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Legalized pot leads to higher insurance claims

Legalized recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington led to frequencies of insurance claims filed for car accidents that were three percent greater than rates would have been if it remained illegal. This recent analysis from the Highway Loss Data Institute may be significant for Nevada because it recently legalized recreational marijuana use.

Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana for persons who are at least 21-years-old. Sales commenced in January 2014 in Colorado and July 2014 in Washington. Legalized sales began in Oregon in October 2015.

Colorado had an increase with the amount of collision claims that was 14 percent higher than its neighboring states. Washington's was six percent greater than its neighbors while Oregon's estimated claim frequency was four percent higher than its adjoining states.

The analysis used data for collision claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016 for vehicles from the 1981 to 2017 model years. Control allowances were made for differences in population, vehicle fleets, city and rural drivers and weather conditions. Analysts used neighboring states as controls to compare trends in these claims.

Collision claims are the most claims submitted to insurance companies. These insure against physical damage to a vehicle in a collision with an object or another vehicle. The driver is usually held responsible for these accidents.

Five other states and the District of Columbia legalized marijuana for all uses. As of June 2017, 21 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs. Another 17 states allow restricted access for medical use.

Marijuana is appearing more among motorists involved in accidents and drivers admit to using it. Evidence from research performed on simulators and on-road studies has demonstrated that marijuana can hamper some driving skill. However, researcher have not definitively connected marijuana use with causing more actual accidents on the roads. Some studies showed that using marijuana could double the risk of an accident while a federal study and other research did not establish a link between its use and accidents.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are grounds to worry about legalized marijuana causing accidents. A victim of a car accident caused by a drunk or drug-impaired driver should seek legal assistance to assure that they can seek compensation for medical expenses and other losses.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, "Legalizing recreational marijuana is linked to increased crashes," Accessed July 17, 2017

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