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Accident victim's family settles Chicago suit for $3 million

A settlement amount of $3.25 million to be paid by the city of Chicago will never bring back the life of a little 4-year-old girl. However, the compensation to be paid to the child's family will hopefully be the first of many necessary arrangements that the city will be making to curtail its troubling pedestrian accident rates.

The child was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on a street outside Lincoln Park Zoo in 2006. The girl's 5-year-old brother and mother accompanied the child and were also injured in the accident.

The 57-year-old driver responsible for the crash drove away, heedless of calls to stop made by witnesses. The defendant later told authorities he had not seen street signs or signals at the Lincoln Park West intersection.

The hit-and-run driver was sentenced to eight years behind bars for leaving the crash scene and died while in prison.

The issue of inadequate traffic markings re-emerged in the parents' civil lawsuit against the city. The child's needless death set off a public firestorm condemning city officials for ignoring the safety of pedestrians.

City streets remained unsafe despite the outcry. The state transportation department recorded more than 30 Chicago pedestrian deaths and almost 3,000 injuries in 2010.

The civil lawsuit included police investigation photos that showed the deterioration of the traffic markings. The images detailed what the intersection looked like before the city sent crews to repair and repaint the area, two days after the child's death.

Pictures noted that the paint on the crosswalk had faded after a reported several years of neglect. The stop sign was shorter than the city's own seven-foot height requirements. Further, markings at the intersection allowed cars to park too close to the stop sign.

The Chicago City Council Finance Committee settled with the girl's parents this summer, six years after the girl's death.

The negligence lesson was an expensive one for Chicago. The sacrifice made by the child's parents -- the loss of the girl's love and companionship and the deprivation of watching the girl grow into adulthood -- is permanent and will always be greater than the city's financial loss.

Source: articles.chicagotribune.com, "City to pay $3.25 million to settle Lincoln Park zoo hit-run case," John Byrne, July 24, 2012

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