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Traffic accidents are often devastating life events for drivers and passengers. Those who are injured not only deal with the physical pain of injury and recovery, but they must cope with the additional emotional stress and financial burden that accompanies a severe injury. Mounting medical expenses, lost income from missing work, and uncertainty about the future can all weigh heavily on a family. Learning that another driver’s poor choice to drive under the influence of drugs caused your accident, which could have been prevented, compounds an already difficult situation.
If you or a family member has sustained injuries in an accident caused by a drugged driver, Missouri law entitles you to seek compensation for damages in civil court. Let an experienced drugged driving attorney investigate your case, advocate for your rights, negotiate a settlement on your behalf, or litigate your case in court, if necessary. You deserve compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Although money cannot undo some permanent injuries, it can assist with the financial burden related to your accident and put you on a solid financial footing for the future.
Contact the skilled St. Louis drugged driving accident lawyers at the Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 for a free consultation and to learn about how we can assist you after a drugged driving accident.
About the Cagle Law Firm
The award-winning attorneys at the Cagle Law Firm have extensive experience in negotiating, settling, and litigating personal injury cases, including those involving drugged driving. The firm’s dedication to client service and advocacy has resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars in settlements and jury verdicts. Our case results range from $100,000 to more than $1.5 million for individual client personal injury claims. Each case is highly dependent on individual circumstances. The Cagle Law Firm cannot guarantee the outcome in any drugged driving case, but we can promise that our qualified legal team will aggressively pursue the best result for your particular situation.
Drugged Driving in Missouri
Like many other states, Missouri treats drugged driving the same way it treats drunk driving; drug and/or alcohol use behind the wheel is illegal and referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI). Under Missouri law, a person who is convicted of DWI potentially faces large fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol assessment, and other penalties, such as community service and probation. Missouri law defines intoxicated as “when a person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drug, or any combination thereof.”
Missouri law also provides an extensive list of controlled substances and drugs, categorized in five schedules, the use of which can result in a DWI conviction. It’s important to note that prescription medications also fall under the umbrella of controlled substances. Even when following the advice of a doctor, legal prescription drugs can render a driver intoxicated if the prescription impairs normal functions, such as sight, hearing, walking, and judging space and time. If a driver is under the influence and causes an accident, a jury may find them negligent and responsible for any damages that result from the accident.
Third-Party Liability in Drugged Driving Accidents
When you take legal action after a drugged driving accident, it’s likely that you will name the other driver’s insurance company as a defendant in the lawsuit. Side effects from prescription medications can impair driving by causing:
- Slow movement
- Blurry vision
- Short attention span
- Inability to focus
Common Drugs Found in Intoxicated Drivers
The drugs found in intoxicated drivers who cause accidents vary greatly. In some instances, the driver might be taking legal prescription drugs, and in other cases, the driver might be under the influence of illegal drugs. With the rise of opioid addiction in the United States, it’s becoming more common to encounter drugged drivers who are abusing legal drugs. Common substances in intoxicated drivers include, but are not limited to:
Cannabis and Marijuana
Next to alcohol, cannabis remains the drug most frequently found in drug impaired drivers. Unlike Illinois, which recently approved recreational use of marijuana, Missouri has only legalized medicinal marijuana. Even with a doctor’s prescription, however, driving under the influence is still illegal, because cannabis use impairs driving, which can lead to severe accidents and injuries—according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, “among drug-tested fatally-injured drivers in 2016, 38 percent tested positive for some form of marijuana.” Driving can grow even more dangerous when people get behind the wheel after combining cannabis with alcohol or opioids.
This is a broad class of drugs and includes natural opiates made from the poppy plant, such as heroin, opium, and morphine, as well as lab-made synthetic versions. Opioids bind to an individual’s opiate receptors in the brain and release dopamine throughout the body. In a clinical setting, doctors prescribe opioids for pain management. Those who suffer back pain, knee pain, migraines, or post-surgical pain might receive opioids from their doctor. There are many valid health reasons for which doctors prescribe opioids. The problem arises when those taking those medications drive while under the influence. While these drugs can be highly addictive, and it has been proven that they are abused by some. As well, some individuals seek them out illegally. Some commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and codeine.
Again, patients have medical needs for which doctors legitimately prescribe these medications. When individuals fail to exercise a great deal of care when operating a vehicle and are involved in an injury crash while under the influence, everyone’s lives get more complicated.
