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

Pennsylvania driver's drug intoxication blamed for fatality

Evidence pried from crash scenes and observations from victims and witnesses help investigators establish fault. Accident blame is the heart of criminal charges filed by police and claims to auto insurance companies. Fault also can show proof of negligence in Pittsburgh wrongful death lawsuits.

A 45-year-old man will be arraigned later this month on charges he caused a fatal accident in January, while under the influence of two drugs – a prescription medicine and marijuana. A Pennsylvania court ordered the Lansdowne man held for trial on DUI, DUI homicide and reckless endangerment charges. The charges relate to the death of an Upper Darby teen and injuries to his friend in a pedestrian accident.

The 18-year-olds were walking with friends alongside a road, as the accused driver was attempting to turn into a fast-food restaurant across the road. The defendant's vehicle crossed into the path of an oncoming car. An affidavit described the defendant as too intoxicated to notice the car heading toward him.

The second driver testified that despite attempts to control the vehicle, he was unable to stop before colliding with the pedestrians on the far side of the road. One victim died of blunt force trauma injuries. The other teen suffered fractures to his shoulder, leg and foot.

At a recent preliminary hearing, a police sergeant testified that the driver seemed to pick and choose his words carefully and spoke slowly after the crash. The defendant apparently also complained he had missed an important dose of medication. A blood test later showed the man's system contained substantial amounts of a prescription drug for anxiety and a marijuana metabolite.

Criminal charges can result from any drugs -- over-the-counter, prescription or illegal drugs -- that cause driver impairment. Evidence of driver intoxication also is persuasive in liability claims for personal injuries and wrongful deaths, where damages awards depend upon proof of a defendant's reckless or thoughtless actions.

Source: Daily Times, "Driver charged in crash that killed Upper Darby teen to stand trial" Linda Reilly, Apr. 03, 2014

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