Products we purchase every day can sometimes do us harm, from unhealthy foods to garden tools with sharp edges. Of all of the routine purchases we make, however, perhaps none pose as significant a threat to our wellbeing than prescription drugs. Taken in the correct doses under proper medical supervision, these drugs can improve, and even save, our lives. But, those very same drugs can also cause us tremendous harm, and even kill us, when we take the wrong type or dose of a medicine, or take it in an unsafe combination with another drug.
Prescription drugs, in short, are dangerous. Some more so, some less so, but virtually all of them can cause serious health problems if used incorrectly. Sometimes, when a dangerous drug harms a Seattle resident, Washington law allows that person to hold the manufacturer legally liable for the injuries the drug caused.
If you or a loved one suffered adverse health consequences as a result of taking a prescription drug, a Seattle dangerous drug liability lawyer can help you determine if you have a right to compensation. To learn more, contact Boohoff Law today.
Who We Are
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff leads a team of attorneys at Boohoff Law who focus their practices exclusively on representing people injured by someone else’s careless or reckless conduct. Attorney Boohoff is a graduate of Boston University School of Law, one of the very best law schools in the United States. For more than a decade, she and her colleagues have practiced personal injury law, earning a reputation as a top-flight group of seasoned, skilled legal advocates. Tatiana and her team continue their mission to help injured Washingtonians obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries and tragic losses, while providing an unmatched level of client service and lawyer accessibility.
About Dangerous Drug Law
Washington, like most states, holds manufacturers of defective or unreasonably unsafe products strictly liable for the harm those products cause to end-users. That means manufacturers have legal liability for damages whenever a product is defective in its design, construction, or lack of warnings, regardless of whether they knew about the defect. Strict products liability is a cornerstone of U.S. commerce that helps keep consumers safe from unscrupulous business practices.
Prescription drugs, however, receive special treatment under Washington law. Seeking compensation for damages those drugs cause is more complicated than simple strict liability. Here’s why.
Prescription Drugs Are Unavoidably Unsafe
Prescription drugs are, literally, a product many of us cannot live without. That’s true even when those same drugs have terrible side effects. Take common chemotherapy drugs, for example. They are highly toxic to the human body even when they are also necessary to knocking out a cancerous tumor. Putting these and other prescription drugs into our bodies involves a trade-off of risks and benefits. We trust prescription drugs to do us more good than harm on the whole, but we recognize they may turn out to do more harm than good in individual cases.
The law in Washington, similar to laws in many other jurisdictions, characterizes prescription drugs as a class of consumer product that is unavoidably unsafe. What that means is they can’t reasonably be expected to exist without being dangerous to some significant degree. Because these unavoidably unsafe products are so important to our overall wellbeing, however, Washington law exempts manufacturers of them from strict liability claims that the drugs were defectively designed.
Proving Strict Liability for Harm Caused by a Dangerous Drug
If you take a prescription drug under the supervision of a qualified physician, and the physician passes along the manufacturer’s warning that the drug can have bad side effects, and those exact side effects occur and harm you, the manufacturer most likely will not have legal liability to you for that harm. This is the risk-benefit trade-off of prescription drugs in action. After all, if the law held drug manufacturers liable for every bad side their drugs could cause, they’d never make those medicines and our community would be worse off.
Still, that doesn’t mean that manufacturers of dangerous prescription drugs get off scot-free when their products harm consumers. It just means it’s difficult to sue a dangerous drug manufacturer because of the drug’s inherently-dangerous design. It is still possible to hold a dangerous drug manufacturer strictly liable for harm caused by their product in Washington if you are able to show one or more of the following:
- That the drug was not properly prepared (i.e., it had the wrong ingredients or some other flaw introduced while it was being made);
- That the drug was not properly marketed (i.e., the manufacturer misled the public about its uses); or
- That the manufacturer provided no or inadequate warnings about the drug’s inherent dangers.
Learned Intermediaries and Liability
Many dangerous drug liability cases involve situations in which a patient did not receive warnings about the dangers of a particular drug. Manufacturers, as we’ve said, have a duty to provide adequate warnings. However, that duty only runs to giving warnings to prescribing doctors and pharmacists.
Under Washington’s legal doctrine of learned intermediaries, manufacturers do not necessarily have to warn prescription drug consumers about their drugs so longs warnings get communicated to someone who has the learning and professional knowledge to advise the consumer about taking the drug. Doctors and pharmacists, however, do have an obligation to provide relevant information about a dangerous drug to their patients.
An injury caused by a dangerous drug, in other words, could lead to liability for the manufacturer having failed to give adequate warnings to a doctor or pharmacy, or for the doctor or pharmacy failing to provide important information to the consumer.
About Dangerous Drugs
As we’ve said, all prescription (and many over-the-counter) drugs can be dangerous. Some drugs, however, have a particular tendency to cause harm, and some of the harms drugs can cause are especially severe.
