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Drug test results present interesting twist to New Jersey tragedy

Three of the four New Jersey high school football players killed on a turnpike last year had chemicals in their system that suggested that they had smoked marijuana at some point before the crash. This was reported after a local news agency submitted a public records request for these toxicology results. The driver of the vehicle was among those who had the chemicals in his system.

This fatal car accident involved eight football players, all on their way to a team breakfast following a practice. The car flipped as it traveled down the Garden State Parkway.

As part of the accident investigation, officials collected blood samples from the victims. However, although state police initially said they would release the lab analysis of these samples, they later retracted that statement, citing New Jersey public access laws. Until recently, the results were kept confidential.

It is uncertain how this information will affect the families of these teens who are seeking compensation. Some of the boys' parents have indicated their intent to seek compensation from the government agencies in charge of maintaining the road. The parents have not formally sued; however, in New Jersey, injured parties, or their families, must put government agencies on early notice of a possible lawsuit. The parents have done so, alleging that the government did not properly maintain the road so as to prevent dangerous road conditions.

Even if marijuana was in the driver's system, it was not clear whether the players had used marijuana immediately prior to getting in to the vehicle, nor was it clear whether drug use contributed to the accident. Some experts report that even with a casual user, chemical remnants from the drug may remain in the body for several days after the person smokes. Other experts, however, report that according to the blood test results, the boys had likely smoked only hours prior to the accident.

Regardless, the families of the boys who were passengers may both have to consider whether the driver shares some responsibility for this tragedy and adjust their efforts to seek compensation accordingly.

Source: NJ.com, "3 N.J. Football Players killed in Parkway crash tested positive for marijuana chemicals, report says," Aug. 30, 2012

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