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Understanding lawsuits and the opiate drug epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, with 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid-related overdose. Opiates have surpassed heart disease, cancer and lower respiratory disease as the leading cause of death in people under 50 in the United States.

Who is responsible for opiate drug addiction and overdoses?

As this crisis continues to affect people across the nation, and as overdose-related deaths increase, both individuals and states are suing doctors and drug companies.

Doctors are accused of overprescribing dangerously addictive drugs in cases where a less dangerous drug or an alternate treatment might have been available. Drug companies are accused of using heavy-handed tactics or of misrepresenting data to push doctors to prescribe more opiate drugs.

One of the most crucial aspects of dangerous drug litigation is determining who is at fault. In the case of opiates, determining liability for damages can be difficult.

Is it the fault of the patient who became addicted to a doctor-prescribed drug? Should physicians be held responsible instead of the drug companies that strong-armed doctors into over-prescribing opiates in the first place? Or are both medical professionals and drug companies to blame?

Who is liable in an opiate drug claim?

Can you sue a doctor for prescribing a dangerous opiate? If a patient becomes addicted to their prescribed medication, a doctor may be held liable if the drug was inappropriate in type or dosage or if they didn't notice or address the progression of the patient's addiction.

Can you sue a drug company? According to Lars Noah, law professor at the University of Florida, some cases of addiction or overdose involve patients who are not using their drugs as instructed, making it difficult to blame a drug company for an individual's addiction. Drug companies also target doctors, not individual patients, with aggressive marketing tactics. However, in some cases individuals can sue a drug company for damages relating to injury or death resulting from insufficient labeling of a drug's risks and side effects.

Who is liable for a drug overdose? In the case of opioid drugs, an overdose can sometimes lead to death. Most dangerous drug claims fall under product liability or medical malpractice, but can also include a wrongful death claim, if a fatality resulted from prescription drug use.

If you think you or a loved one might have an opiate drug claim, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help answer your questions.

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