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Who's Liable for a Prescription Drug Overdose?

Ever since Prince died of a drug overdose, questions have been raised about drug overdose liability. Prince's deadly dosage was self-administered and his death has been ruled accidental, but that doesn't mean no one will be blamed for it, or that there is no one to sue in some overdose cases.

Let's consider liability for overdoses involving prescription drugs, like that of the legendary musician.

Liability for Prescription Drugs

When someone dies from an illegal drug overdose, you can't sue, but drug dealers do occasionally face murder charges related to overdoses. It's a relatively new phenomenon. In civil law, however, you can't get compensation for negligence related to an activity that wasn't legal to begin with and, thus, ought not have been undertaken. Add to that the fact that drug dealers don't sign off on each sale, like doctors do, making proving liability an impossibility.

But increasingly, people are using prescription drugs to self-medicate, going beyond recommended dosages or using them altogether illicitly. Overdoses are unfortunately commonplace with these too. In fact, Prince's fatal blow came from a drug meant to alleviate pain in cancer patients, a drug that has been blamed for a spike in overdoses among illicit users by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Just because a drug is legal, however, doesn't mean you can blame someone for an illegal drug overdose. Although doctors are increasingly on the hook for prescription drug abuses, in civil and criminal cases, there are limitations to liability.

Suing for Wrongful Death

Say you lose a loved one to a prescription drug overdose and the person legitimately was prescribed the drug. You might sue for wrongful death to the extent that the healthcare practitioner and pharmacist were negligent somehow. Maybe they failed to note a pattern of abuse that would have been obvious and that it was their duty to monitor. You may have a claim but it is difficult to say without specific information about the deceased, their relationship to suppliers, and the extent to which the overdose was caused by a dereliction of duty by those who owed it.

A wrongful death claim is essentially a negligence action on behalf of another, who is deceased, and can only be pursued by specific relatives. State statutes dictate who can sue and how long it is possible to file a claim.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you lost someone to a drug overdose, or simply were hurt an accident, speak to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.

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