Study Finds Incidence of Drugged Driving on the Rise

With state legislative efforts and public scrutiny focused on cracking down on drunk drivers, another equally dangerous practice has been allowed to grow under the radar: driving under the influence of drugs. A recent study published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the use of drugs by drivers involved in fatal car accidents has increased over the past several years, even as the number of drunk driving accidents has decreased.

The study looked at the number of drivers who died in car accidents from 2005 to 2009. According to the study's results, the rate of drug use among drivers in fatal motor vehicle accidents over the five year period increased by 5 percent. The study found that 18 percent of the drivers who died as a result of the accidents were under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident. The drugs detected in the drivers' systems included legal and illegal drugs, such as narcotics, depressants, stimulants and steroids, among others. The study did not conclude whether the driver's drug use was a contributing factor in the motor vehicle accident.

While all states have laws prohibiting the use of certain drugs while driving, including the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications that impair driving performance, enforcement of these laws has been problematic. This is due in part to the fact that it is more difficult to determine when a driver has been operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs than it is for alcohol. Regardless, the use of drugs can have a severe impact on an individual's ability to operate a motor vehicle. Just like alcohol, drugs can impair a person's judgment, decrease their reaction time and cause them to make mistakes that may result in an innocent person's death.

Each year, approximately one-third of fatal car accidents in the US are caused by drunk drivers. In 2008, nearly 12,000 people lost their lives in a drunk driving accident. In Connecticut, 86 of the 234, or 34 percent, fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2008 were attributed to drunk driving. A 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that as many as 10.5 million people over the age of 12 had admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the previous year.

Your Legal Options after an Accident with an Impaired Driver

Drivers who act irresponsibly and use drugs or consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions - especially when those bad acts harm someone else. If you were in a motor vehicle accident caused by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have important legal options available to you, including the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver. By working with an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accident cases you may be able to recover compensation for your losses, including:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
  • Repair or replacement costs for personal property, including your vehicle
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Permanent disfigurement, impairment or loss of bodily function

If the accident resulted in a death, the family members have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the negligent driver. Some of the types of compensation available under Connecticut's wrongful death statute include funeral and burial expenses; hospital, nursing services and other medical expenses; lost earning capacity; conscious pain and suffering and loss of capacity to enjoy life's activities. Connecticut law also provides that double or treble damages may be available in wrongful death actions in which the defendant operated a motor vehicle with reckless disregard in violation of one of the state's laws, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Dram Shop Lawsuits

There is another important source of relief under Connecticut law for those who were the victim of a motor vehicle accident caused by an impaired driver. In addition to bringing a legal claim against the negligent driver, state law also permits accident victims to bring a claim against any establishment that served alcohol to the driver prior to the accident.

Known as a "dram shop" action, these special types of claims are available in cases when a restaurant, bar or other establishment that holds a state liquor license knowingly serves alcohol to an intoxicated person who later is involved in a motor vehicle accident injuring another person. State law limits the amount of compensation that may be recovered in dram shop actions to $250,000. Additionally, there is a one year statute of limitations on bringing these claims - the statute of limitations for other personal injury actions is two years. Lastly, to bring a dram shop action, notice must be given to the establishment within 120 days of the accident. The notice must include the time, date and person to whom the alcohol sale was made; the name and address of the person injured and the time, date and place where the accident occurred.

Connecticut law also permits victims of drunk driving accidents to bring a related type of claim known as a "social host" claim against private parties who serve alcohol to their guests during social gatherings. When social hosts serve alcohol to a person they know or should have known was intoxicated, they may share in the liability for any harm the intoxicated person causes to a third party.

Conclusion

For more information on bringing a personal injury, wrongful death or dram shop action following an accident with an impaired driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. A lawyer knowledgeable in bringing these types of claims can review your legal options and help you make the best decision for your case.