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Lawsuit Alleges City of Chicago Responsible for Lack of Traffic Safety Devices Following Four Year-Old’s Death

As a general rule, under Illinois law, the City of Chicago has a responsibility to enact and enforce laws to protect its constituents. This includes the duty to ensure that traffic safety controls are properly placed and in working condition, both for the safety of motorists and pedestrians. When the City fails in its obligations to implement these precautionary measures, and individuals are harmed as a result, the City may be legally responsible for the harm caused.

That’s exactly what was alleged in a recent Chicago wrongful death lawsuit filed against the City of Chicago by the family of a four year-old girl who was killed in a hit-and-run accident near Lincoln Park Zoo. Though the driver of the vehicle was initially to blame for killing the young girl, the child’s parents sued the City, claiming that stop signs and other traffic control markings and devices were improperly placed or had gotten old and deteriorated, reported the Chicago Tribune.

As the girl, her mother, and her six year-old brother were crossing the street at the intersection of Lincoln Park West and Belden Avenue, all three were struck by a black Lexus. The girl was dragged under the car as the driver kept going. Fortunately the girl’s mother and brother sustained only minor injuries, but the girl was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle who had not been implored to stop due to a lack of traffic controls, fled the scene but was apprehended shortly thereafter. The Chicago Tribune stated that soon after the deadly accident, city crews painted bright white lines on the crosswalk across Lincoln Park West and installed new stop signs. The intersection was later reconfigured to better accommodate pedestrians.

The Illinois wrongful death case was scheduled to go to court last month, but the City agreed to a settlement the night before the trial. The driver of the runaway car was convicted for vehicular homicide in 2007 and sentenced to eight years behind bars. While serving his sentence, he died in prison in 2008.
Nevertheless, despite the driver’s despicable actions, the City of Chicago still shouldered significant responsibility in the circumstances leading up to the accident.

Premises liability law is a significant branch of Illinois personal injury law that allows victims to recover after they have been injured on another person’s property, and the negligence of the property owner was the cause of that harm; here the ‘property’ would be the entire City of Chicago for which city officials have assumed care.

By and large, Illinois premises liability law may be triggered if it can be shown that the property owners or managers – the city, in this instance – either failed to maintain the property, created unsafe conditions that caused the injury, or knew about the unsafe hazard but didn’t alert visitors or tenants to this fact. Lacking in proper safety devices constituted a creation of unsafe conditions.

In order to apply to a set of circumstances, Illinois premises liability law requires a number of factors to be satisfied: the defendant must be the manager or possessor of the land, or “premises.” In this case, injuries occurred as a result of a lack of protection provided by the City of Chicago, thus the defendant was the City itself on behalf of the person or persons responsible for organizing necessary traffic safeguards. Additionally, the person or persons on the land of another must be injured by negligence or a different wrongful act; in this particular situation, because the driver was not commanded to stop due to the City’s inadequate traffic controls, Chicago was legally responsible for its role in causing, or contributing to cause the girl’s death.

Our attorneys have taken on the City in a number of other cases in which Chicago was negligent, even having won a $10 million settlement for a 5-year-old boy who was run over by a City of Chicago Fire Department truck while playing in an open fire hydrant on the Fourth of July, resulting in the loss of his leg and half of his pelvis. Though a lawsuit can never bring a loved one back to life, it is a step in the right direction for achieving justice, instigating change toward safer conditions, and making those at fault pay for their carelessness. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence of another person or entity, contact an attorney to be apprised of your rights under the law.