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

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 22, 2014

You may assume that if you were speeding before a car accident, you have no chance of winning. But that's not necessarily true.

Depending on the laws in your state, you can get compensation in your car accident case even if you were violating the speed limit before your accident.

Want to know how? Check out the legal principles governing when speed limit breakers can recover in a car accident case:

Negligence Per Se

The main reason why many people think that speeding may bar recovery in a car accident case is the legal concept of negligence per se.

In order for either party to prevail in a car accident case, it's necessary to prove that one driver's negligence or recklessness was the cause of the injuries and property damage. A driver who is violating a speed limit before a crash is often considerednegligent per se (with "per se" meaning strictly by operation of law), because the law is intended to promote safety and avoid the kind of injuries that occurred.

However, if the accident occurred because of a non-traffic-related event (e.g., faulty brakes or a shot fired by a pedestrian), then a speeding driver may not be found to have negligently caused the accident. Without a finding of negligence, you are free to pursue compensation in your car accident case.

When Both Parties Are Negligent

Even if a driver is found to be negligent per se by speeding, he may not be completely barred from recovery. Most states have adopted a comparative fault standard, where each party (a driver, a pedestrian, etc.) is responsible for the amount of damages relative to his or her respective fault for the crash. So if a jury finds that one party is 40 percent negligent for speeding, he or she may still recover 60 percent of the damages.

However, some states maintain a "pure" contributory negligence rule. In these states, even if you are found to be 1 percent negligent, you may not recover anything in your car accident case. Still 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 get a dime.

As you can see, there are a lot of "ifs" involved in determining how speeding affects your car accident case. An experienced car accident attorney can help you sort it all out.

Timothy E. Zerillo has been included in every edition of New England Super Lawyers since 2010, for his Super Lawyers page, go to http://www.superlawyers.com/maine/lawyer/Timothy-E-Zerillo/ab011be9-fc96-44e9-ad28-3956da48c1b4.html

Timothy E. Zerillo has a 10 out of 10 rating from AVVO.com - for his ratings page, go to http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/04112-me-timothy-zerillo-1844626.html

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