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Speeding in an Auto Accident – Can You Still Recover for Your Injuries?

The short answer: it depends. I know, not so clear… lawyers, right? But the reality is if you find yourself asking this question after an auto accident in Maryland, DC, or Virginia, hiring an aggressive personal injury lawyer will give you the best chance to successfully challenge an inevitable liability denial from the other driver’s insurance company.

Drivers in Maryland, DC, and Virginia should know that these three jurisdictions follow the extremely insurance-friendly contributory negligence rule when it comes to claims for injuries sustained in auto accidents. The rule of contributory negligence prohibits a claimant (also referred to as a Plaintiff) from recovering for their injuries after an auto accident in cases where they contributed in any way to the occurrence of the accident or injury. This means that an injured victim who is found to be even 1 % at fault will not be able to recover from the driver who was 99 % at fault.

Insurance carriers love this rule because, of course, it saves them money. While the rule is undoubtedly harsh and unforgiving for Plaintiffs, insurance carriers over-assert the defense of contributory negligence to discourage valid claims from injured auto accident victims. One of the common scenarios where insurance companies can be expected to rely on this defense is when a Plaintiff was said to be speeding before or at the time of an accident. An experienced and aggressive auto accident attorney can protect you from being intimidated and bullied by an insurance company improperly claiming that you were contributorily negligent because you were speeding.

Our personal injury attorneys often encounter fights with insurance companies regarding this issue when an accident takes place at an intersection. For example, a common scenario that tends to bring up the issue is when a defendant driver attempts to turn left across an intersection without yielding to vehicles with the right-of-way traveling the opposite direction through the intersection, causing a collision with a vehicle traveling straight. Defendant drivers will frequently claim that they only attempted to make the turn because they believed they had more time based on the assumption that all cross-traffic was traveling the appropriate speed – that the only reason they did not have enough time to safely make the turn was because the driver of the impacted vehicle was traveling at an unsafe or unreasonable speed.

It is always important to remember that negligence does not automatically equate to contributory negligence. For an insurance carrier to successfully claim that a personal injury victim was contributorily negligent, they must prove that: (1) the victim was negligent and (2) their negligence was a proximate cause of the accident. Proving negligence alone is not enough. What this means in cases involving a contributory negligence claim based on an allegation of speeding is that the insurance carrier will be required to demonstrate that the victim was in fact speeding and that the accident would not have happened had the victim been driving within the speed limit. Proving the speed alone will not be enough.

Applying the rule to the scenario above, let’s assume that the driver with the proceeding straight through the intersection was demonstrably speeding. The Maryland Transportation Article makes clear that this driver has the right-of-way to anyone attempting to turn left (stating

specifically that a driver of a vehicle that intends to turn to the left in an intersection, an alley, a private road, or a driveway shall yield to any other vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and is in the intersection or so near to it as to be an immediate danger). The critical question for a judge or jury will be whether or not the accident would have occurred if they had not been speeding. In deciding the answer, the judge or jury will carefully examine the facts and circumstances of the specific accident before them. They cannot make their determination based on the mere conjecture that the accident may have been partially caused by the through driver’s speeding. Some of the factors that a judge or jury will take into consideration in making this decision are the speed limit controlling through driver’s travel, the actual speed of the through-driver and/or the through driver’s location within the intersection or proximity to it at the time of the attempted left-turn the landscape of the surrounding intersection.

The Bottom Line:

Speeding, by itself, will not bar a claimant from recovering for their injuries after a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver. However, these cases are likely to result in insurance liability denials and will need to be fought out in court. A skilled trial attorney who knows the ins and outs of the law will be able to prepare and present the facts of your case in a way that gives you the best opportunity to beat the insurance company and get the compensation you deserve.