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There are criminal cases and there are civil cases. When family loses a loved one to a negligent driver they have power to seek justice via a civil lawsuit. It is up to the government if it wants to pursue its own, criminal case against a careless driver.

For a family who lost a mother and sister in a truck accident, they will only see justice done in civil court. They never even saw criminal charges filed against the trucker who is responsible for their loved ones preventable deaths. The money they've won and the message sent in the recent wrongful death verdict is what is left of their family.

In December 2010, the 55-year-old mother and her 28-year-old daughter were legally using a crosswalk when a semi-truck crashed into them and then proceeded to leave the scene of the California crash. Both pedestrians died as a result of the truck accident. The accident, according to the wrongful death case, was the result of the truck driver making an illegal turn when the pedestrians had the right of way.

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The accident at the center of a California wrongful death case consists of tragedy on various levels. On Feb. 1, a 41-year-old nanny was out pushing a toddler in his stroller when a driver crashed into the nanny and stroller. Fortunately, the young child survived the pedestrian accident but sustained serious injuries. The nanny, however, lost her life.

Since the accident, investigators have collected evidence and handed it off for the district attorneys to choose what, if any, criminal charges to pursue against the driver who caused the crash. As of this Monday, officials decided to charge the driver with various crimes, including vehicular manslaughter. She also faces at least one civil lawsuit in the wake of the tragedy.

The nanny who was killed in the California accident has two teenage daughters left to deal with their loss. They are suing the driver for the wrongful death of their mother based on evidence that suggests the accident was the result of negligent driving. The investigation indicates that the driver ran a red light before she crashed into the victims and then proceeded to drag the nanny and toddler by her bumper through a crosswalk.

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A man who hit and killed a pedestrian in South Lake Tahoe, California, may have been driving while intoxicated, according to police who are investigating the crash. Accidents like these are especially difficult for a victim's loved ones, who must go on with life knowing that such a devastating loss could have easily been prevented.

The fatal accident occurred Friday evening in front of a fast-food restaurant as a 51-year-old man attempted to cross the street. After he was found lying in the road emergency responders tried to resuscitate him as he was rushed to a hospital, but he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. Police, meanwhile, questioned the driver, a 49-year-old South Lake Tahoe man, and ultimately arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.

This wasn't the first time the man had driven drunk, according to police. The man had been previously convicted of DUI and in fact was not supposed to be driving at the time of Friday night's accident because his license had been suspended for the previous offense.

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While most car accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries, those involving pedestrians carry a much higher risk. With no protection against the force of a motor vehicle, people who come into contact with one usually suffer debilitating injuries. A recent pedestrian accident in San Francisco's Anza Vista neighborhood was no exception.

A woman was crossing the street one Friday evening a couple of weeks ago when a car drove through the intersection and hit her. But rather than stopping to check on the woman, the driver left the scene immediately. The woman, 50 years old, lay there until she was discovered and someone called for help. She was rushed to a San Francisco hospital with serious brain injuries that were said to be life-threatening.

Police don't appear to have found the person who caused the Dec. 28 accident, which must be frustrating for the victim and her family. An update hasn't been provided on the woman's condition, but severe brain injuries tend not to heal quickly. On the contrary, they can take months and even years to fully recover from. In many cases, brain injury victims never fully recover and often deal with radical life changes as a result. These can include regular therapy, a job change or even the inability to work at all. Many brain injury victims need medical care and assistance with basic daily tasks for the rest of their lives.

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A 51-year-old female motorist is accused of having been intoxicated when she hit and killed a male pedestrian. Police said that she was working as a manager at a facility that promotes sober living for its residents, many of whom have struggled with alcohol addiction.

The accident occurred in Southern California at approximately 11:25 p.m. one night last month as the pedestrian was crossing the street while on his way home from a social evening with friends. He was still alive and lying on top of her car when it eventually stopped. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but soon died.

Law enforcement officers who placed the driver under arrest stated in their official report that her blood-alcohol level had reached twice the allowable legal limit before the accident.

