Does Driving High Cause Car Accidents?

Posted on March 19, 2024 in Car Accidents

You may recover financial compensation if you suffered an injury in an accident with a high driver, because driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol definitely causes car accidents.

You still need to prove that the other driver was to blame for the accident, and like in every car accident, you are better off when you hire an experienced car accident attorney. Your lawyer can represent you throughout the legal process, fighting for you to get the compensation you deserve. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.

Driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs has become far more prevalent in recent years. Almost one in every five Americans has used cannabis at least once, and the number of younger people who use cannabis is even higher. Research shows that more than two of every five young people use marijuana.

Just Because Marijuana is Legal Does Not Mean You Can Do it When Driving

Driving High on MarijuanaEven if marijuana is legal to use in a jurisdiction, it does not mean that one can operate a motor vehicle under its influence. It doesn’t even matter that one has taken marijuana for medicinal purposes – the prohibition is still the same.

The same laws that punish drunk driving also make it illegal to get behind the wheel when high. Drivers can face similar penalties, even for a first offense, and the penalties can be much more severe when the accident involves physical injury or death.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury in an accident where the other driver was high, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. First, you need to prove liability for the accident, and you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer to defend your legal interests.

Hiring an attorney can maximize your financial compensation in your case. If you have yet to speak to an attorney, contact one today to schedule a free initial consultation.

How Marijuana Usage Affects Motorists

The main reason why cannabis affects a driver is the presence of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).

This psychoactive agent can affect:

  • Attention – those who are under the influence may suffer from brain fog or selectively pay attention to only certain things.
  • Decision-making – drivers may have worse judgment and make riskier decisions behind the wheel, such as speeding or weaving in and out of lanes.
  • Coordination – those who are under the influence of drugs lose many aspects of their coordination.
  • Reaction time – marijuana can slow down reaction time.

These are essential aspects of safe driving. Motorists must respond to challenges behind the wheel because operating a vehicle involves frequent decisions.

Driving High Is as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Some drivers may think that it is less dangerous to drive under the influence of drugs than it is to drive drunk, but they are entirely wrong. Cannabis can be very dangerous when drivers use it before they get behind the wheel (or while they are driving, as some people do).

Practically every major study has found that the higher the prevalence of THC in the blood, the more impaired the driver. Those who use cannabis more often can better tolerate elevated amounts of THC.

Drivers React Much Slower When They Are Under the Influence of Drugs

One of the significant ways that marijuana impacts driving is that motorists take longer to react to the challenges that they encounter.

Cannabis can slow down reflexes, and the driver will also suffer from altered perceptions. They may not even realize there is a potential danger for some time, and when they try to react, they will be slower. Thus, drivers cannot respond to emergencies effectively when they are high.

Too Many Drivers Are High Behind the Wheel

Statistics show precisely how bad the problem of driving high is. When it comes to driving under the influence of cannabis, nearly one out of every ten marijuana users have admitted to driving high in the previous year.

The problem is much worse for drivers who have sought treatment for their cannabis addiction, where roughly 50 percent of those drivers have admitted to being high while operating a vehicle. Those who did drive high got behind the wheel an average of eight times a year when they were under the influence.

There is an extensive range of estimates of the percentage of drivers who test positive for cannabis after a car accident, where the number ranges from 6-32 percent. The only certainty is that the problem is getting worse because the increasing legalization of marijuana means that more drivers use it frequently.

More Car Accident Fatalities Involve Cannabis

Over the past 20 years, the proportion of motor vehicle fatalities that involved cannabis rose from 9 percent to 22 percent. In many of these cases, a driver had something else in addition to cannabis in their system, such as alcohol or an opioid. The presence of both marijuana and alcohol in the system magnifies the dangers, and drivers under the influence of marijuana were 1.65 more likely to cause a fatality than a sober driver.

These statistics only address cannabis usage. Drivers may get behind the wheel under the influence of other substances, such as opioids or prescription drugs, that they are abusing.

How Police May Learn That a Driver Is High

Law enforcement may learn that the driver was under the influence when the police officer showed up at the scene of the accident. The police officer may detect signs of cannabis usage when they are talking to the other driver, such as odor or marijuana in the car. The officer can arrest the driver for suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

There is not yet any reliable field testing device to detect marijuana usage. Some companies are rolling out field drug testing devices, but the results have not always held up in court.

