Marijuana-Related Car Accidents - Plevin & Gallucci

Marijuana-Related Car Accidents

The movement to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Ohio continues, and voters may be asked to weigh in on a Constitutional amendment in November. Two petitions have been submitted to the Ohio Attorney General’s office this spring in the first step toward getting the issue on the 2020 general election ballot. Both have been rejected, but that isn’t necessarily decisive–many initiatives are rejected on initial submission. Still, supporters of an amendment allowing marijuana to be regulated like alcohol have an uphill battle. If an initial submission is approved, they’ll only have until July 1 to submit hundreds of thousands of signatures. 

Meanwhile, a 2020 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is raising concerns about the connection between marijuana use and serious traffic accidents. Researchers compared information about fatal accidents in the state of Washington before and after recreational marijuana was legalized in that state. They found that prior to the legalization of marijuana in the state, about 8.8% of drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes tested positive for THC. Over the 12-24 months following legalization, that percentage more than doubled, to 18%. By 2017, the fifth year after legalization, 21.7% of drivers involved in fatal accidents were THC-positive.

The exact meaning of this increase is unclear, as testing positive for THC doesn’t necessarily correlate with being impaired by marijuana. Although the intoxicating effects of marijuana typically wear off within a few hours, THC is often detectable in the blood for much longer. But, separate data from another study suggests that there is a correlation between marijuana legalization and traffic accidents. In 2017, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that two states–Washington and Colorado–that had legalized retail sale of marijuana had experienced increased car accident claims as compared with states that did not allow the sale of recreational marijuana.

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

While people tend to think of driving under the influence (known in Ohio as operating vehicle under the influence, or “OVI”) as an alcohol-related crime, it is also illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of a variety of drugs and intoxicants, including marijuana. Any type of impairment makes a driver more dangerous on the road, and marijuana use is no exception. 

But marijuana users don’t necessarily recognize the risk. Nearly half who responded to a 2019 survey said it was either “very safe” or “somewhat safe” to drive while they were high.

Many experts disagree, though assessments are inconsistent. In part, that’s because some studies base correlation on the presence of THC in blood or urine, while others focus on the impact of having recently smoked marijuana. One survey of existing literature concluded that people operating a motor vehicle after smoking cannabis were about twice as likely to be involved in a traffic accident. And studies have shown specific impairments, such as slowed response time, associated with marijuana use. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study found that the increased risk of traffic accidents associated with marijuana use largely disappeared when researchers controlled for other factors such as age and alcohol use. 

Depending on the circumstances, someone who has been injured by a driver who was operating under the influence of marijuana may have to delve into scientific evidence to demonstrate that the driver was impaired at the time of the accident, and that his or her impairment caused or contributed to the crash and resulting injuries. But that isn’t always true. Under Ohio law, violations of certain safety-related traffic laws and other laws can be deemed negligence per se. The Latin simply means “in itself”–in other words, the act of driving under the influence in violation of the law is in itself negligent.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

An experienced Ohio car accident attorney is the best source of information about the strength of your possible personal injury claim, what type of proof will likely be required, and what you may be able to expect in terms of damages. Generally speaking, damages in a motor vehicle case may include compensation for medical bills, replacement of lost income, reimbursement for property damage, and even compensation for intangible harms, such as pain and suffering. 

If you’ve been injured by a driver who was under the influence of marijuana, under the influence of alcohol, or in some other way negligent, your best next step is to speak with a knowledgeable local personal injury lawyer. The attorneys at Plevin & Gallucci have devoted decades to helping people who have been injured secure the compensation they need to move forward. We have the knowledge, experience, resources, and network of experts necessary to pursue even complex personal injury claims. 

We also know you need reliable information to make good decisions for your future and the protection of your family. So we offer free consultations to people who believe they have been injured through someone else’s negligence. Schedule yours right now by calling 1-855-4-PLEVIN or filling out the contact form on this page.

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