Prescription Drugs Car Accident Lawyer

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Prescription drug use has not just grown in recent decades — it has flourished. As of 2020, the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry held a value of roughly $405 billion. It is easy to see how this is possible given the rate at which Americans rely on prescription drugs.

For as many as 66% of Americans, prescription medications provide the relief they need to function normally on a daily basis — with many Americans taking an average of four prescriptions per day. These drugs do everything from relieve pain to manage medical conditions to counterbalance side effects of other drugs. Unfortunately, prescription medications can also cause many unpleasant and often dangerous side effects. If an individual gets behind the wheel of a vehicle after taking a prescription drug, he or she may unwittingly cause a serious or fatal car crash. In fact, the chances that he or she will are high. Because of the risks associated with prescription drug use, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers have a duty to warn users about potential side effects. Despite these warnings, an unprecedented number of individuals continue to drive while medicated.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a car crash caused by a prescription drug user, the law may entitle you to compensation via a car accident claim. For the best chances of recovery, retain a skilled prescription drugs car accident attorney in Michigan as soon after the accident as possible.

Drug-Impaired Accident Statistics

Drug-impaired driving is a major problem in the United States. According to a 2018 survey, as many as 20.5 million drivers aged 16 and older drove under the influence of alcohol. Another 12.6 million drove under the influence of marijuana or another controlled substance. “Controlled substance,” for legal purposes, include alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines, opioids and other impairing substances.

Though the exact number of crashes that prescription drugs cause is unknown, several studies show that drivers with THC in their blood were twice as likely to cause fatal car accidents or to die in fatal crashes than individuals who drove sober. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as 56% of drivers involved in serious injury or fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug. Over half of those drivers tested positive for two or more drugs.

Drugs — Prescription or Not — Impair

Though legal, prescription medications are no less dangerous than illicit substances, as many cause dangerous side effects. When taken in multiples, the risks associated with prescription medications go up, as drug interactions often cause adverse reactions. Some common side effects that impair a person’s ability to drive are as follows.

Drowsiness

Drowsiness is a common side effect of many types of prescription drugs, including antihistamines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, beta-blockers, narcotics and benzodiazepines. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, as it can impair individuals’ cognitive function, reduce reaction times and even lead to sleeping behind the wheel.

Dizziness

Dizziness can make it difficult for a person to walk, much less operate a two-ton vehicle. Dizziness can impair a person’s depth perception and reduce his or her motor skills, two outcomes that can substantially increase a person’s risk for causing a motor vehicle accident.

Blurred Vision

Many prescription medications cause blurred vision. Blurred vision makes it difficult for individuals to make out objects directly in front of them and may eliminate entirely their peripheral vision. When a person drives with blurred vision, he or she may fail to see a pedestrian crossing his or her path, an oncoming vehicle, traffic signals or other crucial markers.

Nausea

Nausea can be distracting. It also happens to be a side effect of many prescription medications. When a bout of nausea strikes while a person is driving, he or she may struggle to get to his or her destination safely. In rare cases, the driver may vomit while behind the wheel, which can pose a significant danger to him or herself and those around.  

Slowed Reaction Time

Many prescription medications reduce individuals’ reaction times, causing them to respond more slowly to outside stimuli than they normally would. Drivers who experience reduced reaction times have a heightened crash risk, as they may struggle to react to the actions of drivers around them in a timely fashion.

Impaired Cognitive Function

Finally, prescription drugs can significantly impair a person’s cognitive function. Though this impairment may look different for various drug users, on the road it often presents itself as an inability to remember traffic laws or how to complete basic driving maneuvers.

Prescription Medication Use and the Law

Per Michigan law, it is illegal to drive while impaired or intoxicated by alcohol, a controlled substance or any type of intoxicating substance. “Intoxicating substances” include everything from medical marijuana to pain killers to something as innocent as Dayquil. If, following your accident, medical examiners found trace amounts of a controlled substance in the other driver’s system, he or she is subject to the same penalties as if he or she had driven under the influence of alcohol.

Drugged Driving Is Impaired Driving

All states, including Michigan, set a legal limit for how much alcohol individuals may have in their systems before the law deems them legally unfit to drive. That limit is typically a blood alcohol content of 0.08. However, prescription drugs do not affect a person’s BAC. If a law enforcement officer suspects that a driver has drugs in his or her system but the breathalyzer test results come back clean, the officer may call in a Drug Recognition Expert. The DRE will conduct a series of tests to determine if the driver is, in fact, under the influence of drugs. If the results point to yes, the driver will like face DUI/OWI charges. If the driver caused an accident that resulted in another person’s injuries, he or she may also face civil penalties.

Symptoms That a Driver Has Prescription Medications in His or Her System

If you plan to file a car accident claim for damages that exceed your own insurance policy, it is crucial that you can prove that the other driver’s actions were reckless and overtly negligent. While police reports and toxicology reports can help your case, it does not hurt to provide an account of what you yourself witnessed in regards to the other driver’s behavior. Some symptoms of the other driver’s impairment by prescription medications are as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness/sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Unnaturally slow movements
  • Excitability
  • Inability to focus or pay attention
  • Lack of coordination

Your observations following your accident can go a long way toward bolstering your case.

Filing a Third-Party Claim for Damages

Michigan is a no-fault accident state, meaning that following most car accidents, you may only collect compensation from your own insurance company. However, Michigan law does allow for a few exceptions. One such exception is if your accident resulted in serious injuries, disfigurement or death. If it did, the law entitles you to pursue compensation via a third-party claim. Moreover, the law entitles you to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional duress — damages that are not typically available through no-fault coverage.

Get Help From an Experienced Michigan Prescription Drugs Car Accident Attorney

Filing a claim outside of the no-fault coverage system is easier said than done, even if you can prove that the at-fault driver had prescription drugs in his or her system at the time of the crash. If you hope to recover the maximum amount of compensation from the at-fault party, let an experienced prescription drugs car accident lawyer in Michigan help you navigate the legal process. Contact Mike Morse Law Firm to schedule your free case review today.

 

Sources: 

Grand View Research: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/pharmaceutical-manufacturing-market

Single Care: https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/prescription-drug-statistics/

DrugAbuse.gov: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving

NHTSA: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drug-impaired-driving

GoodRx Health: https://www.goodrx.com/drugs/side-effects/is-your-prescription-making-you-tired

The Office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson: https://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1627_8665_9070-24488–,00.html 

Very Well Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/dui-vs-dwi-what-is-the-difference-67214

Department of Insurance and Financial Services: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/cis_ofis_ip202_25083_7.pdf

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