Car Accidents: If You Were Speeding, Do You Automatically Lose?

Motion Blur of Car DrivingMost people assume that if you were speeding and ended up in a car accident, you have no chance of winning. However, that is not always the case. Depending on the state laws and a few other factors, you can still get compensation in your car accident case even if you were driving over the speed limit before your accident. There are a few legal principles that have to do with speed limit breakers recovering damages in a car accident case.

An important concept regarding speeders and making recoveries in a car accident case is “negligence per se.” In order for any party to recover damages in a car accident case, it has to be proven that one party was negligent, meaning that a party was unreasonably careless and that carelessness caused the injuries and property damage. When a driver is violating the speed limit before the crash, they are considered to be negligent per se.

Negligence per se is an act that is considered inherently negligent because it violates a statute or regulation. In such a case, instead of being required to prove regular negligence, the plaintiff only has to prove that the defendant violated the statute, the statute involves safety, the act caused the type of harm the statute was designed to prevent, and that the plaintiff was part of the statute’s protected class.

Per se is a latin phrase which means “through itself,” and it is generally used in a legal sense to mean that without referring to anything else, something must be accepted because it is self evident or inherent. A speeding driver is considered negligent per se, or strictly by operation of the law, because the law is intended to promote safety and avoid the kind of injuries that occurred.

If the accident occurred because of a non-traffic related event, such as faulty brakes, then a driver speeding before an accident may not be found to have negligently caused the crash. If you are not found to be negligent, you are free to pursue compensation in your car accident.

Even if a driver is found to be negligent per se because of speeding, they still might not be barred completely from recovering damages. This is because most states use a comparative fault standard. With contributory negligence standards, both parties can recover damages even if they are both negligent.

The parties will recover damages appropriate to how responsible they were for the accident. So if a jury determines that one party is 40 percent responsible for the accident and the other party is 60 percent responsible, then the party that is more negligent could still recover 60 percent of the damages.

Some states use “pure” comparative negligence standards. Under pure comparative negligence laws, even if you are found to be 1 percent negligent, you may not recover any damages in your car accident case. In addition, other jurisdictions may bar recovery if you are found to be 50 percent or more negligent than the person you are suing. If a jury believes your speeding makes you that much at fault, you may not be able to make any recovery.


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