Cok Kinzler PLLP

Opioid use a possible factor in some fatal two-car crashes

Montana residents may have heard that there is an opioid crisis across the nation. Opioids cause psychomotor and cognitive impairment, especially in those who have not developed a tolerance for them, so they don't go well with driving. Unfortunately, 7.1% of all the drivers who caused a crash in 2016 tested positive for opioids. This marks a significant increase from 2% in 1993.

JAMA Network Open has recently published a study that looks at opioid-using drivers involved in fatal two-car crashes. After analyzing 18,321 such crashes in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, researchers set their sights on the 1,467 drivers who tested positive for opioids. It turns out that 918 initiated the crash they were in and 549 did not.

Researchers also found that the error leading to the most number of these crashes, regardless of whether opioids were involved or not, was that of drifting out of one's lane. It occurred in 7,535 cases. Many drift out of their lanes because of drowsiness, which happens to be one of the side effects of opioids.

Some have called the study misleading, though, as it does not distinguish between opioid use and opioid abuse. Also, since some develop a tolerance for the effects, it is hard to say if their use of opioids actually contributes to a crash.

These are ambiguities that the victims of car accidents will need to address if they intend to file a claim. Fortunately, they don't have to go it alone. Personal injury lawyers may be able to evaluate a case and determine if it holds up under Montana's comparative negligence rule. Such lawyers might normally speak on victims' behalf, too, whether at the negotiation table or in the courtroom. If successful, victims may be reimbursed for their medical bills, lost income and other losses.

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