San Francisco residents and visitors to the city take safety seriously. The beautiful weather, beautifully decorated streets and amazing sights make the city one of the most popular for pedestrians. People understand that pedestrian accidents can be deadly, which is why most follow the laws set to protect them.
Pedestrians -- and our blog -- have been following a particularly noteworthy fatal accident involving a San Francisco bicyclist and pedestrians walking in the designated crosswalk. As time goes by, more evidence is coming to light which has caused the prosecutor to call the cyclist's actions grossly negligent.
The prosecutor announced this week that he plans to follow felony vehicular manslaughter charges against the cyclist who plowed through several pedestrians walking in a crosswalk, killing a 71-year-old man.
In accidents such as these, the actions prior to the crash are as indicative of negligence as the direct cause of the collision. In this instance, the light may have been yellow while the cyclist was in the intersection. However, several eyewitnesses have reported seeing the cyclist run several red lights prior to the crash. Evidence such as this could show a lack of care or reckless disregard for the rules of the road enacted to prevent accidents.
Although civil lawsuits and criminal trials vary in terms of structure and results, similar evidence is used in both. Whether the light was red, whether there was alcohol in the system, the speed of the negligent actor and many other pieces of evidence help a jury make a determination whether it is guilt or negligence. Civil lawsuits actually have a lower burden of proof than a criminal conviction's "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Many victims or surviving family members choose to file a civil suit regardless of any criminal sanctions. It is the civil suit that often helps bring them the closure they need. Civil suits do something else though; they provide compensation that is focused on helping the victim.
Source: San Francisco Gate, "S.F. bicyclist in fatal crash may face felony," Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, April 25, 2012