If you’re driving faster than the speed limit and an accident occurs, will you always be considered negligent?
No. Not necessarily.
Speeding obviously causes a lot of accidents. If you’re speeding, you have a good chance of being found to have some fault in the accident, possibly all of the fault. But just because you’re exceeding the posted speed limit does not automatically lead to a finding of negligence against you.
Breaking the speed limit is a factor to consider when determining if a driver was negligent. It’s just a factor, not the be-all and end-all in determining negligence. All of the circumstances of the accident, including what all the parties involved were doing, must be considered in determining who was negligent.
CACI Civil Jury Instruction No. 707 states that the speed limit is a factor to consider when deciding whether the defendant was negligent. This instruction also says that a driver is not necessarily negligent just because he or she was driving faster than the speed limit.
California Vehicle Code § 40831 states that in a civil action, proof that a driver was exceeding the speed limit does not establish negligence as a matter of law.
In Williams v. Cole (1960) 181 Cal.App.2d 70, 74, the court held that merely driving a motor vehicle in excess of the speed limit does not establish negligence as a matter of law. The jury is free to find a driver not negligent even if they found he or she was exceeding the speed limit.
So, drivers can have a valid argument that just because they were exceeding the speed limit does not necessarily mean they were negligent. There can be other significant factors in how an accident was caused that will far outweigh the fact that a driver was driving faster than the speed limit. This can be a significant argument to make on behalf of a plaintiff when the defense claims the plaintiff had comparative negligence just because they were exceeding the speed limit.
Feel free to call Suits Litigation, Inc. at (408) 637-5413 if you were injured in an accident – even if you were speeding – and would like to discuss your options for pursuing a personal injury case.