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My Car Accident Was Caused by a Driver Impaired by Prescription Meds. Now What?

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. But what if the driver was under the influence of 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 do 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 has quadrupled since 1991. For example, the use of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.

Research shows that painkillers can cause drowsiness, slow reaction time, and impaired thinking. Therefore, it inhibits 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 walking the line, touching your nose, etc. Officers also look for dilated or constricted pupils, slurred speech and specific odors. However, these tests used by law enforcement are not always effective for detecting 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. It can provide useful evidence for proving impairment.

Illinois law

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. Further, 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. This is 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 was suffering from health problems at the time of the collision. Pain medication may have had an effect on her ability to drive 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 misuse of prescription drugs use may help prevent accidents by employees in “safety sensitive positions”. This, meaning jobs where employees often 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
  • How 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
  • Negotiating a settlement

If litigation becomes necessary, your lawyer should anticipate and respond to all of the usual defenses. This, to get the best possible outcome for the client.

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