Most Maryland residents recognize the dangers of drunk driving and its ability on a motorist's ability to drive. However, many may not realize these same dangers may be present when a driver is under the effects of a prescription medication, or even an over-the-counter drug.
Take the recent case of a Maryland woman, for example, who was under the influence of a prescription medication when she caused a fatal accident. The drug, an anti-anxiety medication, was shown by testing to be present in the woman's blood at the time of the accident.
The accident itself occurred when the woman's car, driving in excess of the speed limit, crossed the center line and hit another vehicle. The man driving the other vehicle attempted to avoid the woman's car, but his vehicle was struck on the passenger side where his wife was seated as a passenger. The man's wife died as a result of the accident.
As a result of the incident, the woman has pleaded guilty to manslaughter by motor vehicle. While she has yet to be sentenced, a plea bargain between her and the state calls for the woman to serve five years in prison, with an additional five-year period of probation that includes drug treatment and testing.
Aside from the criminal case against her, the woman could also face liability in a civil suit for wrongful death. Civil cases proceed under a lower burden of proof than do criminal cases, as car accident cases depend on proving which driver was negligent. Reckless driving, speeding, and driving under the influence of drugs all appear to be causes of the fatal car crash, which would support a claim for wrongful death due to the woman's negligent driving. Under the wrongful death claim, the surviving family members could obtain a monetary judgment against the woman, in addition to the penalties she faces under the state's criminal prosecution.
Source: Baltimore Sun, "Woman pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter for causing 2011 fatal accident near Bel Air," Sept. 3, 2012