Prescription medications: for some people, they provide the only means to function on a daily basis. Many people take prescription medications for a variety of reasons: to manage medical conditions, to manage pain, or to prevent unpleasant symptoms. Unfortunately, prescription medications may also cause dangerous side effects that can lead to accidents. Was your car accident caused by a driver impaired by prescription medications? If so, you may need a lawyer to help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Common Side Effects Caused by Prescription Medications
Anyone who has ever taken a prescription medication knows they can cause a wide range of side effects. Some of those side effects, however, pose a greater danger to drivers than others.
- Dizziness. Getting dizzy leaves many people struggling to walk across a floor, much less navigate in traffic. Dizziness may lead to impaired perception or difficulty judging distances, which can substantially increase accident risk for many drivers.
- Drowsiness. Falling asleep behind the wheel quickly causes the car to drift out of its assigned path, often with the driver’s foot still on the accelerator. Even a brief episode of falling asleep while driving can put a driver and his fellow motorists in danger.
- Nausea. Nausea can pose a potent distraction behind the wheel, making it incredibly difficult for drivers to get to their destination safely. Vomiting in a moving vehicle poses its own set of distractions and challenges.
- Blurred vision. Some medications may temporarily or even permanently cause blurred vision. A driver with blurred vision may not easily make out traffic signs and signals. With blurred vision, drivers might even miss a pedestrian moving across their path or the movement of another vehicle around them.
- Impaired cognitive function. While most people insist that they can do the same things while taking their medications that they could without taking them, many drivers struggle with impaired cognitive function as a result of their prescriptions. They may, for example, struggle to remember how to follow traffic laws or how to complete certain maneuvers in traffic.
- Slowed reaction times. In addition to impaired cognitive function, some medications may slow reaction times. Slowed reaction times can leave drivers struggling to react to the actions of other vehicles around them. Drivers with slowed reaction times may have substantially higher crash risks because they cannot respond fast enough to prevent an accident.
Side effects may vary based on the type of medication a person is taking and what other medications or supplements they choose to take along with it. Herbal supplements can create serious side effects when interacting with prescription medications.
Drivers should also note that their reaction to medications can change over time, especially if they stop taking a medication for a while and go back to it. As they age, many people find that they have stronger reactions to medications that once caused fairly minor side effects. Added supplements and other medications can also impact the way a person’s body responds to new medications. Drinking can also increase the side effects of many prescription medications. Some of those effects may linger even after the body has processed the alcohol from the drink.
The Law and Prescription Medications
A driver had a prescription from his doctor for the medications he took before getting behind the wheel. He picked his medications up at a reputable pharmacy. Does that mean he can drive even under the influence of those medications?
No. It doesn’t. According to Florida law, drivers can face criminal sanctions for driving under the influence even if prescription medications cause their impairment. If a drug—legal or otherwise—has negative effects on a driver’s ability to drive safely, then the law will hold the driver accountable for causing an accident because of those side effects.
Any time a driver receives a new prescription, that driver should exercise caution before getting behind the wheel. Many physicians recommend that a driver wait at least 48 hours after taking a new prescription before deciding to drive. By that time, the driver should have a good idea of what side effects the medication causes, and whether it’s safe to drive.
After taking a prescription medication that causes known, undesirable side effects, the driver may also need to wait for up to 48 hours or more before getting back behind the wheel. The medication should have time to move completely out of the driver’s system before he gets back on the road to help prevent placing the driver, the driver’s passenger, and others on the road in undue danger.
Florida law does not place legal limits on the amount of medication drivers can take and still drive. Because of the virtually infinite ways medications can affect people and interact with other medications, supplements, etc., it would be impossible to implement that kind of law. Instead, the law focuses on effects. If a prescription medication impairs a driver’s ability to drive safely, no matter how much medication the driver takes, or what the impairment is, the driver faces potential criminal and civil liability if the impairment causes an accident.
How Does the Other Driver’s Prescription Drug Use Impact Your Claim?
Legally speaking, a driver who chooses to drive under the influence of prescription medications, especially those that cause negative side effects that make it difficult for the driver to operate a vehicle effectively, may face DUI (driving under the influence) charges. The decision to press those charges rests with law enforcement and the state’s attorney, not with any private individual. Your testimony can help determine whether the other driver exhibited dangerous behaviors, from appearing clearly distracted to swerving or ignoring traffic laws. Ultimately, however, the responsibility for ensuring criminal justice is done does not rest with you.
As the victim of an accident with a driver impaired by prescription medications, your primary concern is how the other driver’s prescription medication use influences your claim for damages in a civil lawsuit. Here are some of the more common questions our clients ask us about the impact of prescription medications on a car accident injury claim.
