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Hospital Tests that Show Marijuana Before a Crash

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who said she was involved in a collision while she was driving a car. An ambulance took her to the hospital from the scene and tests showed cannabinoid use in a minimal amount. She says the other driver ran a red light and caused the collision. However, the insurance carrier says she bears fault for having used marijuana. She wanted to know her rights.

Urine screens and blood tests while being treated in a hospital following a car crash often pick up controlled substances in the body.

Cannabinoids are inactive marijuana metabolites. Their presence in urine does not and cannot without supporting expert testimony constitute proof of impairment or intoxication.

The presence of cannabinoids in blood or urine samples taken following a crash, standing alone, would generally be immaterial to any issue at trial.

However, where the sample is taken from a driver, driver impairment will be an issue.

In most cases, evidence of trace cannabinoid amounts in a driver would be immaterial and irrelevant.

However, trace amounts of cannabinoids will be material and relevant at trial if the sample is taken from the driver of a commercial vehicle. Commercial driver’s license holders are held to stricter standards than other drivers when it comes to drug or alcohol use.

On the other hand, the presence of cannabinoids in a sample taken from a mere vehicle passenger, should, in most cases, not be material to the case.

Another issue when dealing with cannabinoid blood or urine test results involves false positives. Urine screens are more likely to result in a false positive than blood tests. Typically, only a blood test can determine if the active form of marijuana was in the body and thus producing psychoactive effects.

If no blood draw was tested, but only a urine screen test, then no evidence of intoxication or impairment will likely be admissible, since such evidence would be based just on a urine screen alone.

Urine screens are designed to determine if a person has ingested marijuana. The metabolites from the broken-down marijuana will remain in the urine for up to 30 or so days after using marijuana.

Urine screens are usually used for persons on probation or parole who have been ordered to be substance-free.

The use of a urine screen result cannot determine and does not determine intoxication or impairment at the time of a collision. It can show that within 30 days before the test, marijuana was ingested. But, nothing more.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”