Well-Known Dangerous Drugs
Some prescription drugs, in particular, are well-known for their potential for causing harm. Suppliers and prescribers of these drugs may face legal liability for the harm these drugs cause:
- Prescription opioids;
- Blood thinners; and
- Antipsychotics and antidepressants.
Common Dangerous Drug Injuries
Dangerous drugs, when misused, can cause debilitating and life-changing injuries and health complications. In the worst-case scenario, consumers of dangerous drugs can die because of them. Some common and severe injuries resulting from the use of dangerous drugs include:
- Addiction, such as in the use of opioids;
- Organ damage and failure, often to the heart or liver;
- Severe mood changes;
- Heart attack;
- Muscle and soft tissue damage.
In addition to these direct harms, dangerous drugs can also lead to collateral harm to consumers and other members of the general public. For example, it is increasingly common for car accidents to occur in and around Seattle because a driver operated under the influence of prescription drugs. Some drugs (like opioids) produce a dangerous high, others make drivers drowsy, and still others cause dangerous behavioral changes such as aggression. If these dangerous drug effects cause an accident, then the manufacturers and prescribers may have legal liability to anyone harmed as a reasonably-foreseeable result.
Common Damages for Dangerous Drug Injuries
As we know, under Washington law a manufacturer of a dangerous drug may have strict liability under certain circumstances to anyone harmed by that drug. Prescribers and suppliers may also face liability in circumstances. The damages consumers and third parties can seek in these cases can be classified into two general categories: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages constitute reimbursement for specific, fixed costs a victim of a dangerous drug-related injury incurs as a result of the drug having been consumed. They typically will include:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Physical therapy;
- Lost wages from time off from work while recovering or helping a loved one recover; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries.
In Washington, a party liable to someone harmed by a dangerous drug may have the right to make periodic payments for economic damages to the person harmed, instead of payment in a lump-sum.
Non-economic damages aim to compensate a victim of a dangerous drug for damages that are more difficult to put in dollars-and-cents terms. These may include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
In some states, non-economic damages can run very high. In Washington State, however, the law sets a firm cap non-economic damages. A person injured as a result of a dangerous drug can recover a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington (an amount set by law) multiplied by his or her life expectancy at the time of the injury (which can be no less than 15 years). Punitive (or exemplary) damages generally are not available under Washington law.
The Law Limits Your Time to Take Action
Dangerous drugs can inflict an enormous toll on a person’s life, and on the lives of loved ones. They can cause direct physical harm that requires extensive medical care. They can trigger secondary harm, by leading to debilitating illness or behavioral changes that last a lifetime. And, they can cause collateral harm, like car accidents and unintentional injuries. All of these harms carry with them tremendous physical, emotional, and financial costs.
The experienced dangerous drug liability attorneys at Boohoff law understand how frightening and confusing it can be to confront the harm caused by dangerous drugs. Worry about the harm of a dangerous drug can consume a person’s life. Oftentimes, hiring an attorney is not a top priority for victims of dangerous drugs. And yet, the sooner a person harmed by a dangerous drug seeks the help of an experienced attorney, the better his chance of obtaining compensation and of holding drug manufacturers, prescribers, and suppliers to account.
The statute of limitations on taking legal action for the harm inflicted by a dangerous drug can vary in Washington depending on the circumstances. To avoid missing a deadline, the best course of action is to seek the help of an attorney right away when you suspect a dangerous drug has harmed you or a loved one. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner the attorney will be able to begin investigating your claim.
In dangerous drug cases, allowing time for investigation is especially important. Federal and state agencies regulate the production and distribution of prescription drugs. Lawyers may need to dig into the history of how on what basis regulators approved the dangerous drug in question. They may also need to consult with expert witnesses to evaluate the adequacy of warnings that accompanied the drug, and to understand how the drug affected the individual consumer who took it. Simply put, there is no time to waste when you suspect a dangerous drug has caused you direct or indirect harm. Speak with a lawyer as soon as you can.
Call Boohoff Law Seattle Dangerous Drug Liability Lawyers Now
Tatiana Boohoff and her team at Boohoff Law are a sophisticated, skilled group of attorneys. They have the resources and experience to tackle the most complicated dangerous drug matters, even if that means standing up to large drug manufacturers and their powerful lobbyists, attorneys, and insurance companies.
The toll of dangerous drugs varies widely. Perhaps you took a drug long ago and have only now learned of long-term damage it did. Perhaps you or a loved one have become addicted to opioids. Perhaps someone else taking a dangerous drug caused you harm in a preventable accident. No matter the scenario in which a dangerous drug did you harm, we’re ready to help.
To learn more about your legal rights when a dangerous prescription drug inflicts harm on your or a loved one’s life, contact the team at Boohoff Law today by calling (877) 999-9999 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.