Most often, police will obtain a warrant to draw blood from the driver once they have taken them into custody, and the blood test will detect the presence of marijuana in the driver’s system. A higher reading can show that the motorist was under the influence when they were driving.

Law enforcement may not always hand over the driver’s blood test results when you ask for them because they are more concerned with winning the criminal case to punish the driver.

Still, you can obtain the blood test results when your lawyer gets a subpoena for them. Law enforcement or the hospital that conducted the blood test may need to turn the evidence over to you so you can use it in your civil case, which is one reason you need an attorney.

Proving the Other Driver’s Liability in a Car Accident Case

If you have suffered an injury in an accident with a motorist who was driving high, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. You must prove they were responsible for your injuries before you can even talk dollars and cents.

The civil lawsuit process is largely independent of any criminal case a prosecutor may file against the driver. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Numerically, it will mean that they have proven that their facts are 100 percent likely to have happened, and no reasonable juror will believe that the driver is not guilty.

Even if a prosecutor can prove their case, it does not automatically mean the driver must pay you. The only way that a criminal conviction can be evidence in your civil case is if the driver pleads guilty, which they will never do because they know it means they will be automatically liable in a civil case.

It may still be possible to win a civil lawsuit against the driver, even if the prosecutor does not win a conviction in the criminal case. There is a lower standard of proof in a civil case, and you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, which equates to a 51 percent certainty, or more likely than not, that your facts are accurate.

You Do Not Need to Prove that the Other Driver Was High

You only need to prove that the driver did something unreasonable under the circumstances to win your case. For example, if the driver drifted into your lane, it will be considered negligence whether they were high or sober.

Ultimately, you do not need to prove that a driver was high, although it can help your case and give you more leverage in settlement negotiations. In addition, showing that the other driver was high can be beneficial if liability was a close call for the accident.

Even if you can prove that the driver was responsible for your injuries, you still need to fight the uphill battle of obtaining enough compensation for what happened. The insurance company may concede liability early in your case but then give you difficulties when discussing the settlement amount.

Your Financial Compensation for a Car Accident Involving Drugs

After an accident with a high driver, you may recover financial compensation for:

You May Even Qualify for Punitive Damages

Usually, punitive damages are rare in every type of car accident case. Still, they are possible if the other driver was highly reckless while driving high, and your lawyer can use this to your advantage when negotiating a settlement. Insurance companies may not want to take the chance of going to a jury trial because they may owe you much more.

Do Not Accept a Settlement for Less than You Deserve

Driving High - Drugged DrivingThe insurance company may make you a settlement offer early on in your case, and chances are that it will be for much less than the actual value of your case. If you have hired a car accident lawyer, you know exactly how much you deserve, so you can confidently reject an insufficient offer.

Your lawyer will counter and continue negotiating with the insurance company. If they cannot get in the same ballpark, your lawyer may file a lawsuit against the responsible driver that it will have to defend.

In most cases, you can stay out of court, and your case may settle without a trial. You still need a lawyer because they will advise you on the value of your case and fight for you in settlement negotiations.

Hiring a Car Accident Attorney Costs Nothing Out of Pocket

You may be hesitant to hire an attorney due to concerns about the cost. However, hiring a car accident attorney costs you nothing out of pocket. This is because most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis.

What does this mean for you? It means that your attorney will only get paid if they successfully recover compensation for you. If they don’t win your case, you won’t owe them anything. This arrangement allows you to have access to quality legal representation without worrying about the financial burden.

Don’t let financial concerns prevent you from seeking legal help after a car accident. Remember, hiring a car accident attorney costs you nothing out of pocket. Take advantage of this opportunity to protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

Contact an Attorney as Soon As Possible After Your Car Accident

Matt Boatman Attorney for Car Accident

Matthew R. Boatman, Car Accident Lawyer

You need to hire a personal injury attorney after you have suffered an injury as soon as possible. Insurance companies quickly get to work if they realize they have a window of opportunity to exploit you and pay you less than you deserve. They may pressure you to accept a low settlement offer.

Before you know how much you may have gotten, you may sign the settlement agreement, which releases the insurance company from any further liability in your case.

Hiring an attorney protects your legal rights from the get-go, and insurance companies know they cannot take advantage of you when they see an experienced attorney across the table. You do not need to pay anything out of pocket for a car accident lawyer, who will work for you on a contingency basis.