Medications used to treat ADHD and ADD symptoms in adults and teens are psychotropic in nature. When taken appropriately through proper medical supervision, studies show that these individuals are actually less likely to be in a traffic accident than those with ADHD/ADD who don’t take medication. Yet, these drugs, which include Ritalin, Adderall, and Strattera, are sometimes abused and can lead to impairment, especially when combined with alcohol. These medications may be abused and used as stimulants for weight loss, which is not their intended treatment. Again, any abuse of the medication that results in driving under the influence is negligence.
Over 25 million adults across the nation have taken antidepressants for two years or longer. These powerful drugs serve as a necessary tool for mental health professionals, but they can put drivers on the road in danger. When a doctor prescribes a new antidepressant to a patient or a patient quits taking a prescription, the body has to adjust to the chemical change. When those who are going through these changes choose to drive, they might cause a traffic accident because of side effects. Some commonly prescribed antidepressants include big pharma drugs, like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, as well as tricyclic antidepressants, such as doxepin and amoxapine.
Sleep aids, such as Lunesta and Ambien, remain the most popular prescribed benzodiazepines. However, doctors use other tranquilizers, such as Xanax and Diazepam, to treat anxiety and substance withdrawal. The calming effect of these drugs can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel, especially if the user combines them with alcoholic beverages.
In all drugged driving crashes that result in injury, the type of influence that the at-fault driver was engaged becomes important. As established, many of the medications are prescribed for good reason and are properly supervised through a physician. These drugs were created to help the population. In scenarios where the patient is abusing the medication or failing to be cautious, it can cause serious injuries or death to themselves or other drivers. We want all members of the population to receive the appropriate medical treatment to address their specific conditions. We just want everyone to drive safely and unimpaired.
Recovering Damages After a Drugged Driving Accident
Missouri law entitles injured individuals to sue for damages in civil court if they sustained harm in an accident caused by another driver impaired by drugs. If your attorney negotiates a fair settlement or a court rules in your favor, you might receive compensation for the following damages:
- Cost of medical treatment. Severe injuries can cause accident injury victims to amass tens of thousands in medical bills from ambulance rides, emergency room visits, hospitalization, follow-up visits, surgery, radiology, and medications. When severe injuries require extensive recovery, lead to repeat surgeries, or cause permanent disability, costs of treatment might include physical therapy, mental health services, and long-term care. Injured individuals can also include the cost of assistive devices, such as crutches, wheelchairs, canes, and prosthetic limbs, in their damages claim.
- Lost wages. Severe accidents also require those who suffer injury to miss work for treatment and hospitalization. Recovery requires both physical and mental rest. If or when a doctor releases someone back to work, he or she may be unable to engage in heavy lifting or other demanding physical requirements of his or her job. Time away from work and reduced hours result in a loss of income, which can devastate a household if the injured person is the family’s primary breadwinner.
- Lost earning capacity. When accident injury victims sustain a severe injury that causes permanent disability, requires months or years of treatment, or leads to a chronic, lifelong condition, they may never be able to return to their job. In some cases, a victim may not be able to work at all; other times, a victim might need to seek lower paying employment. Courts sometimes award damages for lost future wages to compensate those for catastrophic injuries.
- Non-economic damages. Not all damages and losses are quantifiable. Victims suffer pain, mental anguish, damage to their relationships, and other intangible things after a severe accident. Depending on the situation, a court might award damages for pain and suffering, permanent disability, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium, scarring and disfigurement, and other non-economic damages that might apply to a specific case.
Do You Need Legal Help After a Drugged Driving Accident?
If you have sustained an injury in an accident involving another driver who was under the influence of drugs, whether prescription or illegal, a court may award you compensation for your injury and losses if you take legal action. Missouri law involves a strict statute of limitations that requires you to file any personal injury claim within a certain time period, making it necessary to contact an attorney immediately following your accident.
The skilled St. Louis personal injury lawyers at The Cagle Law Firm are here to assist with the aftermath of a drugged driving accident. We understand that you are going through a difficult time. We can handle the details of your case, while you focus on recuperating from your injuries. Call the Cagle Law Firm today at (314) 276-1681, or contact us online, to schedule your free case evaluation and to learn how we can help you seek justice from those who have caused you harm. We handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you don’t have to pay anything upfront. Instead, we deduct our attorney fees from any settlement or verdict that we secure for you.