During a late night on California roads, it can be terrifying when your headlights suddenly sweep across an object in your path. You see the object, perhaps something that fell from a previous driver’s vehicle, but not in time to avoid it. You swerve, but still drive into or over the object. Your vehicle is damaged, and it is possible you may be injured. In this case, you would think you are not at fault, and your insurance company and possibly anyone involved in the placement of the obstacle on the road would be liable for damages. But did you know that you can actually be held accountable for your accident?

This is because, according to the Los Angeles Times, California has a basic speed law integrated into the state Vehicle Code. This law assumes that you as the driver should be traveling at a reasonable and responsible speed that would allow you to recognize and steer around any objects in the road before they were close enough to become a danger to you. The presumption is that if you were unable to avoid the object, you were driving too quickly.

If you are lucky, your insurance company and any responding officers at the accident will be lenient. Officers may choose not to cite you, and your insurance company may not treat it as a violation. If you are unlucky, however, you may receive a traffic citation and your insurance company may report it as a violation that results in higher premiums.

This article is intended for reference purposes only and should not be considered actionable legal advice.