The Importance of a Forensic Toxicologist in a Trucking Accident Case

forensic toxicologistExpert witnesses frequently play critical roles in personal injury cases, particularly if a case reaches litigation. Some types of personal injury cases actually require the testimony of an expert witness before you can even bring a lawsuit before the court.

In trucking accident cases, expert witnesses may be the difference in recovering millions of dollars in settlement money. One expert in particular — a forensic toxicologist — uses their expertise to show whether or not the truck driver relevant to the case had any substances in their system that contributed to the accident.

Drug and Alcohol Use Among Truck Drivers

As with crashes involving passenger vehicles, drug and alcohol use by truck drivers can result in catastrophic injuries or death. Due to their sheer size and weight advantages, semi trucks and other large commercial vehicles cause serious damage when an accident occurs. 

Trucking companies and truck drivers receive financial benefits when drivers work long hours and go without stopping. When a truck driver reaches their destination sooner than expected, they may receive a bonus. However, there is oftentimes a serious risk involved in doing so.

Truck drivers may use methamphetamines (which usually can be found at truck stops) in order to stay awake longer, drive more miles, and deliver shipments to their destinations faster and more efficiently. Other drivers use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine as a way to cope.

Some other reasons why truckers may use drugs or alcohol behind the wheel:

  • Long hours in the truck
  • Loneliness
  • Tedious nature of the work
  • Night driving

A study by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety of interstate semi truck drivers found that 15 percent of all drivers had marijuana in their systems. Additionally, 12 percent had non-prescription stimulants, 5 percent had prescription stimulants, 2 percent had cocaine, and fewer than 1 percent had alcohol in their systems.

Drivers with a commercial driver license (CDL) are subject to drug and alcohol testing. Motor carriers that employ drivers with a CDL must have a testing program. 

How a Forensic Toxicologist Can Help Your Case

A forensic toxicologist usually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, clinical chemistry, pharmacology or another scientific field. Some universities offer master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in forensic toxicology. It is important for a forensic toxicologist to be curious and keep learning about new technologies, methodologies and substances.

In a trucking accident case where a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, an attorney may utilize a forensic toxicologist to provide concrete evidence related to the impairment. Driving a vehicle under the influence of an impairing substance constitutes negligence, and if the trucking company disputes the results, having an expert on your side may mean the difference.

A forensic toxicologist goes beyond simple drug or alcohol testing. They examine the combination of drugs and the interactions those substances may cause. If a toxicologist testifies that the truck driver was impaired, it can lead to determining fault and leading to a larger settlement for the victim.

In Washington state, the Washington State Patrol will send a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to the scene of an accident if they believe drugs played a factor in the crash. DREs often testify in court, where the term "expert" has important legal implications. 

Secure Your Legal Rights Today

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a Washington state truck accident, you need immediate help. As soon as you meet with an attorney at Davis Law Group, P.S., we will review the police reports, speak with witness, and determine why the accident happened and who is responsible. 

Davis Law Group will work with your medical providers to properly evaluate your injuries. We fight to get victims full compensation for their physical pain, emotional distress, lost wages, and all reasonable medical bills.

For experienced help now, contact the Davis Law Group by calling (206) 727-4000 or by filling out our contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.

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Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.