Link Between Sleep Medication, Car Accident Risk Under Scrutiny After Accident

April 26th, 2016

Philadelphia nun is on trial after causing accident in New Jersey

An ongoing court case involving a Philadelphia nun raises new issues involving the relationship between sleeping medications – specifically, the popular medication Ambien – and auto accidents.

iStock_000064998269_SmallSister Kimberly Miller was charged with driving under the influence in November 2015 after crashing into an auto shop in Turnersville, New Jersey. According to her attorneys, she has no recollection of the events after having an adverse reaction to Ambien, a sedative used to treat insomnia. She was essentially driving in her sleep.

According to police, her blood alcohol content (BAC) level was 0.16 – twice the legal limit in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She had consumed a glass of altar wine after taking Ambien. She had two glasses of wine earlier in the night.

For about a decade, attorneys have been using the “Ambien defense” in court cases across the country. In 2009, for example, a New Jersey appeals judge overturned a woman’s DUI conviction, arguing that she did not know that sleep-driving was a potential side effect of Ambien use.

Unique, sporadic side effects of Ambien raise important legal questions

Sleep aids are known to impair driving, but their effects on legal liability are unclear. Both attorneys and medical professionals have argued that culprits in these types of cases shouldn’t be held liable because their episodes are unpredictable. Some patients can take Ambien for years without experiencing any episodes.

Ambien has been cited as a factor in a range of legal cases involving injuries, including violent crimes. Rulings have been mixed, with some defendants being acquitted and others found guilty.

In these often complicated cases, an attorney defending the impaired driver may argue that he or she had no way of knowing that Ambien use could contribute to a crash or otherwise cause a person to be injured.

A common defense used in Ambien-related cases is that the driver in question was not warned by a doctor or pharmacist before taking the drug. In those circumstances, the injured party might have a claim against the medical professional who failed to warn the driver about those side effects.

Legal cases involving drivers who were under the influence of sleep aids can be highly complex. That’s why it’s critically important to have an experienced attorney with the resources needed to thoroughly investigate the accident and build a strong case. If you’ve been hurt, contact Flager & Associates today.

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