WHITEWATER — The wife of a Racine man who “suffered terribly” before dying weeks after a crash at U.S. Highway 12 and County Highway N near Whitewater will file a claim for damages, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Two fatal crashes at that intersection in early August 2019 brought safety improvements to the forefront for state, county and city officials, who have since added yellow flashing lights to help motorists turn safely.
Locals have been long wary of the intersection, and some say that action did not come soon enough. That chorus of voices now formally includes Tabathia Volk, wife of Robert J. Volk, who died weeks after an Aug. 9 crash.
“Everybody was aware that there was a problem with this intersection,” Kristin Cafferty, a lawyer representing Tabathia, said Wednesday.
“Something should have been done. This accident could have been avoided, and Mr. Volk could be alive today.”
On Dec. 6, 2019, Cafferty filed a notice of circumstances of claim with Walworth County. The county’s executive committee discussed it and other legal matters in closed session Monday.
While the legal document is not a claim for damages, Cafferty said it was filed to preserve their upcoming claim with the county. She also said they have put the state on notice of their claim, which since has been denied.
A claim must be filed and denied before a lawsuit can be filed.
At about 4:48 p.m. on Aug. 9, Angela Sarazin, then 39, of Gurnee, Ill., failed to yield while turning left in front of 50-year-old Robert Volk, according to the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.
He died Sept. 2, according to the notice. But Cafferty said he “suffered terribly” in the weeks after the crash.
And about a week before his crash, two girls, ages 7 and 14, died in a collision at the same intersection.
At a Sept. 30 public meeting in Whitewater, the sheriff’s office shared data showing that 40 crashes — 21 resulting in an injury and two with fatalities — had occurred at the intersection since Jan. 20, 2015.
“This was a known danger,” Cafferty said.
The state Department of Transportation had planned to add the flashing yellow lights in June, but the community pushed to have the work done sooner. The department added lights and taller poles to make signs more visible on Aug. 24.
Cafferty argued that the work should have been done before either of the fatal crashes, let alone after the first.
“Employees of Walworth County and the Walworth County Department of Public Works had knowledge of the immediate and present danger posed by the maintenance and design of the intersection,” she wrote, adding that failing to address the danger was “negligent.”