Can I get more money out of my claim if the driver was impaired by prescription medication? It’s possible, but probably not. Impaired driving is dangerous and irresponsible, and the law will hold the impaired driver legally responsible the same if the drug a person takes is legal or illegal. Most of the factors that impact the value of a claim have nothing to do with why the other driver made a bad decision that hurt you. Instead, they involve factors particular to you, like:
- Your medical expenses related to the accident;
- The severity of your injuries and how long it might take to recover;
- Your age, family situation, general health, employment, and income at the time of the accident;
- The pain you and/or your family suffered; and
- The damage to your vehicle and other personal possessions.
In rare instances, Florida courts will award punitive damages when someone’s conduct was outrageously reckless and harmful. It’s possible driving under the influence of prescription medication can constitute that sort of conduct, but in our experience it’s very rare, especially in a state like Florida where seniors take new medications on a regular basis and drive impaired without intending to do so.
Will the other driver’s prescription medication use decrease his or her financial liability? No. Just as the other driver’s prescription medication use usually does not increase the amount of your claim, it does not decrease the impaired driver’s financial liability (although it could affect the degree of criminal liability the driver faces).
Will the insurance company still pay the claim if the other driver chose to drive under the influence of prescription medication? First of all, because Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state, the impaired nature of the other driver will have no bearing on the benefits you receive from your own personal-injury-protection (PIP) insurance policy for any injuries you suffer. If your injuries are severe enough to allow you to take legal action against the impaired driver under Florida law, then your lawyer may have to contend with the impaired driver’s liability insurance carrier. Typically, liability policies do cover impaired driving, and instead contain provisions that punish policyholder-drivers who drive impaired.
How will the other driver’s prescription medication use impact the determination of fault in the accident? Determining fault in an accident often presents complications, and drug use—either prescription or otherwise—can significantly add to the complication. An evaluation of the accident, including the events leading up to it, will help determine liability in the accident. In some cases, even with the other driver’s prescription medication use, you may bear partial legal responsibility for the accident. Your actions must remain safe on the road and follow the letter and spirit of the law, just as the other driver must follow the law. Prescription medication use may determine fault in an accident case, but generally only if the other driver could reasonably have responded appropriately to problems on the road without the influence of the medication. In other words:
- A driver’s prescription medication use does not automatically indicate fault in an accident.
- Prescription medication use may contribute less to the determination of fault than the use of alcohol or nonprescription drugs, especially if the driver took the prescription medication long-term.
- If you failed to adhere to traffic laws, ignored traffic signals, or drove recklessly, you will still bear partial responsibility for the accident, even if the other driver used prescription medications at the time of the accident.
How Can a Lawyer Help After an Accident Involving a Driver on Prescription Medications?
Many people try to handle their insurance claims on their own, turning to an attorney only when they feel as though they have exhausted the avenues available to them personally. Working with a lawyer from the start, however, offers several key advantages throughout the claims process.
- A lawyer can help more effectively identify and argue the other driver’s fault in the accident. Insurance companies often attempt to prove that the driver they do not cover bears fault for the accident. They may insist that your actions led to the accident, or that their driver’s medication use had no impact on their ability to safely navigate the road. Unfortunately, this could mean substantially reducing the compensation you receive for your injuries. A lawyer, on the other hand, can help prove the other driver’s fault, increasing the funds the company awards you.
- A lawyer can help streamline the process. If the other driver used prescription medications, the insurance company may use the ongoing investigation as a complication that slows their willingness to send you the funds you deserve. When you work with a lawyer, on the other hand, they can often get the funds you deserve in your hands sooner, allowing you to pay off your bills.
- A lawyer can protect you from accepting an inadequate settlement offer. Many insurance companies make low settlement offers, just in hope that you will take quick money. When you work with an attorney, you can get a better idea of the funds you really deserve for your accident. An attorney can prevent you from accepting a too-low settlement offer early in the process, ultimately increasing the amount of your settlement.
- An attorney can help you manage your social media accounts and other public activities in the aftermath of the accident. The sad truth is, many insurance companies will use your social media posts and other activities to try to prove that your injuries create less-severe problems than you claim. As a result, they may reduce the amount they offer you. An attorney can help you manage those activities throughout the claims process, avoiding any posts or evidence that may prevent you from acquiring the funds you deserve for your injuries.
- An attorney can help you communicate with the insurance company. The insurance company may want you to answer a number of questions about the accident. Legally, you do not have to communicate with them or make a statement. You should make any such statement with the approval and help of your attorney to avoid any misunderstandings.
Any time you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident, you may need legal help and representation to help deal with the legal aftermath. A lawyer can help you navigate the entire claims process, streamlining it and ultimately increasing the funds you receive.
Did You Suffer Injuries in an Accident With a Driver Under the Influence of Prescription Medications?
After your accident, you have plenty of concerns to deal with—and at the top of the list, you must ensure that you get the financial compensation you need and deserve for your injuries. If you suffered injuries in a serious accident with a driver under the influence of prescription medications, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or write to us online to set up your free consultation. We have offices on both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765