Illegal drug use is sometimes involved in truck collisions in California, but in many cases, drivers who cause accidents are impaired by over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter drugs can impair a driver’s ability to safely maneuver a commercial truck of 80,000 pounds or more. Each case is different, but if you suspect that over-the-counter drug use may have contributed to a crash in which you were hurt, you should contact an experienced California truck accident attorney. Truck accidents often involve issues that are more complicated than other types of personal injury cases, so it is crucial to retain a skilled attorney who understands how to investigate a case and how to go up against a powerful trucking company. Travis G. Black is an experienced attorney who may be able to help you recover damages for your injuries from truck drivers and trucking companies.
Over-the-Counter Drug Use and Truck Accidents
Various over-the-counter medications include ingredients such as dextromethorphan that can result in extreme disorientation or fatigue. For example, various cough syrups include dextromethorphan. Other drugs, such as allergy medication, can include pseudoephedrine, whose effects are stimulating in nature. In some cases, a truck driver uses a cough syrup or another OTC drug for a legitimate purpose such as a cold, but in other cases, a truck driver might use an over-the-counter medication to get high or to deal with working excessively long hours. Over-the-counter drug use is among the leading causes of truck crashes.
A truck driver’s decision to use or abuse over-the-counter medications may be negligent. To prove a truck driver’s negligence, your lawyer will need to show the duty of the truck driver, a breach of duty, causation, and actual damages.
All interstate truck drivers are supposed to undergo routine drug testing under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules. Generally, however, the FMCSA drug-testing program does not account for over-the-counter medications, instead targeting illegal drugs like opium or cocaine or meth. However, this does not mean that a truck driver who uses impairing OTC drugs cannot be held liable for negligence.
In addition to holding the individual truck driver responsible for their OTC use or abuse, you may be able to hold the employer liable under a theory of vicarious liability. You can hold an employer vicariously liable for its employee’s negligence in the course and scope of employment. However, you may also be able to hold it directly liable if it knew or should have known about a truck driver’s substance abuse problem. Theories of direct liability include an employer’s negligence in hiring, supervision, or training.
Truck companies that knew or should have known of a truck driver’s substance abuse issues may be liable for the resulting injuries caused by the driver. Trucking companies are supposed to conduct background checks and adequately supervise their truck driver employees. If a background check revealed a substance abuse problem, or a complaint was filed about a truck driver, the trucking company owes a duty to the public to impose consequences on the driver so that their conduct does not create a threat to others on the road. While it can be difficult to know that a truck driver is abusing OTC drugs, there may be evidence to show this in the truck driver’s file or in other notes kept by the company.
Damages that may be recovered after a truck accident include all of the compensatory losses, both economic and noneconomic, that arose from your injuries. These may include medical expenses, rehabilitation, therapy, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, disability, and scarring and disfigurement.
It is very important to retain a Folsom personal injury lawyer right away after a truck accident. The attorney should send a letter advising the trucking company that litigation may be pending and that it should preserve evidence. A company that fails to retain evidence related to a truck accident can face sanctions for spoliation of evidence.