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While there have been many reports regarding the prevalence of drunk driving as a factor in Maryland car accidents, less attention has been devoted to crashes involving an opioid-impaired driver, until recently. In January 2019, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed results of a new study measuring the frequency and impact of opioid use in motor vehicle crashes. The data demonstrates that spreading awareness is just as important today with opioid-related collisions as it was a few decades ago when drunk driving was a number one killer.
If you were hurt or lost a loved one in such a collision, you should discuss your situation with a Maryland personal injury attorney. Still, you may find the results of the Johns Hopkins study interesting.
Johns Hopkins Report on Opioids and Car Accidents
In their study, researchers examined opioid-related auto fatalities in Maryland from 2006 through 2017. Some key findings include:
- Researchers found that opioids are a factor in around 10-14% of all driver deaths. The reason for the range is because one data set was derived from toxicology tests at the scene; the other set came from toxicology reports from the deceased victim at the hospital – after he or she had possibly been given opioid-related medications for pain.
- The 10-14% statistical range does not cover injuries to drivers, passengers, and others who may have been hurt in a crash.
- While fatal motor vehicle accident rates across the US were on the decline during the study period, the rate of opioid-related fatal crashes in Maryland have not declined.
Holding Impaired Drivers Accountable
The Johns Hopkins study highlight the need to pursue motorists whose use of opioids and other illegal substances causes auto accidents. Drivers have a duty to exercise a reasonable duty of care behind the wheel. Operating a vehicle while impaired is a breach of this duty, and Maryland personal injury laws allow victims to hold these negligent drivers responsible.
Compensation in a Case Involving Opioid-Impaired Driving: In a claim based upon negligence, victims may be entitled to receive damages in two categories:
- Economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages; and,
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and related losses.
When opioid use was a factor in a crash, there may be another type of damages available — punitive damages — which are intended to punish the responsible driver for reckless, outrageous, or morally reprehensible conduct. Though rare, a court may award punitive damages as a penalty and to set an example to other drivers who may be tempted to drive while impaired by opioids.
Discuss Your Legal Options with a Skilled Maryland Auto Accidents Lawyer
On its own, opioid abuse is a serious problem in Maryland and throughout the US. Its impact on car crashes is even more grave and shows no sign of dipping, as shown by the Johns Hopkins researchers. To hear more about your rights as the victim of an auto collision, please contact attorney William F. Mulroney and schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim.