We’ve probably all heard somebody who drank too much say “I’m fine to drive.” Then they get pulled over, or they’re in an accident. Whether or not you are impaired while driving is highly subjective.
Example: You might not think your ability to drive isn’t being impaired when you’re on the 5 in LA smoking a joint on your way home from work, but it’s an easy call to the police officer who saw you suddenly stop and nearly bump that truck in front of you when traffic came to a stop. You might not have felt like you were stoned, but whether you agree with it or not, your perceptual functions were diminished, and now you’re going to face a charge for driving while impaired.
Injured while stoned
In another scenario, traffic on the freeway backs up. You gradually slow down and stop, and then you take another hit off of that joint. Before you can exhale, you’re jolted forward so violently from a 40 mph impact that you’re propelled into the back of that delivery truck in front of you. Your head is violently pushed forward, and then it whips back in less than a half of a second. At the same time, your air bag deploys and punches you in the face. The police officer who witnessed the crash smells the marijuana in your car, and he finds the joint too. It’s still warm.
Can I get compensation for my injuries?
The common thread in both of these scenarios are that you were smoking weed, and you’re going to face a criminal prosecution for driving while impaired. What distinguishes the two scenarios is that smoking weed had nothing to do with the accident or the herniated cervical disc that you suffered when you were rear-ended. Other than blowing some dope while you were driving, you dutifully obeyed every traffic law on the books. Is that going to preclude you from seeking damages after a neurosurgeon implants a plate and screws in your neck?
It probably won’t, and here’s why.
What you must prove
It’s highly likely that any personal injury claim that you make against the person who rear-ended you will be based on the law of negligence. To prove negligence, California law requires you to prove certain elements. Those elements are that:
- The person who you blame for the accident owed you a duty
- That person breached the duty
- He or she caused the accident
- The cause of the accident was the proximate cause of your injuries
- You suffered legally recognized damages
You also have a duty to drive your vehicle in a safe and careful manner and be free from comparative negligence. That’s exactly what you did when you slowed down and stopped for traffic before you got rear-ended, regardless of the fact that you were smoking a joint.
Hire a lawyer
California’s laws are tricky when it comes to Marijuana DUI. In Washington, for example, a marijuana DUI occurs if he or she has 5.0 nanograms or more per milliliter of THC in his or her blood two hours after driving (source: marijuana DUI Spokane). In CA, however, there is no “per se” amount of marijuana in the bloodstream that can be used to establish impairment under California Vehicle Code 23152(e) (source: marijuana DUI California).
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident and someone else contributed to the crash you can likely still collect compensation even if you’re in trouble. This, however, is not actual legal advice. For that, you should speak to an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.
While weed is now legal here in Cali, try to enjoy it on your couch and not in your car and you’ll be safe and sound (and close to the cheesy poofs).