Medical marijuana use has been legal in Illinois since 2014, and as of January 2020, recreational marijuana use is also legal. This includes a wide variety of substances made from the cannabis plant, including gummies, chocolates, and other edibles.
Legalization doesn’t mean that individuals who previously abstained are now headed to their local dispensary to stock up, but legalization may bring some new users into the mix. Regardless, more people are probably behind the wheel in Illinois while under the influence of cannabis.
Cannabis use while driving can land you in jail and result in a DUI conviction, the same way driving while under the influence of alcohol does. It can also result in car accidents that seriously injure passengers and other drivers.
Below, we discuss how cannabis use impairs drivers, some of the challenges law enforcement face with enforcing cannabis-related DUIs, and how all of this puts you at risk for accident and injury when you share the road with those under the influence of marijuana.
Cannabis Is Not Harmless—It Impairs Drivers
Cannabis in any form can impair drivers just as badly as alcohol. Several worldwide studies have addressed the dangers of using marijuana while driving.
Here is some recent research about marijuana and driving
- Marijuana impairs judgment, motor skills, and reaction time.
- A direct relationship exists between blood THC levels and driver impairment. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that gets users high—not to be confused with CBD, which doesn’t appear to impair driving.
- Drivers with THC in their blood are about two times more likely to cause a fatal crash than those who have not used drugs.
- Drivers with THC in their blood are three to seven times more likely to cause an accident than those who haven’t consumed drugs.
Enforcing Drugged Driving Laws Has Proved Challenging
If you get in a traffic accident, law enforcement typically comes to the scene of the accident. Officers may take note of many different things that indicate whether alcohol played a factor in the crash, such as the smell of liquor or beer on a driver and open containers in a vehicle. A police officer might choose to perform field sobriety tests on a driver and get the driver to take a Breathalyzer test. When properly maintained and used by trained officers, Breathalyzers are an effective tool to test the blood alcohol levels of drivers. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple for situations involving drivers under the influence of cannabis.
No simple tool exists for law enforcement to test for THC levels in a driver at the scene of an accident. Instead, an officer must bring the driver to the nearest police station and request that he or she agree to chemical testing. Police must administer these tests within two hours of the accident, and a medical professional must perform any blood tests.Drivers must comply if they don’t want their licenses revoked, and if drug tests reveal more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood or more than 10 nanograms per milliliter of urine, drivers will lose their licenses.
The biggest challenge in testing for THC is that it can remain in a person’s body for months after a person consumes or smokes cannabis. This makes it difficult for courts to convict people of marijuana-related DUIs and much easier for defense attorneys to argue against conviction—but what does it mean for other motorists who don’t drive while high?
What to Do if You’re in an Accident With a Drugged Driver
If you are in a traffic accident in Illinois, you might not suspect that the other driver is under the influence of drugs. If the other driver is high, you might not find out until you see the official police report. Even if law enforcement charges the driver with a DUI, and a court convicts him or her of criminal charges, this doesn’t help you face the losses that often come with a severe accident and injury.
Depending on the severity of the accident, you might incur the following economic losses:
- Medical expenses for an ambulance ride, emergency room treatment, doctor visits, diagnostic testing, surgery, aftercare, follow-up visits, and prescription medication
- Lost current and future wages from missing work due to injury, hospitalization, treatment, and permanent disability
- Costs of replacement services for things that you can no longer complete around your home, such as lawn care, childcare, snow removal, and cleaning
Suffering severe injuries in an accident caused by a drugged driver also comes with non-economic losses that include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Other non-economic losses that might apply to your circumstances
You can sometimes recover a portion of your losses from a drugged driving accident through insurance claims. However, severe injuries that require massive amounts of medical treatment and significant time away from work, and catastrophic injuries, can quickly exhaust insurance policy limits. You deserve full compensation when a negligent driver strikes you after choosing to get behind the wheel after using marijuana.
The best way to maximize your compensation is by consulting an experienced auto accident attorney. A skilled lawyer can not only help negotiate the best settlement for you or litigate when settlement isn’t an option, he or she can also negotiate your outstanding medical bills to put more settlement money in your pocket. He or she will know the ins and outs of the state’s new drugged driving laws as they pertain to cannabis use and car accident cases, and how to use them to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Abels & Annes, P.C.
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602