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Turnpike crash kills New Jersey college student, injures friend

There was a noticeable reduction in pedestrian deaths in motor vehicle accidents between 2002 and 2010. Numbers fell steadily from more than 4,800 fatalities down to about 4,300 annual deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The tide turned in 2011 when the pedestrian death rate climbed, even as overall traffic fatalities continued to drop.

New Jersey recorded 627 traffic fatalities in 2011. There were 142 pedestrian deaths that year, more than 22 percent of all statewide motor vehicle-related fatalities. Comparably, the nationwide rate was 14 percent, indicating Bergen and the state’s remaining counties have been dangerous places for people on foot.

A Rutgers University junior became a car accident victim on spring break when she and a friend, a 23-year-old senior at the college, were hit while repairing a flat tire on the New Jersey Turnpike. The students were struck by a minivan that swerved onto the shoulder. The 21-year-old Latvian native died from injuries she received in the crash; her friend suffered serious injuries.

The woman who died was a finance major, who transferred to Rutgers last semester and lived in Piscataway. The injured friend was nearing graduation from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. State police filed no charges against the 58-year-old minivan driver.

Criminal charges aren’t a prerequisite for a liability claim against an at-fault driver. Although simultaneous criminal and civil cases do occur, a law doesn’t have to be broken for a driver to be found negligent. Accident victims and families often fail to realize options other than insurance payouts are available.

An attorney will review the circumstances surrounding an injury or death before suggesting whether a claim should be filed. Damages may be recovered for a plaintiff’s medical expenses, funeral costs, wage losses, emotional anguish and pain and suffering. Since claim preparation and evidence are time-sensitive, the earliest possible contact with an attorney is recommended.

Source: The Star-Ledger, “Woman killed in Turnpike crash was ‘go-getter’ Rutgers student from Latvia” Seth Augenstein, Mar. 22, 2014

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