The Low Down on Driving High

CLM’s Transportation Community recently held a webinar entitled, “Driving Impaired? Toxicology, Legal, and Insurance Perspectives.”

October 27, 2020 Photo

CLM’s Transportation Community recently held a CE-approved webinar entitled, “Driving Impaired? Toxicology, Legal, and Insurance Perspectives.” Below are a few key takeaways from the presentation, which focused on a factual scenario involving a three-vehicle accident.

12:00:00 p.m.


Dr. Michael Wernke, SEA, Ltd.

Daniel Stofko, Margolis Edelstein

Austin Buchanan, Liberty Mutual

12:03:11 p.m.

Daniel Stofko

“As claims professionals and attorneys, we get to learn a lot about a lot of different topics…and I’m always interested and amazed at what experts can bring to the table, [especially] on the issue of toxicology and driving impaired.”

12:03:58 p.m.

Daniel Stofko

“Our factual scenario involves an insured driving a box truck on a three-lane highway in the middle lane. He’s impacted on the right side by an elderly gentleman in vehicle three, which causes the box truck to impact a Jeep Wrangler passing on the left side by a young man…who tests positive for marijuana via urine screen.”

12:05:49 p.m.

Dr. Michael Wernke

“In such a scenario, the first thing a toxicologist is going to look at are the dosages of the chemicals involved, because the dose/response relationship is a fundamental principle of toxicology. As the father of toxicology Paracelsus said, ‘It’s the dose that determines if something is a poison or a remedy.”

12:15:13 p.m.

Dr. Michael Wernke

“Using blood samples to test for drugs and medications can be very difficult for many reasons. One is that, oftentimes, the concentration of a chemical or drug in the blood is not the parent compound, but rather a metabolite…. For instance, THC leaves the blood fairly quickly; a blood marijuana concentration test is actually measuring an inactive carboxyl metabolite.”

12:19:23 p.m.

Dr. Michael Wernke

“Marijuana and related compounds can be found long after use. That’s because [they] are fat-soluble; once it leaves the blood, it enters the fat in the body, where it can be re-released into the blood over time. Because of that, it’s entirely possible for someone to test positive for marijuana despite having no psychoactive impairment.”

12:26:14 p.m.

Dr. Michael Wernke

“There are a number of interferences that can occur with urine drug screens. For instance, a bakery good that contains poppy seeds can actually make you test positive for [opiates], because poppy seeds contain morphine.”

12:35:10 p.m.

Daniel Stofko

“Where we have uniformity among the states for blood alcohol concentration and alcohol testing, there is no uniformity when it comes to marijuana. Some states even have zero tolerance for THC and its metabolites…which could result in an individual being charged with a DUI weeks after smoking the drug.” 

12:41:16 p.m.

Daniel Stofko

“I think a great practice tip when a file first comes in is to keep a medical chronology, either in a table or bullet-point format, that you can see and track the treatments and prescription medicines being used, pre- and post-accident.”

About The Authors
Eric Gilkey

Eric Gilkey is vice president of content at the CLM, and serves as executive editor of CLM magazine, the flagship publication of the CLM.

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CLM’s Transportation Committee provides education, training, and solutions on significant current commercial and personal transportation issues facing insurance carriers, corporations, and other entities and individuals.

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