How To Recover Compensation After Getting Hit by an Impaired Driver in Virginia
Crash victims have legal rights
As of this past July 1, Virginia legalized marijuana for medical use. As a result, adults over 21 years old can possess, consume or grow marijuana if they have a doctor’s prescription, according to the Virginia Mercury and other sources.
Starting in 2024, adults will be able to use marijuana for recreational use in Virginia under the state’s new marijuana laws. However, marijuana remains illegal under many circumstances in the state, including driving while under the influence (DUI) of marijuana.
What are Virginia’s marijuana DUI laws? What are the penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana? And what should someone do if they’re injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana? Below, you can find the answers to these questions and many more, courtesy of a law firm that regularly represents drivers injured in accidents caused by impaired drivers in Virginia.
Keep in mind while reading this article, that legalization of marijuana is still a developing area of law, and we are sure there will be some challenges ahead. However, we assume it will follow the path of laws in place for driving while intoxicated.
What Virginia law says about driving under the influence of marijuana
While the state recently legalized marijuana for medical use, Virginia’s DUI marijuana laws remain the same, making it illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana or other controlled substances.
Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-266 outlines the state’s DUI marijuana driving laws. Currently, drivers under the influence of marijuana in Virginia can be fined $250, have their license suspended for up to one year, and may be required to install an ignition interlock device if they have their driving privileges restored sooner. It’s also illegal for passengers in a motor vehicle to consume or possess marijuana in Virginia, according to sources and news reports. And while marijuana breathalyzers are still in the developmental stage, they could eventually become a reality, allowing police officers to administer such tests to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana, according to Discover Magazine.
In the meantime, police in Virginia will continue to use their senses of observation to determine if a driver appears under the influence of marijuana (their eyes, ears, and of course their sense of smell).
Effects of marijuana usage on driver
Chesapeake Police Department Sgt. Kenneth Byrd noted in an interview with 13 News Now that much like alcohol, cannabis can slow down your reaction time and impair your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
“Weaving is more along the lines of alcohol, but depth perception with the stop bar (thick white stripe at an intersection or crosswalk) is on the cannabis side of things ... cannabis alters your perception of time and distance,” Byrd said.
What to do if you get hit by a “high” driver
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana, it’s critical that you take certain steps right away to protect your health and your rights. Such steps include:
- Call the police and ask them to respond to your accident. Having a police officer officially investigate your accident can often make a dramatic difference in the outcome of your accident claim. This is especially important if the other driver denies being high or tries to blame you for causing the collision. If you suspect he/she is, then let the officer know.
- If you or anyone else is injured, ask the police to send an ambulance to your accident. If your injury is serious, ask to be taken immediately to an emergency room. Many serious car accident injuries can be fatal if not treated in a timely manner.
- If the other driver appears under the influence of marijuana or another drug, wait until the police arrive before you approach the other driver. People under the influence of drugs can be unpredictable. Don't confront them!
- If you feel comfortable doing so, once the police arrive, get the other driver’s name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information. If you don’t feel safe approaching the other driver, simply ask the investigating police officer for such information. These details should also be on the official police accident report.
- Finding witnesses: If someone saw your accident, get the person’s full name and best phone number to reach them. Having an official statement from an eyewitness can often make a big difference with your injury claim.
- If you can safely do so, take photos of your accident scene, the position of the cars, car damage, the layout of the location, and maybe even the other driver’s behavior. The more pictures, the better.
A few hours or days after your accident, take the following steps as well:
- Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor. Many car accident injuries, including concussions and whiplash, sometimes take a few days to develop. If not treated in a timely manner, you could experience severe pain or other side effects due to an untreated injury.
- Call your insurance company soon after your accident and tell them you have been in an accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana.
- If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, don’t talk to them. Anything you say or write to them could be used as evidence to delay or deny your accident claim.
- Contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and the legal options available to you.
A car accident lawyer can help you pursue maximum compensation
Car accidents involving drivers under the influence of marijuana can be very complicated legal cases, and the laws are constantly changing. Unlike collisions caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol, it can be difficult sometimes for police officers to determine if the driver was high at the time of your accident. As a result, the driver might deny being under the influence of marijuana. In addition, the driver’s insurance company might try to do the same thing – claim their client wasn’t high or didn’t do anything wrong at all. That way, they can boost their profits by trying to avoid paying you the money you deserve.
We know the games insurance companies play, and we don't tolerate them. Additionally, in Virginia and the District, as there is with drunk driving, punitive damages may become an element of damage that the responsible drivers and their insurance companies have to worry about.
That’s why we want to help. Attorney Stuart L. Plotnick has years of experience investigating accidents and finding evidence in support of accident claims. As your lawyer, we can carefully review all the details related to your accident and build the strongest possible legal case in pursuit of the best possible outcome.
Learn more about how we can help when you've been injured due to negligence. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation today. We proudly represent clients in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.