As more states legalize marijuana, questions arise on what happens if you’re in a crash with a stoned or high driver. Colorado is a leader in the legalization of cannabis, and Colorado State Patrol report traffic citations involving marijuana impairment are almost level at 12% in 2012, 17% in 2016, and 15% in 2017. Highway Loss Data Institute reports that collision claims in Colorado increased after the legalization of marijuana. There’s a belief that the legalization and increase in claims are linked but research is ongoing.
What if you’re in a crash with a driver who is high or stoned? Colorado has very clear laws regarding marijuana use and driving. If the driver is impaired, you’re protected by these laws that make it clear any impaired driver needs to stay off the roads or have a designated driver.
What Are the Laws in Colorado?
Any driver with 5 or more nanograms of THC in their blood is impaired. Officers can also assess a driver and base an arrest on whether a driver seems impaired at the time of the crash or traffic stop. Some officers undergo training in Advanced Roadside Impairment Driving Enforcement, and towns and cities have trained Drug Recognition Experts on the roadways working hard to identify impaired drivers and prevent crashes.
Drivers are not allowed to have open containers/packages of marijuana, vapes, or other paraphernalia in the vehicle. They cannot smoke or consume edibles while driving. These offenses are covered under open container laws. It can help police identify a driver who could be driving while impaired. Blood tests are also used. If a driver refuses to take a blood test, penalties like loss of driving privileges, ignition interlock systems, and therapy classes may be mandated.
Steps to Take If You’re in a Crash
If you’re in a crash with an impaired driver, take care of yourself first. Let a medical professional check you over. You may feel fine at the scene. You’re also stressed and have adrenaline rushing through your system and that can mask pain. If it’s recommended that you go in the ambulance and get checked out in the ER, take the paramedic’s advice. It’s best to be overly cautious than to learn later when you’re home alone that something is wrong.
When possible, have someone get photos of the accident scene. Take down the other driver’s insurance information, VIN, car make/model, and contact information. Get witness names and contact information. You may be okay to do this yourself. If you are injured and cannot do this, the police will do it for you. Don’t panic if you’re unable to get the information. When you’re released from the hospital, go to the police station and ask for the accident report information so that you can give it to your insurance company.
Compile any bills you’ve received to this point. Medical bills, prescription medications, and towing bills are some of the things you may receive. Insurance should cover these expenses. If you’re forced to take time off work while you recover, keep track of the days/hours you’re missing and the total income you’ve lost. If you miss college classes, that also counts as you’re missing hours you’ve paid for with your tuition. Keep track of follow-up medical care and therapy that’s required due to the injuries you sustained in the crash.
Call your insurance agency with the information you’ve obtained. They can help you get started filing a claim against the other driver. If the other driver is uninsured or under insured, they’ll walk you through what happens next as the investigation is carried out, the estimates for repair or replacement of your vehicle are calculated, and your pain and suffering and lost wages are factored in. In a matter of days or weeks, you should have a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company. Don’t automatically accept it. They may not be offering a fair settlement that covers everything you deserve.
Our Denver personal injury attorneys recommend talking to an expert in car crashes caused by a stoned or high driver. The settlement offer may not cover your full range of expenses and financial loss. If the settlement offer is fair, the attorney will let you know. If it’s not, the attorney will go over your options. The consultation with Jordan, Herington & Rowley is free, so there’s no risk. Take this step to advocate for yourself when another driver broke the law. Call (303) INJURED to arrange your free consultation with Jordan, Herington & Rowley.