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For the most part, San Francisco is a pedestrian-friendly city. Public transportation options abound, so those who choose not to drive or own a car can get around fairly easily by train, bus, cable car or on foot. Of course, they still must share public spaces with thousands of cars, whose drivers are just as eager to get where they need to be. Pedestrians and drivers must keep an eye out for each other, especially as they use the same roads.

An accident that happened in San Francisco over the weekend appears to be the result of a driver's failure to see a pedestrian. A 54-year-old woman was crossing the street at an intersection in the South of Market neighborhood on Saturday when an SUV hit her. The vehicle was making a left turn at the time. Although it's not clear how fast the SUV was traveling at the time of the accident, the impact was severe enough that the woman was critically injured. She suffered injuries to her brain that are considered life-threatening. 

Fortunately, the driver, a 60-year-old man, stopped immediately after the accident and has been cooperating with police. It's likely that he wasn't watching for pedestrians as he made the turn, even though the woman was in a dedicated crosswalk.

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When someone is seriously injured or killed within a close-knit community, the victim or his or her loved ones are usually showered with condolences and offers to help in any way possible. A sympathetic community response can help people who have suffered a tragedy to recover more quickly. But when a car accident or similar incident is caused by another member of that community, the process of moving on from the accident can quickly become emotionally and financially complicated.

Many people think of personal injury or wrongful death suits as a battle between strangers. Not knowing the person who caused injury or death to a loved one makes it easier to press for financial compensation in a resulting civil lawsuit. The prospect of filing a lawsuit against a member of one's own community, then, is usually a difficult one. But the discomfort both parties feel doesn't cancel out the need for financial recovery on the part of victims or their families.

Consider the car accident that happened on a recent Sunday in the parking lot of a Daly City church. A 6-year-old girl was walking through the parking lot with her mother when they and another woman were struck by a minivan. All three pedestrians became trapped under the vehicle, requiring at least six people to rush over and lift it off the victims with the help of a car jack. The girl later died at a nearby hospital.

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Although San Jose has its share of pedestrians, it's not always the most walker-friendly. Many areas of the city are not designed for heavy foot traffic and car accidents involving pedestrians happen when drivers speed through intersections or fail to pay close attention to their surroundings. It only takes one failure to look for walkers or runners crossing the street for a serious crash to occur.

One such accident happened last month on San Jose's North Jackson Avenue. An 81-year-old woman was crossing the street in the early-morning hours of Sept. 12 when she was struck by a car. She died instantly from her injuries.

Although the driver of the Toyota Tercel that hit the woman stopped and cooperated with police, it's possible that the car was speeding at the time of the accident. Not helping matters is the fact that the accident happened on a busy stretch of road in an area with a high number of elderly residents. These residents usually aren't able to see or hear as well as other pedestrians, nor can they dodge vehicles as quickly should they come too close.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked California at the top of a deadly list. The recently released traffic report compiled figures for injuries and deaths involving pedestrians in 2010. Of the 4,280 pedestrians who lost their lives across the country, 599 were in California -- the highest number by far of any state.

Government officials said the statistics represent a 13 percent decline in fatal accidents from 2001. The numbers are less encouraging when compared to the 2009 pedestrian death rate, which was 4 percent lower than 2010. Pedestrian fatalities made up 13 percent of all vehicle-related fatalities.

The NHTSA studied the conditions under which pedestrians were killed or hurt. More than two-thirds of the victims were men. Eighty percent of the fatalities happened away from intersections and potentially protective crosswalks.

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It seems to be common knowledge that in traffic involving vehicles and walkers, pedestrians always have the right of way. This may not be wholly true -- pedestrians are still required to follow street signs and signals telling them when they can and can't cross the street, and for their own safety they should always cross at intersections, rather than jaywalk -- but as drivers and bikers we know that when a person on foot steps out in front of us, we have little choice but to slow down or stop for them.

Unfortunately, California consistently ranks at the top of statistics for pedestrian deaths. Almost 7,000 pedestrians were killed in California between 2000 and 2009. Although the fatalities were highest in Los Angeles County, Bay Area residents are not immune to this danger. On Saturday a pedestrian was killed in San Francisco's Tenderloin district when he was hit by a taxi cab.

