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Prescription Drugs and Driving – Who Can Be Liable if a Crash Results?

Young woman checking prescription bottle for information and warnngsCar crashes caused by impairment of any kind can cause devastating or even fatal damages. Most crashes of this nature are the result of alcohol impairment or some type of substance abuse. However, what if a driver impaired by prescription drugs causes a crash? Is he or she liable for the damages or could this person get off the hook because the drug they are taking is legal?

At Schmidt Kramer, we have seen a lot of different types of crashes, including those caused by some type of drug impairment. However, each crash has a unique set of circumstances that must be considered before assessing liability. In this article, we look at the dangers of driving while taking certain prescription drugs and when drivers could be held liable.

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How Could Prescription Drugs Cause a Car Crash?

If you were injured in a car crash, you naturally want to know what caused it. If you suspect the driver was impaired by something, it may help to know more about prescription drugs and how they could contribute to a crash.

Many prescription medications have known side effects, like drowsiness. These effects can seriously impact a driver’s ability to see, focus and react quickly on the road. Imagine driving and suddenly feeling very sleepy or being unable to see clearly.

Situations like this are scary and dangerous, and not just for the impaired driver, but for everyone else on the road. When drivers take medication and get behind the wheel without checking for potential side effects, they are violating their legal duty of care. More importantly, they may be putting other motorists and pedestrians in harm’s way.

This is a situation where a knowledgeable car crash lawyer may be able to help. Our law firm has extensive experience handling car crash cases, including those where prescription drugs or other substances caused impairment and contributed to a collision. We understand the complexities of these types of cases and are prepared to guide you through the legal process. We are committed to providing legal support and fighting for the full compensation you deserve.

What Prescription Drugs Are More Likely To Cause Impaired Driving?

Certain prescription drugs are more likely to impair driving than others. The most dangerous prescription drugs pose a risk due to the strong effects they have on someone’s body and mind. While everyone reacts differently to prescription medications, these drugs, in general, can cause serious side effects in those who take them.


Sedatives are often prescribed for people struggling with anxiety or insomnia. While this may benefit people who deal with these issues on a regular basis, they can also cause extreme drowsiness and slow reaction times.

Opioid Pain Relievers

These drugs should be prescribed with care. They are mainly used for managing moderate to severe pain. However, over time they can become addictive. While taking these drugs, individuals may experience dizziness, drowsiness and impaired thinking.


A lot of people are prescribed antidepressants to treat things like clinical depression (in adults), long-term/chronic pain and other mental health conditions. However, many antidepressants, especially older ones, may cause patients to feel sedated. People taking these medications may experience other side effects, including blurred vision and dizziness.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are often prescribed for people suffering from muscle spasms, cramps and muscle spasticity. Because they are a common drug, people taking them may think them fairly harmless. However, muscle relaxants could cause those taking them to feel drowsy or dizzy.

Anytime you are prescribed these and other medications, it is crucial to be aware of their potential side effects. You should also discuss your prescriptions with your healthcare provider to determine how they could affect your driving. Even taking over-the-counter allergy medication could cause side effects that make driving unsafe. Remember, driving under the influence of any substance that impairs your ability to drive safely is not only dangerous but it is also illegal.

What Symptoms May Occur While Taking Prescription Drugs?

No two drugs are the same, and people may react to a particular drug differently. That said, some of the most common side effects of certain types of prescription drugs include:

  • Drowsiness: Causes extreme sleepiness, reducing alertness and reaction time
  • Blurred vision: Impairs the ability to see clearly, affecting judgment of distance and speed
  • Dizziness: Loss of balance and orientation, making it hard to control a vehicle
  • Nausea: Can be distracting and debilitating, impacting focus and control
  • Slowed reaction times: Delays in responding to traffic signals, other cars, or unexpected obstacles
  • Fainting: Sudden loss of consciousness poses a severe risk while driving
  • Confusion or disorientation: Impairs decision-making skills and ability to navigate
  • Impaired coordination: Affects the ability to steer, brake and operate the car safely
  • Agitation or aggression: Could incite reckless driving behaviors and poor decision-making
  • Over-sedation: Similar to drowsiness, it can lead to falling asleep at the wheel

Does Taking Prescription Drugs Automatically Make That Driver Liable?

Absolutely not. Like any crash, negligence must be proved by the party bringing the claim. A prescription drug may help determine a party’s liability, however. But only, if the plaintiff (injured party) can prove the individual could have driven safely if he or she were not under the effect of a prescription drug.

How Does the Use of Legal Drugs Impact Crash Liability in Pennsylvania?

Taking legal drugs does not impact someone’s accident liability. What impacts whether or not that individual can be held liable is based on a few factors, including:

  • Was the person taking a prescription drug impaired by it?
  • Did that individual know the potential for side effects caused by the drug (such as warnings from the doctor or a warning label on their prescription)?
  • Did the defendant get behind the wheel despite knowing these facts?
  • Were the crash and resulting injuries a direct result of the defendant taking the drug?

How Can I Prove a Crash Was Caused by Prescription Drug Impairment?

Victims have the burden of proof in any injury claim. This is why we strongly recommend seeking help from an experienced lawyer who has successfully handled cases similar to yours.

Proving a crash due to impairment from prescription drugs, illegal narcotics or other substance abuse is difficult. However, a knowledgeable attorney will know what evidence may help to prove your case.

For instance, if you suspect your crash was caused by some type of drug impairment, one of the things a lawyer can do is to request the other driver’s medical records. He or she can then examine these documents to determine whether the at-fault party was taking any prescription drugs that could have contributed to or caused a crash. These records could prove especially useful to a claim. For example, a warning to the individual about not driving while taking these drugs may be documented.

Were You Injured By a Driver Who Was Impaired by Prescription Drugs?

After being injured in a crash caused by another driver, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. If you suspect the driver was impaired by a prescription drug, alcohol or other substance abuse, having an attorney manage your case could greatly benefit your claim.

At Schmidt Kramer, our experienced vehicle crash attorneys in Harrisburg are dedicated to holding at-fault parties accountable. We work tirelessly to recover the full compensation you need. We have a history of proven results, recovering millions for victims injured by the negligence of others.

Call to discuss your situation or to request a free case review. There is no obligation, and if we represent you, there are no upfront costs or fees to pay. You only pay our fees if we win your case through a settlement or jury-awarded verdict.

Proven Results. Call to find out if you may have a case. (717) 727-2669