The trucking industry is facing what is referred to as “a silent epidemic.” Half of the nations’ truck drivers are older than 50. Many of these drivers have sat behind the wheel of a truck for years, which has led to a dependence on opioids to treat back pain, arthritis, and several other medical conditions. Without any regulation requiring disclosure of opioid use, these drivers continue to operate commercial motor vehicles. The mixture of opioids with the use of a 20,000-pound vehicle is a recipe for disaster.
Deficiencies in drug policy regulations are contributing to our nation’s large highway death toll from motor vehicle collisions. While commercial drivers are drug tested before employment and are re-tested randomly and after accidents during employment, these drugs tests do not look for all opioids. This is because the regulations allow drivers to take prescription drugs as long as they are prescribed by a practitioner who knows the driver’s medical history and advises that the drugs will not affect driving ability. The regulations also require drivers to undergo a medical examination and obtain a heath certificate that depends on the driver to disclose all medicines the driver may be using.
Both of these regulations depend on the driver to self-report all medications. Drivers may not report all drugs they are taking for one of two reasons. One is that they want to pass their medical examination. Another is that they simply do not think it is important to report their prescription drug use.
Because opioid use is likely to go undetected, an injured party’s lawyer must be diligent in determining whether a driver’s opioid use contributed to a motor vehicle collision. There are several steps the lawyer can take in making this determination:
• First, the lawyer must request the driver’s qualification file and personnel records, which will contain the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination. This file may contain the driver’s medical conditions, drug and alcohol test reports, and employee absences associated with treatment for chronic pain.
• Second, the lawyer can send interrogatories to the employer confirming the driver’s past injuries, surgeries and ongoing physical conditions. Tailoring discovery to opioid use may be helpful in defeating relevance objections from the defense lawyer.
• Third, the following records should be subpoenaed:
All records from the DOT medical examiner;
All records from the providers who treated the truck driver for injuries arising out of the crash;
All workers’ compensation and insurance carrier records pertaining to the truck driver;
Records from the truck driver’s family doctor or primary care provider; and
Urgent care, emergency room, and hospital records.
While it is important to look for use of opioids, it is just as important to determine whether the driver recently stopped using them. Studies show that withdrawal symptoms from opioids may increase risks of collisions. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include low energy, irritability, dizziness, muscle aches, yawning, or insomnia.
If you need more information, contact Stephanie Monplaisir, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury & Product Liability Section at 800-898-2034 or email Stephanie.Monplaisir@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Ammons, Robert E. A Silent Epidemic. Trial Magazine, The American Association For Justice. February 2017.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.