A teenage boy was killed when a driver who was allegedly under the influence of drugs smashed into three cars waiting at a stoplight.

The 15-year-old boy from Hialeah was a passenger in one of the cars at the stoplight. He was rushed to a nearby hospital – along with three other injured victims – but the boy was later pronounced dead. The wreck took place east of Interstate 4 at the intersection of Meadow Creek Drive and State Road 535.

Authorities did not identify the substance involved, but the 24-year-old tortfeasor (negligent driver) from Kissimmee was booked on charges of DUI manslaughter.

Drugged Driving

While the number of alcohol impaired drivers has declined somewhat in recent years, due to a variety of factors, the number of drugged drivers has increased by about 25 percent since 2007. Instead of cocaine, heroin, crack, and other “street drugs,” the majority of these cases involve prescription drug abuse. Some drivers ignore warning labels that explicitly say not to drive or operate heavy machinery, while some combine medicines in improper ways. “Doctor hopping,” which involves patients moving from physician to physician in search of pain medication or antidepressants, is sometimes a problem as well, as is prescription sharing, like “I have some leftover OxyContin in the medicine cabinet which I will give or sell to you.”

The jury is still out, if you’ll pardon the expression, when it comes to marijuana. There is some evidence that cannabis has no adverse effect on driving and that motorists under the influence of marijuana may be better drivers than intoxicated motorists.

Proving Drugged Driving

In most cases, since there is no Breathalyzer test for these substances, drugged driving must be established by circumstantial evidence. Fortunately, the standard of proof is much lower in a negligence case than it is in a criminal case. Whereas a prosecutor must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a plaintiff must only establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.”

During discovery, an attorney can uncover a vast amount of circumstantial evidence regarding drugged driving, such as:

  • Prescription Records: If a defendant had a Percocet prescription, that fact is nowhere close to conclusive proof of drugged driving. But it can mean that, more likely than not, the driver was impaired.
  • Erratic Driving: Impaired drivers sometimes have problems maintaining a single lane, ignore traffic control devices, and operate well below the speed limit.
  • Physical Characteristics: Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and other unusual mannerisms are also evidence of impairment.

The more evidence that the plaintiff presents, the more likely the jury is to conclude that the driver was impaired.

Partner with Experienced Attorneys

At Reed & Reed, we routinely handle negligence cases in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions, so contact us today for a free consultation. If you were hurt, an attorney can arrange for ongoing medical care, even if you have no money and no insurance.

From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.