In our last post, we began speaking about the risks sleep medications present for motorists because of how they affect driver alertness. One of the questions this discussion raises is how far liability would extend when a motorist is involved in an accident as a result of using sleeping medications, or any other medication.
The issue is one that came up in the case of Kerry Kennedy, who was involved in a highway accident back in 2012. Fortunately, nobody was hurt when Kennedy swerved off the road and crashed into a tractor-trailer, but she ended up being charged with driving under the influence of a drug.
In Kennedy’s case, she took the medication by mistake. Prosecutors in the case attempted to argue that she had a responsibility to pull over when she began to feel the effects of the drug, but that she waited too long. Ultimately, she was acquitted of the charge. Although hers was a criminal case, it is conceivable that a civil case could be brought by a motorist harmed as a result of such driving.
In general, liability for motorist vehicle accidents is based on the failure to exercise reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle. What exactly constitutes reasonable care in any given situation is not always easy to determine, though a case could certainly be made that motorists who know they are under the affects of a sleep drug or other medication have a responsibility to take precautions to prevent an accident.
Negligence, or failure to exercise reasonable care, can be shown in a variety of ways in car accident cases, and it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that one builds the best possible case.
Sources: NBC News, “Sleeping Pill Use Raises Car Crash Risk, Study Finds,” Maggie Fox, June 11, 2015.
CNN, “Kerry Kennedy acquitted in DWI trial,” Lena Jakobsson and Ray Sanchez, Feb. 28, 2014.