Driver On Methadone Severely Injures Runner In Pierce County

methadone driverA woman running through the Waller area of Pierce County on Tuesday morning was struck and severely injured by a driver who just left a methadone clinic, according to Pierce County prosecutors

The 54-year-old driver fled the scene but was arrested at his home that morning. He told deputies that he was on his way home from a methadone clinic. He was arraigned the next day on charges of vehicular assault, felony hit-and-run and third-degree driving while suspended. His bail was set at $250,000.

The incident occurred on 80th Street East near 34th Avenue East. The 33-year-old woman was running on the side of the road when a witness said the man drifted across the center line and into the westbound lanes and hit her. The witness and the high driver both got out of their vehicles to check on the woman, and the man asked the witness to call 911. As the witness went to get his phone, the man got back into his car and drove off.

Deputies found the man’s car a few miles down the road. Hair and blood was stuck in the broken windshield. A K-9 unit tracked the man to his nearby home.

The woman was taken to Saint Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. She was diagnosed with two “severely broken” legs, a dislocated shoulder and a laceration to her head.

Driving Under The Influence Of Methadone

Methadone is used as an opioid medication for drug abusers. Methadone reduces the withdrawal symptoms for people that are addicted to narcotics without causing a “high.” 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses. Washington has a higher average of overall drug abuse than many other states – the rate of past-month use of illicit drugs ranks in the top 10 in the U.S. This national crisis has increased the number of methadone clinics nationally and across the state.

So what does methadone do to a person’s ability to drive? Most methadone advocates and medical personnel say the treatment may impair a person’s thinking or reactions, and to avoid driving or operating machinery until it’s clear how the medicine will affect them.

Literature says that it takes time to become stabilized on methadone. People will have days where their dosage is higher than others, and on those days, there may be issues associated with driving, particularly right after a treatment. In most cases individuals in methadone treatment will be stabilized on the drug before the one-year mark.

People on methadone will know when it’s safe to drive when their doctor tells them it’s acceptable.

Earlier this year, a similar incident to the one above occurred in Australia. A man driving home from a methadone clinic collided with another vehicle, killing himself, two people in the other car and critically injuring two others.

Washington’s ‘Negligent Driving’ Statute

In addition to its “under the influence” statute, the State of Washington has a “negligent driving” statute that prohibits the negligent operation of a vehicle if it “endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and (the driver) exhibits the effects of having consumed an illegal drug.”

The following comes from Washington RCW 46.61.5249:

“Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug" means that a person has the odor of liquor, marijuana, or any drug on his or her breath, or that by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise exhibits that he or she has consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug, and either:

  • Is in possession of or in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor, marijuana, or any drug in it; or
  • Is shown by other evidence to have recently consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug.

Negligent driving in the first degree is a misdemeanor. Proving negligence, though, is the main factor in a personal injury case. An injured person must prove the following four elements to show that the defendant acted negligently:

  • Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances;
  • Breach: The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way;
  • Causation: It was the defendant's actions (or inaction) that caused the plaintiff's injury; and
  • Damages: The plaintiff was harmed or injured because of the defendant's actions.

Contact An Attorney To Learn About Your Legal Rights

Drugged driving accidents often involve serious injuries or deaths and high medical bills for the victim. Unfortunately, drugged driving accidents caused by another driver’s negligence can be difficult to avoid for even the best defensive driver. 

If you or your loved one suffered an accident injury due to a driver being under the influence of drugs, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer for help. Contact Seattle-based Davis Law Group, P.S., for help. Call (206) 727-4000 today for a free case evaluation.

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