Impaired driving is a problem across Indiana, and we’re not always talking about drunk drivers. Taking any kind of mind-altering drug—from illegal street drugs to prescription medications—can impact a driver’s ability to follow traffic laws and operate their vehicle safely.
When you and your passengers are the innocent victims of an impaired driver, you have a right to hold the driver accountable for damages you have sustained due to the crash. If a driver is under the influence of marijuana and causes an accident, their drug use is grounds for finding them at fault. However, you do not necessarily need a positive drug test to hold them accountable. Our Indiana car accident attorney team explains here.
How Marijuana Use Affects Driving
Unlike many other states, recreational and medical marijuana are still illegal in Indiana. However, that doesn’t mean people aren’t using it and getting behind the wheel afterward. After alcohol, marijuana is the substance most often associated with impaired driving, even in states where it is still illegal. Similar to alcohol, marijuana affects the areas of the brain that control movement, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment. This can impact driving ability by:
- Slowing the driver’s reaction time
- Reducing the driver’s ability to make quick decisions
- Impairing the driver’s coordination
- Causing disorientation
- Limiting the ability to focus on the task of driving
- Making the driver sleepy
These common effects of marijuana make a stoned driver very dangerous. They are unlikely to identify and avoid hazards, won’t be able to judge the distance to the car in front of them, will be easily distracted from the road, and are more likely than sober drivers to fall asleep behind the wheel. In addition, studies show that many people combine marijuana use with alcohol, making them doubly dangerous drivers.
Was the Driver Who Hit You Stoned?
After a car crash, you might notice that the other driver seems off. Signs that they might be impaired by marijuana include bloodshot eyes, nervous or paranoid behavior, stumbling, incoherent or slowed speech, and inappropriate reactions, such as laughing or crying. However, a driver could be high and show no obvious signs at all. Once the police have arrived to investigate the crash, they might discover evidence of drug use and issue a ticket or arrest the driver. Unlike with suspected drunk drivers, there is no test equivalent to a breathalyzer to determine whether a driver has used marijuana. If the police are suspicious, they could conduct other field sobriety tests, such as the one-leg stand test or walk-and-turn test, to charge a driver with impairment, regardless of the cause of impairment.
What You Need to Hold a Driver at Fault for a Crash
In order to hold a driver at fault for a crash—and therefore responsible for your financial losses—you do not need to prove drug or alcohol use. Your claim might be easier if the other driver has been charged with a DUI for drugs or alcohol, but it is not essential. All you need to prove is that the other driver’s actions caused the crash. Those actions could include:
- Breaking a traffic law, such as speeding or failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to observe a safe following distance
- Using a cellphone while driving
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Reckless driving
- Taking a curve too quickly
- Ignoring traffic signals
Whether the action that caused your crash was caused by drug impairment or not, you can hold the other driver accountable for all of your losses. Proving that they were drunk or on drugs has a bigger impact on their punishment than on your recovery.
Damages You Can Recover After an Indiana Crash
Along with proving that the other driver was at fault, your car accident lawyer will determine the value of your losses in order to make a demand for compensation from the liable party’s automobile insurance policy. Damages could include the following:
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Lost wages if you are unable to work due to your injuries
- Lost earning capacity if you are unable to earn the same pay when you return to work
- A financial valuation of your pain and suffering
- Wrongful death damages if someone was killed in the crash