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Family’s wrongful death lawsuit sought changes in street safety

When a loved one has been killed by the negligence of another person, it is perfectly appropriate to seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. It may also be necessary in order to reimburse expenses like medical bills, funeral costs and loss of earning potential.

For many plaintiffs who pursue wrongful death claims, however, money is not their only motivation, or even their primary goal. A lawsuit can bring about changes to make sure that no one else has to suffer a fate similar to either the victims or their families.

In late September, a family received a $1.12 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit, following the 2012 death of their 12-year-old daughter in nearby Novato, California. The girl’s parents stressed, however, that their lawsuit was not about the money – it was about safer streets.

In September 2012, the girl was riding her bicycle home from middle school. She was struck and killed by an SUV driver who had been speeding and driving inattentively. The family claims that the road itself is dangerous and that changes need to be made.

In 2009, a memo from the city describes the area near the accident as “heavily traveled by pedestrians.” It also notes that “classes and sports teams use the path” and “they often make mid-block crossings.” The speed limit at that time was 45 miles per hour. It was never changed.

The attorney representing the victim’s family has said that there are some simple and inexpensive changes that could make the stretch of road much safer. These include two additional stop signs, a crosswalk and a lower speed limit. Unfortunately, the city did not agree to conduct a safety review of the area as part of the lawsuit settlement.

Poor city planning can create hazardous conditions that make fatal accidents more likely. Although these hazards are not always predictable in the planning stage, city officials should be willing to respond to safety complaints from citizens and make changes as necessary. If they refuse to mitigate an identified hazard, they may be held liable for any injuries or deaths that result.

Source: KTVU, “Family of Novato accident victim settles wrongful death lawsuit,” Debora Villalon, Sept. 29, 2014

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