Opioid use has a lot of known dangers not only for those who drive while using these drugs but also for people sharing the roads with them. In February 2019, NBC News reported that drivers who are under the influence of opioids are a growing problem in the United States. According to the report, 2% of drivers in 1993 who caused crashes had prescription opioids in their system. By 2016, that percentage rose to 7.1%.
How Prescription Opioid Use May Affect Driving
Prescription opioids are prescribed to treat pain. While they can be a helpful pain medication, they may also cause significant side effects, including:
- Slowed reaction time
- Nausea and vomiting
- Short-term memory loss
- Impaired concentration
- Irregular pauses in breathing
These side effects can impact a driver’s ability to drive safely and, in some cases, may result in a car crash.
The Dangers of Prescription Opioids and Driving
A February 2019 study published in Jama Open Network found that a driver’s use of prescription opioid medications was associated with “…a significantly increased risk of crash initiation, due in large part to failure to keep in proper lane” and that “prescription opioids are increasingly involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes.” This study recommended that doctors counsel patients about the risk opioid use may have on driving and discuss driving safety when prescribing these medications.
Difficulty staying in the proper lane is not the only potential risk from drivers on opioid medications. The side effects from opioids can also cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, fail to stop, or fail to see other vehicles around them. This can result in a variety of crashes, including rear-end collisions, head-on collisions, and multi-vehicle wrecks.
If You Suspect Opioid Use as a Factor in Your Car Crash
At the time of your crash, it can be impossible to know whether the other driver was taking an opioid medication, another prescription medication, or no medication. Unlike alcohol, it isn’t something you will smell on the driver’s breath or can easily be tested for at the accident scene.
Instead, determining whether opioid use was a factor in your crash is going to take some investigation. The other driver is unlikely to share this information with you voluntarily, but your car accident lawyer can ask the question in a legally compelling way, so you get the information you need. For example, your lawyer can:
- Ask questions in a deposition or through interrogatories. Your lawyer may ask the driver what medications he took, when they were taken, and in what dose they were taken during a deposition or through written interrogatories.
- Request relevant documents. Your lawyer may be able to request relevant medical records that confirm the driver’s prescribed medications and the results of any toxicology reports done after the crash.
If the other driver was under the influence of opioids and caused your accident, he may be legally responsible for your injuries. Your lawyer will advocate for your fair and full recovery of past and future:
- Medical expenses. These may include the costs of any hospitalizations, surgeries, doctor appointments, medications, or other healthcare expenses.
- Lost income. Any wages, benefits, or income from self-employment that you are unable to earn due to your injury may be compensable.
- Out-of-pocket costs. Any other financial expenses you incur because of your injury may be compensable.
- Physical pain and emotional suffering. Your physical pain and emotional suffering may be significant after a car crash. These damages may be hard to quantify, but your lawyer can present the right evidence to explain how the accident impacted you physically and emotionally.
To learn more about what happened in your car crash and about protecting your legal right to damages, contact our experienced Virginia car accident lawyers at any time by calling us directly or starting a live chat with us. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.