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Accidents and Injuries Caused by Drug Impaired Drivers


Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer

As legalized marijuana is so easily available, and as the opioid epidemic rages on with more fervor than ever before, so too have the number of injuries and deaths as a result of drugged drivers. It’s important to note that drugged driving isn’t simply relegated to the most common street drugs. Prescription medications also have the potential to severely impair an otherwise safe driver, and the effects can be just as catastrophic, if not worse.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, forty-four percent of all fatally injured drivers tested positive for one or more drugs in 2016. Interestingly enough, a majority of these drivers tested positive for both marijuana and opioids. A positive test for a combination of both marijuana and opioids was actually more common than not. These findings are hardly surprising, as the country is witnessing the meteoric rise in availability and recreational use of both drugs.

Car crashes as a result of a drug impaired driver can be quite catastrophic. As a drug impaired driver has little to no control over their vehicle, the resulting injuries tend to be tragic and life changing. Medical care associated with treating these types of injuries can be very costly. This is especially true if the injured individual isn’t able to return to work for a long period of time, if ever. Victims and their families need to be represented by a skilled car accident lawyer who will fight to get them the full compensation they need and deserve.

Effects of Drug Impairment on Drivers

We more or less understand the effects of alcohol on human physiology, yet the same cannot be said with the same level of clarity for the majority of drugs. This is one of the primary reasons why drugged driving is such a complex legal issue. The effects of one drug versus another will vary widely depending on the individual. A driver who has consumed methamphetamine or cocaine, for example, might be prone to aggressive or reckless behavior. Sedatives, on the other hand, will primarily cause dizziness and drowsiness.  

Alcohol remains the most common culprit for the majority of all substances involved in substance impaired car crashes, although surprisingly–or unsurprisingly to some–marijuana is the next most commonly found drug in blood tests conducted on drug impaired drivers. Given how common marijuana use is in the city of Los Angeles, it’s important to understand its effects.

Marijuana creates delays in reaction times, affects one’s perception of time and space, and reduces muscle coordination.

Commonly seen effects in a marijuana impaired driver include:

  • Increase in lane changes and weaving.
  • Poor reaction times.
  • Decreased attention to road conditions.

There are tests which can accurately detect levels of THC– the active, mind altering ingredient in the marijuana plant– yet the role which marijuana actually plays in car crashes isn’t entirely clear. This ambiguity is partially due to the fact that THC can be detected for days or weeks after being used. What this means is that a driver may test positive for marijuana after an accident, even though the drug was not a factor for causing the accident because it was consumed long before the car accident happened.

Prescription drugs are also often linked with drugged driving car crashes. By far the most common prescription drugs involved in traffic collisions were pain relievers. It’s a fact that many car crashes involving drugged drivers are caused by illegal drugs. However, many of these accidents also involved prescription drugs, which only further complicates issues of who, or what, is at fault.

Cases involving prescription drugs are especially complicated, and there are several factors which must be assessed and/or proven anytime these types of drugs are involved in a car crash:

  • Warning labels and disclaimers on prescription drug bottles.
  • Whether the person was following or defying doctor’s orders to refrain from driving while taking these drugs.
  • Whether the person was following doctor’s orders regarding the amount of drugs consumed.
  • Expert testimony about a particular drug’s effects on the the brain and the ability to drive.
  • Whether the driver was behaving and or driving in a dangerous, erratic manner when the crash occurred.

Colorado, A Case Study in Legalized Cannabis

Colorado was the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana. Many more states, including California, have followed suit. There are opinions on both sides of the aisle. To some, marijuana use is no big deal and has only the most minor negative repercussions, if any. For others, it is the root of all evil. Whichever side you may be on, you can not ignore one very eye catching statistic from Colorado since legalization of recreational marijuana use: in 2016, 51 traffic fatalities involved drivers whose THC levels were above the state’s legal limits. This reality has left the state of Colorado searching for answers as to how best handle what could potentially become a widespread and serious problem.

As of now, the governors’ highway safety group has suggested the possibility of specialized training for police officers to more accurately identify drugged drivers on roads. These efforts might not be enough, as some states have already begun incorporating a series of extensive tests focused on interpreting physiological symptoms, such as pulse rate and involuntary muscle spasms.

When it comes to Colorado, it’s perhaps too early to establish a clear correlation between marijuana use and an increase in deadly traffic collisions, as there are too many factors at play and the sample size is too small to draw implicit conclusions. At the same time, it’s impossible to deny the fact that 51 traffic fatalities involved drivers with THC levels above the legal limit.

Consequences of Drug Impaired Driving

Along with driving under the influence of alcohol, drugged impaired driving is particularly destructive and very dangerous. Being convicted of driving under the influence of drugs can possibly carry punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are damages which are awarded on top of the normal damages for medical expenses and property loss. Punitive damages are intended to punish the offender and make an example of him or her.

Contact us to find out how we can help

If you have sustained injuries as a result of another driver’s drug impairment, you have the right to hold that driver responsible. An attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at 213 927 3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team



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