According to a San Francisco police spokesman, a 38-year-old man was crossing a street just before 7 p.m. when a taxi ran a red light. But he wasn't struck right away. As the taxi entered the intersection, another car driving through on a green light broadsided the cab, causing it to spin around, at which point it struck the man in the crosswalk. He was rushed to a hospital where he died of his injuries.

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Drivers have a responsibility to be well-equipped to operate their vehicles. While it's illegal to drive mentally impaired from alcohol or drugs, it's important to address physical impairments, as well. Drivers without full use of their legs use hand controls to accelerate and apply brakes. But what happens when an impairment is temporary and these extra controls aren't available?

A 60-year-old man who caused a crash that killed a pedestrian was in this very situation last fall. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter July 19 for causing the car accident, which occurred in San Francisco's Castro District.

Having been diagnosed with a stress fracture, the driver was wearing a large cast also known as a walking boot when the accident happened. Because the cast was on his right foot, he used his left foot to operate the gas and brake pedals of his car. He hit the 59-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk while making a left turn. The driver testified on his own behalf, explaining that he'd been wearing the cast for more than a month and that his method of driving with his left foot played no role in the accident.

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Public transit drivers have a great deal of responsibility. They're charged with transporting large amounts of people every day in huge and sometimes unwieldy vehicles, in a variety of road conditions. And they must ensure the safety of not only their passengers, but the people moving around just outside the vehicle. It's important that they keep a close watch out for pedestrians in their path, who are no match for buses, vans and trains.

The family of a man who was hit by a bus last February while attempting to cross the street is suing the bus driver and the transit authority for damages associated with his death. The 79-year-old Watsonville, California, man was pushing his walker in a crosswalk when the accident happened.

Police said the driver was at fault for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian as the bus made a left turn. Vehicular manslaughter charges were filed against her in May, though it's unclear when that case is due back in court.

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The loss of a child is an incomparable tragedy, as any parent who has outlived a son or daughter can attest. When that death is caused by an accident that could have been prevented, it can be all the more difficult to endure.

The parents of a 15-year-old California boy who was fatally struck by a truck are suing the driver, claiming he was negligent when he hit the boy in October. The wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit seeks to reclaim medical expenses along with wage loss, funeral and burial costs and other expenses. But the suit also specifies the couple has "been deprived of the love, companionship, affection, society, protection services and support" of their son.

The flatbed truck struck the teen boy while he was walking in a crosswalk. His parents allege that the truck driver was not only negligent, but violated a variety of statutes, codes and ordinances. Their attorney said he received reports that the driver was going 50 mph at the time of the crash. He wasn't found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, nor was he using a cellphone at the time. Nevertheless, the family's lawyers said, the driver caused "great mental, physical and nervous pain and suffering."

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This month is a busy time of year for all of us. It's the ramp-up to the holiday season, which means that shopping season is in full swing. There never seems to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done, and the list of errands seems endless. We start to feel as though we're living in our cars, travelling from store to store, battling other cars headed to the same places.

But the chaos doesn't stop once we leave our cars and hit the sidewalks. As pedestrians, we battle all those cars still on the roads, full of drivers distracted by their own to-do lists. This distraction can lead to serious car accidents.

In fact, this month, there's been a surge of pedestrian accidents. The first two weeks of the month saw five pedestrian and bicycle accidents within five days. Three people were killed and two more were injured. One of the victims was a 67-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk. Just 15 minutes later, a man on a bicycle was seriously injured when a car hit him. Neither of the drivers had been drinking or doing drugs, and both cooperated with authorities. But the fact remains that people were hurt and killed.

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"Trick or treat!" is a phrase that is heard across the nation on the night of October 31. Halloween has been a tradition of fun costumes and buckets of candy for years. But for parents, one of the most frightening things that can occur on Halloween is not necessarily being startled by a zombie costume but rather watching their child become a victim of a pedestrian accident.

Parents and children are walking around, going from house to house in their neighborhood at night. It is dark and drivers may not be as aware of pedestrians on the sidewalks and streets. In fact, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the day of Halloween has the highest number of child pedestrian deaths.

This is a frightening statistic for anyone. But statistics also show that the risk of getting hit by a drunk driver is greater than most other holidays.

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