In October 2013, a Brooksville woman was convicted of manslaughter in the death of a 27-year-old construction worker in November, 2011. While the driver insisted she was momentarily distracted by a ringing cell phone and left the road, according to The Tampa Bay Times, subsequent blood tests showed methadone in her system. Prosecutors also produced a video of an interview with the driver directly after the accident which showed her slurring her speech and falling asleep during the interview. The defendant had a number of health problems for which the methadone was legally prescribed. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison for DUI manslaughter.
Impaired driving does not necessarily only mean driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. As the conviction of the Brooksville woman shows, even legally prescribed or over-the-counter drugs can cause impairment which can lead to an accident that causes injury or even death. In the case of the construction worker that was killed in this accident, his family would have a valid wrongful death claim against the Brooksville woman for driving while under the influence of the methadone, even if it was properly taken according to her doctor’s orders.
Drivers have a duty when they get on the road to be sure that they are physically capable of safely being on the road. This means that they cannot be under the influence of anything that could cause drowsiness, distraction or delayed reaction time. Even if the cause of drowsiness is an over-the-counter medication such as Benadryl, it is up to the driver of a vehicle to make sure that they are not affected by the medication they are taking so that they are a danger to others.
This involves a great amount of self-awareness by drivers to be sure that they know what affect their prescription and over-the-counter medication has on them. While most medications that cause driving impairment has some sort of warning, the degree of how each drug, or combination of drugs affects a driver must be known before taking the risk of getting behind the wheel. In the case of the Brooksville woman, in the likely chance of a wrongful death suit, she would most likely be found to be negligent for getting on the road after taking methadone, even if she was properly taking it and not abusing it. It was up to her to be aware of how her medication affected her and stay off the road if she was impaired.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with someone that was driving while impaired, even if they were impaired by a drug that they were taking legally, it is important to protect your rights and contact an attorney right away. While the police likely would have done their own investigation into the cause of the accident, it is important that you hire an attorney to do an investigation to determine the level of fault of the other driver in the accident. Contact the Brooks Law Group right away at 1-888-WE-MEAN-IT so that you can schedule your free consultation and begin your case.