In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that human choices account for approximately 94% of all crashes in the U.S. That means that almost all car accidents are due to mistakes behind the wheel. And when those mistakes are due to negligence, injured victims can file personal injury claims against the people who caused their crashes.
But what about crashes where the “human error” was either purely accidental or where negligence is debatable? It’s easy to pinpoint blame when the at-fault driver was speeding, running a red light, or under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. But when crashes are caused by medical conditions or even prescription drug use, establishing negligence depends on whether a few factors can be proven.
Is the Medication Known to Cause Drowsiness and Impairment?
All prescription medications cause side effects. But some drugs cause more severe and impactful side effects than others. Some of the most prominent and debilitating side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision. Those side effects can make it extremely dangerous to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and they often include warnings urging patients to never drive after taking them.
When drivers cause crashes after taking medications that are known to cause impairments, they can be held liable for any injuries and damages they cause. That’s because they knowingly put themselves and others at risk and failed to uphold their duty of care—or responsibility to drive safely.
Is the Medication Prescribed to the At-Fault Driver?
Another factor that can impact liability is whether the drug the at-fault driver was taking was prescribed to them. Many of the medications that cause severe impairments are also used recreationally.
They include painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxers, sleep aids, and more. When drivers take medications illegally or for recreational purposes and then cause crashes, they can be arrested for driving while impaired and also held liable for any damages they cause.
Was the Amount of Medication Taken More than the Prescribed Amount?
The difference between a therapeutic and relatively side-effect-free medication and a recreational and highly impairing medication often comes down to the amount a patient takes. Some patients intentionally take more of the medications than they’re prescribed to experience more intense effects. And while the dosage they’re prescribed may not put them at risk of impaired driving, intentional overdoses can significantly increase their risks of causing a crash.
Were Multiple Medications Combined?
Medications taken separately may pose very few drowsy and impaired driving risks, but when combined, they can be extremely dangerous for patients who get behind the wheel. For example, certain prescription pain medications can cause profound impairment when taken with anti-anxiety medications.
In addition, many medications can have their effects significantly increased or strengthened when combined with alcohol and other illicit drugs, including marijuana.
Liability Is Harder to Prove When Side Effects Are Rare or Unanticipated
Just because a driver causes a crash while under the influence of prescription medication doesn’t mean they’re automatically considered negligent and at fault. That’s because some drugs can have unexpected side effects, or a low dosage may cause similar effects to a high dosage in certain patients.
When drivers can’t possibly have anticipated that they would become impaired and cause a crash after taking a medication, it can be more difficult to hold them accountable for a crash for that reason. However, they CAN be held liable if their other actions or inactions caused the crash, including any traffic law violations or failures to uphold their duty of care.
Our Lawyers Can Investigate Your Accident and Help You Get Compensation
Filing a successful auto accident claim requires proof that the other driver was at fault and you weren’t. And if the biggest contributing factor to the crash was negligent prescription drug usage, it can be difficult to assign blame or prove that the other driver was under the influence.
But the Oklahoma City car accident attorneys at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers know how to investigate and prove drugged driving cases, especially when impaired drivers seriously injured innocent people. Contact us today to find out how we can help you during this difficult time. We’re available to take your information and listen to your story 24/7.