Drug Use Accidents
Most of us know that it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit, but the equally dangerous behavior of drugged driving tends to receive less publicity. Drugged driving involves using illegal narcotics or legal narcotics that are not compatible with getting behind the wheel. Even though some of us have legal prescriptions for certain medications, it may not be safe to operate a vehicle while under the influence of those medications. Knoxville car accident lawyer Mark Hartsoe is committed to asserting the rights of Tennessee residents who have become the unfortunate victims of drugged driving. If you are in this situation, you likely can bring a legal claim against the person whose drug use harmed you.Holding a Driver Liable for Using Drugs Behind the Wheel
A personal injury case based on an auto accident usually requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant was acting negligently at the time of the crash. Negligence is a standard that specifies the minimum level of care that we must each use on a regular basis when going about our daily business. This standard encompasses any applicable traffic laws, including laws that prohibit operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, often extending to prescription medications.
According to TCA 55-10-401, a driver is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while “under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system.” According to Tennessee law, there is no fixed level of the substance that must be located in the defendant’s system in order for a violation to be found and penalties to be imposed. Additionally, Tennessee does not allow a party accused of driving while drugged to assert a defense claiming he or she has a prescription for the substance and is legally allowed to consume it.
You must also demonstrate that the defendant’s reckless decision to get out on the road in a drugged state was the direct cause of your injuries. It is usually a good idea to contact the police and to obtain a copy of the police report following the crash. The report will typically indicate the cause of the accident and whether the at-fault driver was under the influence at the time. Also, you will want to offer evidence supporting the damages that you are seeking, which may range from lost income, property damage, and past and future medical treatment to pain and suffering or scarring and disfigurement, among other examples.
Under a groundbreaking Tennessee Supreme Court case, Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., a victim in a drugged driving accident may be entitled to seek punitive damages. These are designed to punish a defendant for intentional, reckless, malicious, or wanton conduct and to provide a deterrent to the general public. To recover punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the driver acted with one of the mental states above rather than merely carelessly. Punitive damages awards usually are substantial when they are granted, so enlisting a lawyer who knows how to strategically pursue them can make a significant difference in the total amount of compensation that you ultimately receive.Protect Your Rights by Consulting Knoxville Car Accident Lawyer Mark Hartsoe
People whose lives have been changed because someone else chose to get behind the wheel after using drugs should not hesitate to take legal action. Knoxville car accident attorney Mark Hartsoe can help you investigate your potential claim, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and file a lawsuit to seek damages. As an experienced motor vehicle collision lawyer, he knows how daunting this process may seem, but he will stand by you to ensure that your interests are represented at each juncture. Call us at 865-524-5657 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.