Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Defendant was on methadone when crash killed Pennsylvania man

A Pittsburgh driver impaired by drugs cannot use the excuse medication is legal to avoid criminal or civil penalties. Prescription medicines, like illegal drugs, have the potential to cause excessive fatigue, lengthen response time and cloud a driver's judgment. A defendant who causes a fatal car accident due to any drug's use or abuse can be held accountable.

A young Pennsylvania man, working out of state while providing care for his grandparents, died in a construction zone crash nearly two years ago. The truck that hit him was driven by a woman authorities said kept "nodding off" at the accident scene, in subsequent interviews and later during her trial.

Jurors heard the defendant's lethargic police interviews before deciding she was guilty of DUI manslaughter, punishable by a 15-year prison term. Traces of prescription methadone were found in the defendant's system. The amount was low enough for the defense to argue the drug might not have contributed to the fatality.

The defendant's attorney unsuccessfully tried to deflect blame. He said the road conditions in the construction area were poor. He also accused investigators of failing to talk with the accused woman's doctor about the methadone dosage she was prescribed.

The jury concluded the prosecutors proved the defendant was impaired, when her truck struck and killed the 28-year-old road worker and possibly during court testimony. A sentence will be decided next month.

Warning labels and associated information provided to patients and customers detail prescription drug limitations and side effects. Some drugs are dangerous for users operating "heavy machinery." A motor vehicle would qualify.

An individual is responsible for his or her own driving ability, unless a medical condition is unknown. Someone who takes a drug, legal or illegal, that is incapacitating is a danger to himself and others while driving. Wrongful death attorneys advise impairment is negligence and compensable through civil damages.

Source:, "Brooksville woman convicted of DUI manslaughter" Wendy Joan Biddlecombe, Oct. 10, 2013

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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