NY Court: Doctor May Be Liable if Drugged Patient Causes Car Crash
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Just last month, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, was tasked with the difficult job of determining whether or not a hospital or doctor can be legally accountable for car accident injuries caused by a drugged patient. Specifically, the court had to determine whether the hospital could be liable for “drugged driving” injuries if:
- The hospital gave drugs to a patient
- The hospital failed to warn the patient that the drugs affect, or could affect, driving abilities
- The hospital released the patient in an impaired state
- The patient injured an innocent third party in a car accident
In a 4-2 opinion, the court ultimately decided that hospitals and doctors can be legally responsible for injuries in such circumstances. In fact, the court’s opinion made it clear that medical providers owe a duty of care to third parties—such as other motorists on the road—and therefore must warn patients of a drug’s ability to impact driving before the patient gets behind the wheel.
Drugged Driving: Davis v. South Nassau Communities Hospital
This recent case stems from a 2009 motor vehicle accident in which a bus driver was injured after a woman driving her vehicle allegedly crossed a double-yellow line and hit his bus. According to the suit, the plaintiff claims the woman’s hospital administered her an opioid narcotic painkiller and a benzodiazepine drug just a short time before the accident, and then failed to warn her that such drugs could impair her driving.
When reaching its decision, the court noted that it doesn’t take much effort on the part of physicians and hospitals to warn patients of the dangers of driving while impaired by certain drugs—not to mention that they are typically the only ones in a position to offer such a warning.
Hopefully, following this decision, hospitals will think twice in the future before allowing patients to leave without first giving them the appropriate warnings.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a driver who was impaired by prescription drugs, you may be able to recover damages against the driver or their medical care providers. We invite you to contact our New York law office with any questions you may have. 212.869.3500
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