There’s no telling what the average person will encounter upon heading out on the road on a given day. It seems like the majority of our daily trips are uneventful, but sometimes, it’s the worst accidents that can come out of nowhere and affect us.
No matter how safe of a driver you are, you will likely have difficulty avoiding an oncoming commercial truck driven by someone who is impaired by a controlled substance.
If you have been hurt in a trucking accident involving a drugged driver, you may be entitled to compensation from the trucking company that employs the driver. You can contact The Cagle Law Firm to speak to a drugged truck driving accident lawyer in St. Louis, MO, about your situation.
How does a personal injury attorney work through the evidence in a case like this? We explain it here.
The Facts of Trucking
We first want to cover some basic facts about interstate trucking in the United States. Truckers that travel on the country’s interstate highway system must adhere to certain rules relating to driving hours and rest periods.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, sets these rules that trucking companies are required to enforce. Essentially, truckers can drive up to a certain number of hours per on-duty period before resting for another set amount of hours.
These rules exist to keep drivers from overworking themselves and becoming tired on the road. More importantly, the hours-of-service rules were developed and implemented so that trucking companies cannot impose unreasonable driving hours upon individual truckers. The problem is, some trucking companies often make unreasonable demands upon drivers to meet delivery deadlines. When drivers are overworked, they can become distracted and exhausted.
As a result, some truck drivers may come to rely on controlled substances or over-the-counter medications to keep them awake and alert for longer periods. Drivers absolutely should not have unreasonable demands imposed upon them that make our highway less safe for them or for all drivers. While thus impaired, the drivers can strike other vehicles on the road and seriously injure or kill someone.
Even a simple failure to stop at legal stop signs or lights can have disastrous consequences for innocent motorists, given the tractor-trailer’s size and weight.
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 a doctor’s advice, 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, you will likely 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 the 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 some abuse them. 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, and 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. These drugs’ calming effects can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel, especially if they combine them with alcoholic beverages.
In all drugged driving crashes that result in injury, the type of influence that the at-fault driver was engaged in 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 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, treatment costs 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, they may be unable to engage in heavy lifting or other demanding physical requirements of their job. Time away from work and reduced hours results 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.
What Our Truck Accident Lawyers Do
If you have been injured by a truck driver who was impaired by drugs or alcohol, look to The Cagle Law Firm as your drugged truck driving accident lawyer in St. Louis, MO, we will immediately begin examining and gathering evidence.
Police will investigate the cause of the accident when they arrive on the scene. Officers may require a drug test from the driver if substance use is suspected. If drugs of any kind are found to be present, the truck driver can become a liable party in your injury case.
However, during the course of our investigation, we may find other liable parties, as well. For instance, perhaps the trucking company or the owner of the truck itself were in some way complicit in the driver having to work longer hours than those that are legally mandated.
No matter who we find liable in this instance of truck driver fatigue and personal injury to you, we will hold those parties accountable and fight to get you the financial compensation you need to pay your medical bills and get your life back to normal.
The Cagle Law Firm Will Fight for Your Justice
At The Cagle Law Firm, we know that the time following a truck accident can be frightening, inconvenient, and stressful. We don’t want you to worry about the law, gathering evidence, or injury claim deadlines. We want you to focus on your health and your family while we take on those responsible for the crash and compensation you need.
Call The Cagle Law Firm toll-free at (1-800) 685-3302 or locally at (314) 276-1681 to speak to a professional about your options.