Driving under the influence of marijuana can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. However, now that recreational marijuana use is legal in Oregon and Washington (within certain limits), it seems that many people are unclear on what is (and isn’t) allowed and what the consequences are when someone who is high causes a vehicle collision.
Driving under the Influence of Marijuana Is Illegal in Oregon and Washington
While it is legal to use marijuana within the confines of Oregon’s and Washington’s recreational marijuana laws, it is not legal to drive when you are high. The same holds true for individuals who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Drivers who are under the influence of marijuana can be charged with DUI in both states, and the penalties for a marijuana DUI can be severe.
Of course, this is no different than the way alcohol has been treated for decades. It is legal to drink if you are of age, but it is not legal to drink and drive.
The reason why driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal is that doing so can be extremely dangerous. As explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
“[M]arijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease coordination. . . . Research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers, including an increase in lane weaving, poor reaction time, and altered attention to the road.”
Driving under the Influence of Marijuana Constitutes Negligence in Civil Cases
It is for these same reasons that driving under the influence of marijuana is considered negligent in civil cases involving personal injuries and wrongful death. When a driver who is high causes an accident, victims and their families are entitled to recover just compensation under Oregon and Washington law. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an auto accident in which you suspect the other driver may have been high, here is what you need to know about your legal rights:
1. Auto Insurance Covers Accidents Caused by High Drivers
Just as auto insurance covers accidents caused by drunk drivers, auto insurance also covers accidents caused by drivers who were high at the time of the crash. In most cases, recovering financial compensation after a marijuana-involved accident will involve filing a claim with the high driver’s insurance company.
What if the high driver was uninsured? Or, what if his or her policy limits are insufficient to truly provide just compensation for your (or your family’s) losses? There are various potential ways that an attorney can seek to secure additional compensation, including:
- Filing a claim under your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) policy (and “stacking” your coverage if you have multiple policies);
- Filing a claim against the high driver directly;
- Filing a claim against the high driver’s employer (if he or she was working at the time of the crash); and,
- Filing a claim against another third party that shares responsibility for the collision.
2. You Are Entitled to Full Compensation for Your (or Your Family’s) Losses
When filing an insurance claim, or any other type of claim, following an auto accident involving a driver who was high, you are entitled to seek full compensation for all financial and non-financial losses flowing from the accident. In a personal injury case, this includes all current and future losses; in a wrongful death case, it includes losses sustained before and after your loved one’s death.
The one major caveat here is that Oregon and Washington both have laws that apply principles of “comparative fault.” Under these laws, if you (or your loved one) was partially at fault in the collision, then the amount you are entitled to recover will be reduced based upon your (or his or her) percentage of liability. In Washington, this is the case regardless of each driver’s respective percentage of fault.In Oregon, drivers who are 51% or more at fault are barred from recovering financial compensation entirely.
Due to the amount that can be at stake in cases involving serious accidents caused by high drivers, insurance companies will often try to blame the victims of these accidents for their own injuries. In order to protect your right to just compensation, it will be important for you to be represented by an experienced attorney.
3. In Oregon, You May Also Be Entitled to Punitive Damages
In Oregon, punitive damages are available in civil cases where it is possible to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the high driver exhibited, “a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.” This is a high standard to meet, but DUI cases are among those in which it is often possible to pursue a claim for punitive damages.
Unfortunately, Washington is one of the limited number of states that do not allow for punitive damages in these types of cases.
4. You Have the Right to Be Treated Fairly By the Insurance Companies
When you file an insurance claim in Oregon or Washington, you are protected by the state’s bad-faith istatutensurance . If the insurance companies fail to handle your claim in good faith, then you may be entitled to additional damages for this as well.
5. An Oregon or Washington Lawyer Can Help You at No Out-of-Pocket Cost
Finally, as someone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an auto accident involving a high driver, you can hire a lawyer at no out-of-pocket cost. At D’Amore Law Group, we handle all cases on contingency, so our clients pay nothing unless we help them win just compensation.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation in Oregon or Washington
If you need to speak with an attorney about filing a claim following an accident involving a driver who was high, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys at your convenience, please call or request a free initial consultation online today.