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Impaired Driving, Motor Vehicle Accidents, and Personal Injury Claims

drunk man reaching for his car keys

It is well known that alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can cause serious motor vehicle accidents. In fact, the risk that a motor vehicle accident will result in personal injury or fatality significantly increases when the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. A person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident caused as a result of an impaired driver’s negligence can bring a personal injury claim against the impaired driver for compensation including pain and suffering, past wage loss, loss of future earning capacity, and out of pocket expenses. Close family members of a person who is killed by an impaired driver can bring a wrongful death claim against the impaired driver.


Are there other types of impaired driving?

While most people readily identify alcohol consumption and illegal drug use (or a combination of both) as “impaired driving,” there are several other ways that a driver’s ability can be impaired, leading to an increased risk of a motor vehicle accident. Over-the-counter or prescription medications, sleep deprivation, visual impairments, and certain medical conditions and psychological disorders can also impair a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Accidents caused by drivers who are in any way mentally or physically impaired can lead to a claim in negligence for any injury or death caused thereby.

How alcohol and drugs affect driving ability

Operating a motor vehicle is a highly complex task, requiring a driver to use their hands, feet, eyes, and brain. Alcohol and drugs can blunt mental alertness, concentration, and visual ability (for example, depth perception), and have a profound effect on motor coordination and reflexes. A driver who is impaired by alcohol, drugs or both will not be able to react as quickly to changing conditions and other vehicles, pedestrians, or hazards in the road. Both alcohol and drugs can seriously affect a driver’s judgment and ability to comprehend information, which increases the risk of a serious motor vehicle accident.

How other types of impairment affect driving ability

The other types of impairment discussed above can have a similar negative impact on a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Accidents, injuries, and fatalities are caused by many forms of impairment that limit a driver’s mental or physical ability to drive safely. For example:


  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy can cause drowsiness and reduced ability to concentrate. Similarly, other factors such as shift work or lifestyle choices may result in inadequate sleep that negatively affects safe driving.


  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also cause drowsiness, or other side effects which impair concentration, memory, judgment, reaction time, or other cognitive, visual, or motor skills.

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes and hypoglycemia can cause blurred vision or confusion and may lead to sudden incapacitation (for example, loss of consciousness), particularly if not well controlled. Epilepsy, heart conditions and brain tumors are further examples of medical conditions which can have an adverse outcome on a person’s ability to drive.


  • Visual acuity necessary for driving can be impaired by myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (age-related far-sightedness) and astigmatism (blurred vision), and visual disturbances can also be caused by medical conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts.


  • Cognitive issues caused by dementia or traumatic brain injury, for example, may impair a person’s ability to drive safely.


  • Psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can impair driving ability in two ways: first, due to symptoms of the disorder itself (for example, symptoms of depression can include poor concentration and judgment skills), and second, due to side effects from medications to treat the disorder (for example, an antidepressant medication may cause drowsiness).


It is also worth noting that alcohol and/or illegal drug use have the potential to significantly worsen these other types of impairment (for example, hypoglycemia plus alcohol impairment). In personal injury cases, there are specific legal requirements to substantiate a claim in negligence. A skilled car accident lawyer will know how to gather proof to establish fault on the part of an impaired driver.

Have you been hurt in a motor vehicle accident caused by an impaired driver?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by impaired driving, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer. Prince George’s Dick Byl Law Corporation provides trusted advice and guidance for car accident victims. We help resolve the challenges that come with ICBC claim settlements and court proceedings. Our law office is located on the 5th floor of the Royal Bank building on Victoria Street in Prince George. We can be reached by phone at 250-564-3400 or by email at You can also request a consultation with a car accident lawyer by sending a message using our eForm.


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