If you were in a car accident with a driver who was impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs, that driver may bear liability for your injuries and the damages that resulted. But what if the driver was impaired by legally prescribed prescription drugs? Do you still have a claim?
The answer is yes—but the case may prove complicated. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help. If you were in a Chicagoland car accident caused by a drugged driver, contact Abels & Annes, PC, for a free consultation at (312) 924-7575 or email us.
What Studies Show About Driving and Prescription Drugs
According to a 2017 study by Columbia University researchers and reported by CBS News, a sevenfold increase took place in the number of fatal car crashes, from 1991 to 2014, involving drivers who used prescription painkillers. This increase coincides with figures that indicate that the use of prescription drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine has quadrupled since 1991.
Research shows that painkillers can cause drowsiness, slow reaction time, and impaired thinking—and therefore inhibit a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The Petoskey News reports that other prescription drugs may also cause impaired driving, including some anxiety drugs, antidepressants, medications containing codeine, some cold and allergy products, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. Diet pills and other drugs containing stimulants may also hurt a person’s driving ability.
Field sobriety tests include examining the driver for dilated or constricted pupils, incomplete or repetitive speech, tremors in the eyelids or hands, specific odors, high pulse or temperatures, nervousness, or lack of inhibition. However, the standard roadside sobriety tests used by law enforcement to detect possible alcohol intoxication are not always effective for testing for prescription drug impairment.
To combat this problem, police forces are training in and using the “advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement test.” An article in the Chicago Tribune states that police in Illinois are trying a new field sobriety test for drug use. This mouth swab test measures the amount of drugs present at the time of the test, providing useful evidence for proving impairment.
Illinois law prohibits people from driving or controlling a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating compounds or a combination of intoxicating compounds, drugs or combination of drugs, to the degree that it renders the person incapable of driving safely. The law states that the legal right to consume the substance does not from an acceptable defense against the violation. In short, the law prohibits driving a vehicle while under the influence of prescription drugs if those drugs prevent the driver from driving safely.
In January 2018, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office was looking at ways to keep the roadways safer. Under review is the increase in DUI cases involving opioids and other prescription drugs, and the need to bolster the language in the laws to include prescription drug impairment and sanctions for that impairment.
Prescription Drugs and Driving in the News
A 29-year-old man from Elmwood Park was charged with aggravated DUI after he sped into the wrong lane of traffic and struck another car head-on. The collision caused serious injuries to the occupants in the other car, including a mother and her two young children. The man allegedly had benzodiazepine in his system at the time of the crash, a prescription drug that causes sleep and hypnotic states.
In early October 2018, a Madison County jury returned a verdict in favor of a defendant in a traffic case in which both parties claimed they had a green light at the time of the accident. In addition to reviewing the facts of the case, including light sequence analysis and testimony from witnesses, the jury also heard that the plaintiff suffered from health problems at the time of the collision, and was on pain medication that may have damaged her ability to operate her car safely.
In 2017, Workforce (a publication for human resources professionals) published information about why employers should consider implementing prescription drug use policies for potential lawsuit protection. Random employee blood testing for legal use or misused prescription drug use may help prevent accidents caused by employees in “safety sensitive positions”—jobs where employees, during the normal course of business, are required to operate company vehicles or heavy equipment. Workforce also advocated for disclosures of prescription drug use as a condition of employment for safety sensitive positions.
If You Were in an Accident With a Drugged Driver
Drivers impaired by prescription drugs don’t just put themselves at risk of criminal charges—if they injure other people or property, their victims can hold them liable for damages.
If a drugged driver injured you, you may hold that driver liable for your injuries and other damages. Speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case, your potential claims, and to protect your rights and opportunity to recover compensation. A lawyer who agrees to take your case and pursue your claims will handle the burden of determining the full extent of your damages, investigating your claims, conducting all evidentiary discovery with the other parties, and negotiating a settlement. If litigation becomes necessary, your lawyer should anticipate and respond to all of the usual defenses to get the best possible outcome for the client.
Abels & Annes, PC, offers a free initial consultation for potential clients. If we accept your case, you will not pay attorney’s fees and litigation costs upfront. We handle our personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning we will only deduct fees and expenses from any settlement or judgment we help you obtain.
If you were in a car accident caused by a drugged driver, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact Abels & Annes, PC, at (312) 924-7575 or online, to learn if we may help you.