Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Speed Limits – OCGA 40-6-181

Speeding Accidents in Georgia


It’s time to talk about one of the most common driving infractions of all: speeding!

In this blog series, we’ve been going over Georgia’s rules of the road, because every rule of the road is a safety rule, every safety rule is another way of committing negligence per se, and negligence per se is extremely useful for establishing civil liability.

Usually, a person is only liable for the damages they’ve caused if the court determines that this person behaved in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t. This “reasonable person” standard can be subjective at times, but not when safety rules are involved. Under negligence per se, breaking a safety rule is automatically considered unreasonable behavior, and the rule-breaker is therefore liable for any resulting damages.

Last week, we talked about how this concept applies to statute 40-6-144, which has to do with drivers entering public streets from driveways and alleys. Today, we’ll discuss statute 40-6-181, which deals with the all-important concept of speed limits.


Is the Speed Limit Really the Limit?

While many people, and even many police officers, tend to think of a reasonable driving speed as one that falls within about 10 miles per hour of the posted speed limit, these limits are actually a firm maximum under the law.

Local authorities are allowed to impose lower speed limits than the state standard in designated areas, but no one can authorize higher speeds than the state permits.


(a) The limits specified in this Code section or established as authorized in this article shall be the maximum lawful vehicle speeds, except when a special hazard exists that requires a lower speed for compliance with Code Section 40-6-180.

(b) Consistent with the provision of engineering and traffic investigations regarding maximum speed limits as provided in Code Section 40-6-182, no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed in excess of the following maximum limits:


This means, technically, a person driving at 31 mph in a 30-mph zone can be liable for the results of an accident under negligence per se. However, determining liability after an accident involves assigning percentages of fault, so if both drivers were speeding equally, and under equally safe-seeming conditions, this bit of rule-breaking may cancel out, leaving responsibility to be determined by other factors.

If, on the other hand, one driver was traveling at the speed limit, or within a few mph of it, and another driver was traveling 15 mph too fast, the second driver’s negligence is much more clear-cut.


Speed Limits on Residential Streets

Within city and suburban settings, the default speed limit established by statute 40-6-181 is a flat 30 miles per hour.


(1) Thirty miles per hour in any urban or residential district;


On unpaved rural roads, an extra 5 mph is allowed.


(1.1) Thirty-five miles per hour on an unpaved county road unless designated otherwise by appropriate signs;


Signs may direct drivers to slow down further in certain areas, like school zones, and drivers must comply with these signs as with any other traffic control device. When there are no signs visible, drivers should default to 30 mph on paved residential streets and 35 on unpaved streets.


Speed Limits on Freeways

Georgia allows local authorities to post speed limits as high as 70 miles per hour on interstate freeways, and on highways outside of population centers.


(2) Seventy miles per hour on a highway on the federal interstate system and on physically divided highways with full control of access which are outside of an urbanized area of 50,000 population or more, provided that such speed limit is designated by appropriate signs;

(3) Seventy miles per hour on a highway on the federal interstate system which is inside of an urbanized area of 50,000 population or more, provided that such speed limit is designated by appropriate signs;


For non-interstate freeways, this maximum is reduced to 65 mph.


(4) Sixty-five miles per hour on those sections of physically divided highways without full access control on the state highway system, provided that such speed limit is designated by appropriate signs; and


It’s important to note, however, that these higher freeway speed limits only take effect if there are signs posted to confirm them.


What If There Aren’t Any Signs?

If a driver is not in a residential area, and there are no signs confirming a speed limit of 65 or 70, the default speed limit is always 55.


(5) Fifty-five miles per hour in other locations.

(c) The maximum speed limits set forth in this Code section may be altered as authorized in Code Sections 40-6-182, 40-6-183, and 40-6-188.


Remember, no matter what the state or the locally posted signs may say, it’s never legal, or wise, to drive at a higher speed than seems safe given the current road conditions.


What Damages Can You Recover After an Accident with a Speeding Driver?

Speeding is one of top causes of car accidents, along with distracted driving and drunk driving. If you’ve been a victim of another driver’s disregard for safety-oriented legal speed limits, you’re entitled to compensation, and negligence per se is on your side. The settlement you’ll be able to recover will be based on the two legally recognized categories of damages: special damages and general damages.


If You Can Enter It into Your Calculator, It Falls Under Special Damages

The most common expenses to be claimed as special damages after a car accident are medical bills, vehicle replacement, and lost wages, but any tangible expense you wouldn’t be facing if not for the accident qualifies. Calculations for special damages also extend beyond the present, so if you’re going to need ongoing treatment or time off, a fair settlement should include your projected lifetime costs for those things. From the moment of the accident, it’s important to keep detailed records of your related expenses, because you’ll need this evidence during the proceedings. You’ll also need to prove that your expenses were directly or proximately caused by the speeding driver’s negligence. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, click here.


If It’s Priceless, It Falls Under General Damages

General damages are the law’s way of bridging the gap between what an accident concretely costs the victim, and the larger impact it has on that person’s life. Priceless losses that are often included in general damage settlements include loss of enjoyment and pain and suffering. For example, if you ended up in the hospital getting your bones set when you were hoping to be at your daughter’s dance recital, simple reimbursement for your medical bills won’t make up for your disappointment in that turn of events. Like special damages, general damages should account for the lifetime effects of the accident, so if your career options or your freedom to enjoy your favorite activities will be affected in a long-term way, the total should include consideration for a lifetime’s worth of frustrations and disappointments. Of course, there’s no going rate for a lifetime’s worth of frustrations and disappointments, so it will be up to your lawyer to impress upon the judge and jury the depth of what you’ve lost.


What If the Speeding Driver Has Killed Someone?

At higher speeds, the chances of an accident being fatal increase considerably. If you’ve lost a loved one to this tragic phenomenon, your pursuit of justice will take the form of a wrongful death case rather than a personal injury one. The Wetherington Law Firm proudly represents wrongful death cases, and we recommend taking a look at our explanation of the different rules that apply to these especially serious scenarios.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Many survivors find it difficult to talk about the pain, both physical and psychological, and about the other hardships their accident has introduced into their lives. It can be extremely helpful to have a lawyer explain your situation on your behalf, passionately yet frankly, so you don’t have to worry about feeling irrationally “pushy” or “needy.” In addition to making your losses better understood, a good lawyer can also help you counter the tactics insurance providers use to avoid paying out fair settlements. Most insurance companies have entire departments devoted to destroying or minimizing legitimate cases in order to pad their profits, and responding to just one trick question on the phone can sometimes ruin your chances at fair compensation. By minimizing your contact with insurance agents and putting these interactions in professional hands, you greatly increase the likely size of your settlement.


How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

The purpose of hiring a lawyer after a car accident is to safeguard your family’s financial future. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we take this responsibility very seriously, which is why the only payment we accept comes from the settlements we win for our clients.


By working on contingency, we’re able to choose our clients by the merit of their cases, and by how much they need our help, rather than by their ability to afford it.


To talk to a lawyer about your situation today, just contact us by phone at 404-888-4444 or through the contact form on the right for a free consultation.


The Wetherington Law Firm Believes in Wielding the Power of Litigation for Good

Many of our clients only want fair compensation for their losses, and we’ll gladly fight to get them every cent they deserve. Others, however, want to see the cause of their accident addressed in a farther-reaching way. For example, if you were in an accident with a speeding delivery truck, and you suspect the driver was under too much pressure to meet an excessive quota on time, a settlement for your injuries probably wouldn’t make you feel any better about the driver’s company continuing to put others on the road in danger. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we love using our skills to make the biggest difference we can for others, and we’ll help you use your case to effect real change and protect other potential victims. To learn more about what we’ve helped our clients achieve, just give us a call and ask!









Have you been injured by a speeding car?

The Wetherington Law Firm works solely on a contingency basis, which means the only payment we accept comes from the settlements we win for our clients. We have the experience and passion necessary to counter corporate tactics, make the facts clear, and ensure that your losses are taken seriously.