's deputies.

The family filed the civil lawsuit after a man with mental illness and drug addiction problems began acting irrationally one night in December 2010. Family members said his recovery had been going well up until that point, but his use of methamphetamines led him to begin making repeated frantic, nonsensical phone calls to 911. Deputies soon arrived at the home where the man lived with his parents, who later said law enforcement was justified in responding to the problem. But the situation got out of hand once they arrived.

Three deputies approached the man; another arrived later. They proceeded to shock the man 29 times with a Taser and used pepper spray inside the home, which caused some of the officers to be exposed to it -- a sign, perhaps, that the deputies weren't fully prepared to handle the situation. The incident ended when the man the deputies were trying to detain suffered a fatal heart attack.

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The state of California boasts some of the best vineyards in the country and even the world. California is home to 44 percent of the nation's bonded wineries, many of which can be found in the famed wine country areas of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. But with this claim to fame comes a less positive statistic: a high rate of fatal drunk-driving accidents.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there is a direct correlation between the state's wine regions and the number of people killed in accidents caused by people driving under the influence. Napa County, for instance, ranks ninth out of California's 58 counties when it comes to fatalities resulting from accidents involving drinking and driving.

If you've ever visited a wine tasting room, you might wonder how drinking even a few miniscule 1-ounce samples of wine can possibly lead to the level of intoxication that typically results in a deadly accident. Of course, if you've ever taken an entire tour of wine tasting rooms, the picture gets clearer. Although wine tasting rooms have dump buckets for samplers to dispose of the extra wine they aren't consuming, they're mostly used by aficionados and tasting judges, and almost never by the average visitor. If that visitor goes to a number of wineries, those samples can quickly add up to the equivalent of multiple full glasses. Once a group of wine tasters ventures out on the open road, they put other drivers and passengers at risk.

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Posted on in Wrongful Death

Traffic laws are in place for the safety of all people on the road, and can be fatal when not obeyed. An elderly Orange County couple was killed over the weekend in Temecula, California, in a car accident that appeared to be the result of another driver running a red light.

The driver of the second vehicle, a Temecula resident, suffered serious injuries and was taken to the hospital from the scene of the accident. According to a written statement from coroner's officials, the 74-year-old and his 68-year-old wife died at the scene at 3:03 p.m.

Police said the investigation of the car accident, which shut down the road for more than five hours, revealed that the Temecula resident hit the couple's vehicle while they were turning left onto another road. Reports state that there are no red-light cameras in the city of Temecula, but there were many witnesses to the accident.

We, as drivers, expect other motorists to adhere to the rules of the road, in which case everyone would be safe. In most cases, it ends up being the other drivers on the road that we need to be aware of in order to maintain safe driving on our streets. While in this particular accident, authorities say no alcohol or drugs appeared to be involved, it's important to be aware of other distractions and dangers on the road.

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The death of a loved one can be devastating to friends and family members. This is particularly true when deaths are the result of car accidents involving impaired drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, over 18 percent of drivers who were killed in a car accident had evidence of illegal or prescription drugs in their blood stream.

In some cases, damage awards from civil lawsuits may assist a family in dealing with the expenses associated with a death or catastrophic or serious injury. However, for some families, the best way to deal with the loss is to educate the public so that such a fatal accident will not happen to others.

A San Jose woman is finally able to see the resolution that she sought in the death of her daughter in the form of a memorial in her daughter's name. In 2006, a 20-year-old woman and her boyfriend were killed when their car was struck by a truck. The driver of the truck was diabetic and blacked out behind the wheel due to extremely low blood sugar. The driver blamed a malfunctioning insulin injector as causing his low blood sugar.

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