A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana have a six percent higher rate of car accidents that are caused by driver impairment. As of July 01, 2021, people 21 years old and older in Virginia can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to four cannabis plants. However, a person cannot buy marijuana legally anywhere in Virginia until 2024. Importantly, it is illegal to consume marijuana while driving or be under the influence of the drug while behind the wheel.
What is Virginia’s Open Container Rule?
Virginia law regulating the personal use of marijuana provides for an open container rule. Similar to the open container rule for alcohol use, if a police officer notices an open container of marijuana or any vessel used for marijuana, the person may be subject to a fine. Virginia law classifies marijuana possession as a Class 4 misdemeanor that could include up to a $250 dollar fine but no jail time.
A main problem is that this open container rule is intended to combat against the use of marijuana purchased in a store and then used while in the car. However, the law was changed before it passed, creating this gap of time between the time marijuana became legal in Virginia and when dispensaries become legal. Due to this, people should generally avoid having marijuana in the car.
Challenges of Drugged Driving
Enforcement of this new law has created problems for police departments around Virginia. There is no device that police can use to detect marijuana use or impairment like they can for alcohol by using a breathalyzer.
Alcohol use can be detected, and the time of impairment can be pinpointed fairly accurately, but this is not true for marijuana. While blood and urine tests can be used to detect the presence of marijuana in someone’s system, this does not help determine if someone was under the influence of marijuana when they caused a car accident. This is the case because marijuana stays in the body much longer than alcohol does.
Police officers are also prohibited from searching a vehicle based solely on smell emanating from a vehicle or a driver. Under a new Virginia law, any items or evidence collected by police officers who search a car based solely on the smell of marijuana will be thrown out and cannot be used to prosecute a person. However, no one knows yet how this will affect car accidents. Virginia judges may be on the hook to determine whether the smell of marijuana can establish probable cause for a police officer to search a car after a car accident.
What are the Dangers of Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana?
Even though it is now legal for personal use, there are still dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana. In general, marijuana use can do the following:
- Impair judgment
- Increase reaction time
- Reduce coordination
While most people think of driving impairment as being drunk, if a driver is under the influence of marijuana, similar circumstances can exist. The person may feel like they are fine to drive, but in reality, they have severe impairments.
What are Common Injuries in Drugged Driving Car Accidents?
Since marijuana use right before or during driving can increase the likelihood of getting into an accident, those involved in the collision can suffer from severe injuries. The person who decided to get behind the wheel while high may suffer legal consequences for violating the law, but the victim of the car accident may suffer tragic consequences. Common injuries in drugged driving accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
A person makes a conscious decision to get behind the wheel when they are under the influence. They may feel like they are fine, but many people are wrong.
Possible Damages for a Car Accident
After getting into a car accident in Virginia, a victim may not know what comes next. They may know that they first need to make sure they are healthy and their injuries are cared for promptly. Beyond that, however, many injured car accidents victims have no idea what happens next.
Some people may take the insurance company’s word and accept a settlement offer, but the victim may end up with much less money than they need to cover all of their medical expenses. Even minor injuries can cause extremely high medical bills and increase anxiety. A lawyer might be able to help a car accident victim get compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost income
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Present and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
Getting compensation is not simple in a drugged driving accident case. To make a personal injury claim, an injured person must prove that the other driver’s marijuana use caused the accident and that they suffered injuries. A lawyer may need to work with accident reconstruction experts to help determine the exact cause of the crash. Without this legal advocacy, a victim risks losing out on their ability to collect compensation for their injuries.
Why is it Important to Get Legal Help Right Away After an Accident?
After someone suffers injuries in a car accident in Virginia, they need to quickly decide whether they are going to file a lawsuit for damages against the negligent driver. Every state limits the amount of time a victim has to file a claim. That time limit is called a statute of limitations. In Virginia, the injured party has two years to file a claim.
Many car accident victims think that two years gives them a great deal of time to contemplate whether to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. Unfortunately, that often leaves victims missing this deadline. If the injured party does miss the deadline, their case will be dismissed, and they will miss out on the opportunity to collect compensation against the at-fault driver.
Depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries, they may face multiple medical challenges in the years ahead. Getting in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident can help them focus on their medical needs while their lawyer works diligently to help them recover.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Help Those Injured in Drugged Driving Collisions
A recent IIHS study indicates that car accidents have increased in states that have legalized marijuana. Drugged driving can cause serious injuries, and a victim may need to explore their legal options. Suffering injuries in a car accident can cause your life to change course, but speaking to a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC can help you understand your options. Complete our online form today or call us at 757-LAW-0000 to schedule a consultation and to learn more about your potential case. We are conveniently located in Virginia Beach, and we proudly assist clients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.