Impaired Driving Accidents
Impaired driving in Massachusetts has become one of the major causes of car accidents, often resulting in serious or even fatal injuries. When we hear the term impaired driving, we often think of drunk driving. However, we are increasingly seeing drivers impaired by alcohol and/ or drugs – including illicit substances like heroin, prescribed medications like oxycodone and legal drugs, like marijuana.
It is important to understand that just because a substance is legal or someone has a valid prescription for a narcotic does not mean they have a green light to be under the influence of those substances while behind the wheel.
Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC have seen various incidents over the years where people have caused serious Boston drunk driving victims due to being impaired by a prescription drug for which they had a valid prescription. The fact that a driver can be impaired on drugs as well as alcohol is why the official criminal charge is called operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. (OUI)Boston Drunk Driving Accidents
While a serious car accident could be the result of drugged driving, drunk driving is among the leading causes of fatal car accidents in Boston. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has performed various studies on drunk driving and drunk driving accidents.
In one study, the government agency found that a greater percentage of adults in Massachusetts report driving after having too much to drink than they found when looking at a national average.
In that same study, when looking alcohol related traffic deaths, researchers found that men were almost three times as likely to be killed than women.What is a Boston Drunk Driving Accident?
While it might seem fairly obvious what it means to drive drunk and cause a serious or fatal car accident in Boston, it is important to understand that the legal standard for driving under the influence or while impaired can work differently in different situations. For example, most adults or teens old enough to drive a car are aware that the so-called legal limit for alcohol consumption when getting behind the wheel is 0.08 grams of ethanol per hundred milliliters of blood. Ethanol is the type of alcohol most commonly consumed by humans. The legal limit of 0.08 is a blood alcohol content (BAC) reference and creates what is known as per se presumption of intoxication.
A per se level of intoxication means that if someone is arrested for drunk driving, whether it involved a Boston drunk driving accident or not, and that defendant’s BAC was over 0.08, the prosecution can use that number to prove that the defendant was under the influence of intoxicating liquor. It will not generally be necessary to prove that the driver y exhibited any behavior consistent with being under the influence of alcohol.
The reason for this presumption is that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted and compiled decades worth of drunk driving research statistics and observations that show how the various degrees of intoxication can affect one’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. At a BAC of 0.08, a driver would have the following issues, according to NHTSA:
- Muscle coordination issues
- Slurred speech
- Bad balance
- Blurry or double vision
- Impaired judgment
- Lessened self-control
It is not hard to see how someone would be unable to safety operate a motor vehicle to prevent a Boston drunk driving accident when they are experiencing some or all of the symptoms. For this reason, if the prosecution can establish that the breath testing device was properly working, that will often be enough to secure a conviction.
This is a criminal standard, but it can also work in a civil personal injury lawsuit that you might have to file following a serious drunk driving accident. The reason for this is because a drunk driving lawsuit has the standard negligence elements including duty, breach, causation, and damages.
The duty is a duty of due to care to prevent foreseeable injury to foreseeable persons and property. Operation of law imposes this duty of care every time someone chooses to drive on the roads of the Commonwealth. While any type of negligent driving can be used as evidence, if a person has been found to have broken a criminal law, such as the one that makes OUI illegal, this can be used to prove a personal injury lawsuit. However, as noted in the official negligence jury instruction, the violation of a law is not necessarily enough by itself. While it can be sufficient on its own, the jury is still instructed to look at the totality of the circumstances.Drugged Driving Accidents in Massachusetts
If a person is under the influence of drugs, it can be used to establish liability in a Boston drugged driving accident. Impairment from drugs can be from drugs that have been legalized, like marijuana, typical street drugs, and even prescription drugs.
Many people are under the impression that it is legal to drive after taking prescription drugs, as long as they have a valid prescription. This is simply not true if those drugs cause a driver to become intoxicated. For example, if a person takes an opioid like OxyContin and becomes woozy and intoxicated, that person cannot legally operate a motor vehicle. It doesn’t matter whether they have a valid prescription or if they bought those drugs illegally. However, if a person is in possession of prescription narcotics, and those drugs were not prescribed to them, this may lead to a possession of a controlled substance charge, but it will not have much effect on the OUI charge.
This makes sense when we look at alcohol. It is perfectly legal for any person of legal drinking age to go into a liquor store and buy alcohol. It is legal for that person to possess the alcohol, but it is obviously not a defense to a Boston drunk driving accident that Prohibition was repealed. For this reason, a person cannot show a valid prescription as a defense to a drunk driving accident.
At the end of the day, driving a vehicle while impaired is extremely negligent conduct, and that can result in a serious and often fatal Boston drunk or drugged driving accident.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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