“Drugged Driving” Accidents Involving Marijuana Use

“Drugged driving” has been increasing in frequency and has caused many accidents in DuPage County as well as throughout the Chicago area. When a driver is impaired by drug use, this impairment can have many adverse impacts on the driver’s ability to drive in a responsible and lawful manner. “Drugged driving” can be made worse if the driver mixed drugs and/or also consumed alcohol while taking drugs. While there are many drugs that typically cause driver impairment, among the most common drug is marijuana.

The subject of driving while impaired on drugs is further discussed on the “Vehicle Accidents Involving Drivers Under The Influence Of Drugs” page. Additionally, Illinois DUI criteria for marijuana and other drug usage is explained in the “Illinois 2020 DUI Fact Book.”

With the January 2020 legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois, many people are wondering what impact this might have on traffic safety. Two of the main issues are:

  • Will the marijuana legalization result in more people driving while high?
  • What effect does marijuana use have on someone who subsequently drives a vehicle?

The effect on driving that marijuana has on a motorist can be complex. The subject is discussed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) page titled “Does marijuana use affect driving?”

An excerpt:

Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.7–9 

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.10 Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.11,12 However, the role played by marijuana in crashes is often unclear because it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because people frequently combine it with alcohol. Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.8

Additional commentary concerning drivers and marijuana use is seen in the NHTSA report of July 2017 titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving.” One of the main topics discussed is whether a driver is impaired by marijuana usage, and how this cannabis usage may be tested and proven as the cause of a driver’s impairment.

The subject of whether a driver is impaired by marijuana is complex. Unlike testing for drunk driving, there is no standardized test that currently is available to police to test for driver impairment because of marijuana use. Thus, “drugged driving” because of cannabis use can be difficult to assess.

The Chicago Tribune article of October 25, 2019, titled “Cops using roadside tests for weed, but lack set measure of impairment” discusses this subject. An excerpt from this article:

The problem is, there is no scientific standard for establishing impairment based on the amount of THC — the main component of pot that gets users high — in the body. The drug is metabolized very quickly, but remains in the body for a long time, well after the high wears off. That means there may be a long legal fight ahead for any attempt to create a parallel policing system for pot as there is for alcohol.

Illinois law sets the definition of driving impairment from marijuana at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 10 ng/ml of other bodily fluids such as saliva or urine. The new roadside tests being tested by Carol Stream use saliva.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions that there is no scientifically established measurement of bodily fluids to establish impairment, so such laws are “not meaningful.”

This Tribune article also highlights studies and statistics regarding the prevalence of marijuana use in “drugged driving” car crashes.

As with any accident that causes injury, there are a number of steps an injured person should take immediately following an accident. These steps serve to safeguard both the injured person’s health, as well as preserve the ability to get the maximum amount of compensation for one’s injuries.

The amount of accident injury compensation varies according to many factors, including the specific characteristics of the accident and the injuries that occurred. The nature of the injuries, including whether the injuries are temporary or permanent injuries, is a primary factor.

There are many different types of outcomes that can occur if the injured person elects to file a lawsuit. The amount of injury compensation can vary widely, even for the same types of injuries.

Many people injured in accidents will have a great need for injury compensation. The harm that has occurred due to an accident caused by another party can result in many direct and indirect costs to be incurred by the injured person. Depending upon the injuries and other factors such as insurance, medical bills can be high, if not very much so. As well, there can be other financial challenges presented, such as the inability to work for a period of time. If serious injuries have caused permanent impairments, the ability for the injured person to return to the same job may be put in jeopardy.

Given these medical costs – as well as other hardships – compensation sought in these injury lawsuits can potentially include many different types.  Compensation types can include (but are not limited to):

  • Medical costs (past, current and future) including rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of function
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other economic damages

The Elman Joseph Law Group, Illinois personal injury trial lawyers, can provide an overview as to what types of compensation – as well as what amounts – may be reasonably expected given the characteristics of the accident, the injuries, and the overall legal and medical situations.

If you were injured in an accident, call Tony Elman, Lead Trial Attorney at the Elman Joseph Law Group, at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the accident and see what legal actions – including the filing of a lawsuit – may be appropriate.  This discussion is provided free of charge and is confidential in nature.

Elman Joseph Law Group, LLC has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for 25+ years, and during this time has handled over 10,000 personal injury cases.  Through this extensive experience, the Elman Joseph Law Group has built a reputation for its court trial performance.  As seen in many of its cases, this successful trial experience may (substantially) increase potential accident injury compensation.

Elman Joseph Law Group, LLC handles cases on a “contingency” basis…clients are not charged legal fees unless and until they get money.

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