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Police: Illinois teen's death was not victim's fault

Liability in a Cook County civil court depends upon whether a defendant is negligent. Victims of negligence are harmed by someone's wrongdoing. Negligent drivers may cause injuries or deaths intentionally or through omission of reasonable care. What's the legal yardstick for "reasonable?"

Negligence is a breach of the behavioral agreement between a person and the rest of society. A defendant is judged against how society believes a "reasonable" person or entity should act.

A Northbrook teen was killed in an out-of-state traffic accident recently. State troopers initially thought and then dismissed the idea that the 17-year-old driver was at fault for ignoring a stop sign.

A Jeep struck the teen's Acura as the car was crossing Highway 60 near Prairie du Sac, Wis. Reports say it is likely neither driver saw the other until moments before the fatal accident.

The Acura had been stopped in the right lane. A truck, traveling on the same cross street and going in the same direction, sat next to the car. The truck's position may have prevented the Acura and Jeep drivers from seeing one another's vehicles.

An accident reconstruction crew discovered that the Jeep was speeding just before and at the time of the collision. The speed limit on the main road was 45 mph. Evidence showed the Jeep was moving at 69 mph until the driver reacted, a little more than one second before the collision. The Jeep crashed at 54 mph.

Troopers said the speed limit on Highway 60 was well marked. Investigators are certain the Acura would have cleared the intersection if the Jeep were not speeding.

Evidence of speeding was enough for the Jeep driver to be charged with negligent homicide. A conviction could land the 28-year-old Jeep driver in prison for up to five years. The same proof could be used by the teen's family in civil court to claim wrongful death damages.

Source:  wiscnews.com, "Former Lodi man to face homicide charge in car crash" Shannon Green, May. 30, 2013

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