Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and its acceptance in society continues to grow as more and more states begin to legalize it. Four states have recently legalized the substance and a recent report has predicted that another 18 states will legalize marijuana by 2020. This means that marijuana will be easier for teenagers and adults to get their hands on and will become more ubiquitous within society. This may result in an increase in the number of drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of marijuana, which may increase the risk of auto accidents.
Although Montana law prohibits the operation of a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, many intoxicated drivers are unaware that it is illegal under Montana law to operate a motor vehicle with THC levels above 5 ng/ml. It’s important to know what your rights are if you happen to be on the wrong side of a car accident in the state of Montana involving an impaired driver.
How Marijuana Affects Driving
Smoking or ingesting marijuana significantly impairs judgment, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration and perception of time and distance – all of which comes into play while driving.
Studies have found a relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability. Because of this, the risk of being involved in an accident roughly doubles after marijuana use. Also, drivers involved in an accident with THC in their blood are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the accident than drivers who had not consumed drugs or alcohol.
The Legal Implications of Driving High
As marijuana becomes more accessible and more people begin to use it freely, the risk of more people driving while under the influence grows. For marijuana users that get caught behind the wheel while impaired in Montana, it is considered a DUI and carries the same consequences.
Depending on how many DUI’s a person has had in the past, someone who is found guilty of driving while under the influence can face stiff criminal penalties.
These penalties increase if there are minors younger than 16 years of age in the vehicle during the incident. Additional penalties can be inflicted such as seizure of the vehicle involved in the incident, necessary completion of a chemical dependency treatment program and being restricted to only driving a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device during the probationary period.
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in an Accident
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident with someone who was under the influence of marijuana, you should know that you have options.
While an intoxicated driver who caused an auto accident can face serious criminal charges, they can also face civil liability, which can be fully pursued in court by the victims of the accident.
A civil suit for a DUI is distinctly separate from the criminal proceedings that an intoxicated driver might face. The criminal proceedings are in place to protect the public from future harm and deter future incidents involving driving while under the influence.
A civil case for driving while under the influence comes in the form of an injury lawsuit filed by the victim of the auto accident or their heirs or personal representative in the case of a fatality. This lawsuit may be the only way to recoup the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, damaged property or other economic damages that were incurred because of the accident. Depending on your case, you may also be entitled to reimbursement for pain and suffering if you’ve experienced physical pain or emotional and psychological trauma from the accident. Punitive damages may also be available due to the recklessness involved in a car accident caused by an impaired driver.
With more than 40 years of experience in the field of personal injury law, the lawyers at Hoyt & Blewett PLLC will work to ensure that you get fair compensation based on your injuries and disabilities. We are committed to holding insurance companies accountable for injuries inflicted in an auto accident caused by a DUI. Please contact us to learn more about your potential injury claim.