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Healthcare provider liability in medicated driving accidents

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2019 | Drunk Driving

The first thought that most may have when hearing that someone caused an accident in Naples due to driving under the influence of drugs is how could a person be so irresponsible. Yet what if said person was ignorant to the effects of driving while medicated. One who has been prescribed a medication by a doctor likely assumes the drug to not only be completely safe to use, but also to have no debilitating side effects. 

The American Automobile Association has compiled statistics on medicated driving to highlight just how serious a problem it truly is. Its data shows that a single dose of certain prescription drugs (such as diphenhydramine, a common ingredient of both cold and allergy medications) can impair one to a point comparable to that of a person whose blood-alcohol content is over the legal limit. Yet despite these dangers, only 28 percent of drivers believe that driving after having taken a medication is dangerous. 

Thus, the responsibility to inform people of these risks falls to those who understand them. That would be the doctors who prescribe them. When a healthcare provider prescribes a drug that can cause impairment, they should also be ensuring that the patient is not placed in a situation where they can be a danger to others. That may include instructing the patient to have someone else drive them home (if the medication is administered during the treatment session) or to only take the drug after arriving home. 

What could the consequences of clinician inaction in this scenario be? While no legal precedent has yet been set, in 2015 a New York court found a hospital and its doctors liable for failing to warn a patient against driving after having been administered medication.