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Marijuana is Now Legal — But Driving While High is Not

Filed under Car Accident, Personal Injury

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada — and suppliers have been licensed — it almost goes without saying that Nevada will see an increase in drivers impaired by marijuana use. And drivers under the influence are dangerous and potentially deadly. Driving while high is a crime. Back in the early 1990s, one study showed that 2.7 percent of automobile drivers and 32 percent of motorcycle drivers who were involved in accidents tested positive for marijuana use. That was nearly 30 years ago before the recent efforts to make cannabis legal. It is possible that those numbers have gone up and are going to go up further.

In the horrific event that you or a member of your family is involved in wreck caused by a drug-impaired driver, you are going to need experienced Las Vegas car accident lawyers like those at Paul Padda Law. Tenacious and experienced lawyers will:

  • Obtain the driver’s driving record;
  • Discover the facts and uncover the truth about how and when the driver was smoking;
  • Obtain the blood and urine test results;
  • Document the cause and extent of your injuries including possible permanent injuries;
  • File your personal injury and/or wrongful death lawsuit;
  • Gather the testimony of the arresting and other officers needed to prove that the driver was impaired;
  • Gather the testimony of other witnesses, doctors and experts;
  • Calculate your damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, costs of future medical care, loss of use, disfigurement, damage to your car, etc.;
  • Prepare your case for trial;
  • Conduct the trial and fight for you in every court hearing;
  • Determine if punitive damages against the impaired driver are recoverable for his/her willful, intentional, malicious or with reckless disregard in getting behind the wheel; there are no limits to the amount of punitive damages available. NRS 42.010; and
  • Fight with the insurance companies if they refuse to pay or slow-foot payment.

Blood/Urine Concentration Limit

Under Nevada law, a driver is considered legally “high” while driving if their blood or urine contains certain amounts of marijuana or of marijuana metabolite. In particular:

  • 2 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter or 5 milligrams of marijuana metabolite in blood; or
  • 5 ng/ml of marijuana metabolite or 15 ng/ml of marijuana metabolite in urine.

Marijuana is the drug itself which usually dissipates within hours. The metabolite can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 days. Even though metabolite is not listed as a “controlled substance,” see NAC 453.510 (Schedule I controlled substances), marijuana metabolite is a “prohibited substance” for purposes of determining driving under the influence. State v. Williams, 93 P.3d 1258 (Nev. 2004).

What You Have to Prove to Recover Compensation

If you have been injured by a driver under the influence of marijuana, in your civil lawsuit, you must normally prove four elements:

  • The driver owed you a duty of care;
  • The driver breached that duty;
  • The breach was the legal cause of your injuries; and
  • Damages/injury.

All drivers owe other drivers and pedestrians the duty of being careful and being watchful. Drivers also owe a duty of care not to drive while impaired. When a driver makes a choice to drive drunk or to drive while high, the duty of care is breached.

But, under Nevada law, you might not have to prove all of those elements if the driver is convicted in a criminal proceeding of driving while impaired. As a victim of an impaired driver, you have the right to file a civil lawsuit. That civil suit is different and separate from the criminal proceedings that the government pursues against the driver.

If there is a conviction in that criminal proceeding, under Nevada statute, that conviction is “conclusive evidence of facts necessary to impose civil liability for related injury.” NRS 41.133. The criminal conviction is also strong proof that punitive damages are warranted.

Other Evidence of Impairment

Personal Injury Attorney for Marijuana Accidents in Las Vegas, Nevada

Hurt in a car accident where the other driver was high on marijuana? Paul Padda Law can help.

Aside from blood/urine tests, law enforcement officers conduct “field tests” on the road at the arrest site. Among the tests:

  • Was the driver able to walk in a straight line or stand on one foot?
  • Was the driver able to focus mentally and, for example, count to ten or recite the alphabet?
  • Or, was the driver unusually calm and relaxed?
  • Where the driver’s eyes bloodshot or watery? Or were his/her pupils dilated?
  • Was there discoloration of mouth and tongue?
  • Was there a “pot smell” in the vehicle or on the driver?

All of these are evidence of impairment which could be enough, under the law, for you to recover in a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death suit even in the absence of a conviction.

What Role Does Insurance Play?

For insurance purposes, a wreck or injury caused by a drunk or drug-impaired driver is the same as any other motor vehicle accident. If the driver who was under-the-influence is insured, their insurance company will pay for the damages caused up to the liability limit of the driver’s policy.

Consult with a Nevada Personal Injury Lawyer About Your DUI Accident involving Marijuana

Just like drunk driving, drug-impaired driving is not an accident. If you were injured or a loved one was killed, that driver made the choice to get behind the wheel after smoking. That driver made the choice to put everyone on the road in danger. Studies show that attentiveness, vigilance, perception of time and speed, and use of acquired knowledge are all affected by marijuana. As the linked study says: “… marijuana causes impairment in every performance area that can reasonably be connected with safe driving of a vehicle, such as tracking, motor coordination, visual functions, and particularly complex tasks that require divided attention.”

As we said about drunk drivers, we should hold drug-impaired drivers accountable for their actions. If you have been injured due to an impaired driver, contact a Las Vegas drunk driving accident attorney from Paul Padda Law today.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death because of a drunk driver or a driver under the influence of marijuana, contact the personal injury attorneys at Paul Padda Law. Call today – the initial consultation is free.


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Paul Padda, a former federal prosecutor, is the founder of Paul Padda Law: a law firm based in Las Vegas Nevada representing plaintiffs throughout the nation in personal injury and other civil cases. With over 15 years experience litigating in federal and state court, Paul has a proven track record of success, including obtaining one of the largest jury verdicts in Nevada history. A first generation American, Paul is dedicated and committed to helping his clients navigate the legal system and take on large and powerful interests. A lawyer who truly cares, Paul provides individualized and compassionate attention to each and every one of his clients.

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