By: Grace Hancock
Alcohol is not the only way for someone to be under the influence. A person driving under the influence of illicit substances, prescription medication, or over-the-counter medication is equally if not more dangerous on the road compared to someone driving under the influence of alcohol. Under Florida law, a person can be charged with a DUI if they are caught driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled or chemical substances. Like how a person who drives under the influence of alcohol is considered a “drunk driver,” a person who drives under the influence of drugs can be regarded as a “drugged driver.” The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (The FLHSMV) reports that in a single year (2016), “drug-impaired drivers caused 934 crashes, killing 440 people, including themselves, their passengers, and others on the road.” This disturbing data underlines the importance of spreading awareness about the dangers of drugged driving.
When learning about an accident involving a drugged driver, your first assumption may be that that driver had been under the influence of an illicit substance. Illicit substances refer to substances that are highly addictive and illegal, like cocaine, heroin, or meth. Illicit substances may also be referred to as controlled substances, the difference being that controlled substances refer specifically to illegal and prescription drugs under the regulation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in the United States. Some of the drugs regulated by the CSA include Xanax, Codeine, and PCP. Even, if you are legally prescribed a controlled substance by a medical professional, your prescription medication could impair your ability to drive.
Prescription drugs may cause impairment on their own. Additionally, prescription drugs taken along with other medication and/or alcohol may cause even worse impairment. Talk with your medical provider about the potential side effects of your prescribed medication and what it can’t be taken with. Whether you are taking a newly prescribed medication or taking a higher dose of a medication prescribed to you, you must first assess how that medication affects your cognition and thinking before getting behind the wheel, especially if your prescribed medication is a controlled substance like hydrocodone or valium. Additionally, you want to check your prescribed medicine bottle for warnings such as “do not take with alcohol,” potential side effects, and “do not operate heavy machinery.” It is important to know that driving is considered operating heavy machinery.
Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Florida, whereas medical marijuana treatment is legal.. That being said, driving under the influence for any reason is illegal. If you have a legal medical marijuana license, it is still illegal for you to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana. You should consult with your medical provider about potential side effects and what you can and can’t do when taking medical marijuana before you choose to operate a vehicle.
You probably aren’t asking yourself if the nasal spray you bought for your seasonal allergies at your local pharmacy can impair your ability to navigate on the road. The unfortunate truth is, commonly used over-the-counter medications, like cold and allergy medicines and sleep aides, can put drivers at risk by causing side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, and blurred vision. When you are taking an over-the-counter medication, it is best practice to first check the medicine bottle for warnings about potential side effects before getting behind the wheel.
Punitive Damages in Drugged Driving Accidents
When you’re injured because of another person’s carelessness, you deserve full compensation. Because of the 2020 Florida Statutes, Title XLV, Chapter 768, you have the ability to file a claim for punitive damages if you have been in a car crash caused by someone else’s negligence and you can prove that that person was under the influence at the time of the incident. Punitive damages refer to financial compensation awarded to the plaintiff on top of the financial compensation awarded for actual damages in certain circumstances. Punitive damages are considered punishment for the at-fault party and are usually awarded when the defendant’s behavior at the time of the incident is deemed to be especially harmful (i.e. if they were under the influence of illicit substances or prescription medication at the time of the incident.)
We Can Help
If you find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one have been injured in a car crash because another person was driving while drugged, you’ll need the advice and assistance of a Tampa car accident lawyer to help you get the financial compensation you are rightfully owed. You are already worrying about your health, finances and other stresses arising out of the accident, let us take care of the legal action. Contact us today for a free consultation.