Liability for Drug Overdoses

Drug overdoses can be anything from simple mistakes to suicide attempts and they can have tragic consequences. In some cases those consequences can extend to dealers, friends, or family of the person who overdoses. Some states have begun prosecuting drug dealers with murder if a customer overdoses, and others are bypassing Good Samaritan protections and charging friends who dial 911 for overdosing friends with drug crimes.

And beyond possible criminal charges, could you be sued if you gave someone drugs that led to a deadly overdose? Or if someone overdoses in your house? Here’s a look at civil liability for drug overdoses.

Wrongful Death

If an overdose is fatal, the surviving members of the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawsuits are based on the belief that a person’s death was due to misconduct or negligence of another person, and have three main elements:

  1. That a person has died;
  2. That the death was caused by another’s negligence, or intent to cause harm; and
  3. That surviving family members suffered monetary injury as a result of the death.

In the case of a fatal overdose, the decedent’s estate would need to show that the person would not have overdosed if not for another person’s negligence or that another person intended the person to overdose. While this may be difficult to prove of friends or other family members if they were participating in the same drug activity or knew it was happening, it may be easier to prove of drug dealers — in some cases doctors have been held liable for patient overdoses and the same legal theory could apply to dealers.

Social Host Liability

If a person overdoses in someone else’s house or business, it’s conceivable the home or business owner could be liable. Known as social host liability, states have enacted laws holding party hosts liable for any alcohol-related injuries that occur as a result of providing alcohol to minors.

It’s possible this kind of liability could be extended to adult victims of overdoses, whether those drugs are legal or not.

Sorting out who is and isn’t at fault for an overdose can be difficult, both emotionally and legally. If you have more questions about drug overdose liability, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you.

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