California Vehicle Code section 22350 is known as the basic speed law. You need to drive a “reasonable” speed for the circumstances. The fact you were driving the speed limit is not, in itself, a defense. The posted limit is the MAXIMUM speed but not necessarily the “reasonable” speed.
I had a case a few years ago where I represented a gentleman who was turning left at an intersection. It was one of those cases where vehicles in the opposite lanes stopped to allow him to turn due to congestion. A woman driving in the opposite direction in the curb lane was driving 35 mph and slammed into my client as he was making his left. His vehicle flipped over twice due to the speed of the impact.
She brought suit against him arguing that he made an unsafe lane change. While she was probably correct, we were able to convince a jury that she was also driving too fast. She countered that she was driving the “speed limit.” However, we convinced the jury that the basic speed law says you must drive a “reasonable” speed under the circumstances. If all vehicles to your left have come to a stop, there must be a reason, and continuing to drive the maximum speed limit of 35 was probably imprudent. The jury found her 35% at fault for the accident.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.