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.
Since the accident the family has moved back to New Mexico, where they lived before coming to California in August. A memorial fund has been set up in the girl's name to help pay for the family's expenses from the accident, but if their lawsuit against the city of Novato is successful, it would relieve the girl's loved ones of a tremendous financial burden. After suffering such a tragic loss, they deserve both the compensation and the relief of knowing that other people won't suffer the same fate if the road conditions are improved.
Source: San Anselmo-Fairfax Patch, "Family of 12-Year-Old Killed in Bike Accident Files Claim vs. City of Novato," Brent Ainsworth, Nov. 14, 2012
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