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Kerry Kennedy Says Car Accident in NY Was Caused by Medication Mistake

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Aug 15, 2012

The daughter of Robert F. Kennedy says a prescription drug mistake was to blame for her car accident on the morning of July 13.

Kerry Kennedy was found semiconscious in her Lexus when police responded to calls of a driver weaving in and out of traffic lanes. Kennedy, 52, was driving on Route 684 in New York when witnesses saw her swerve into an 18-wheeler and continue down the highway without stopping.

When police questioned Kennedy after the accident, she was reportedly unsteady while standing and her speech was slurred. She told police that she believed she had inadvertently taken zolpidem, a generic version of the sleep medication Ambien, instead of her thyroid medication.

Kennedy was charged with drunk driving. However, the results of blood and urine toxicology tests performed by police were negative for alcohol or any other drugs. Kennedy said she also tested negative for drugs at the hospital where she was treated after the crash, adding that doctors had suspected a brain seizure. 

Kennedy refuted the drunk driving charge at a court appearance on July 17, where she presented a toxicology report showing 14 nanograms per milliliter of zolpidem in her system. 

The accident is similar to another event in Kennedy family history, in which Kerry Kennedy’s cousin Patrick, son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, was involved in a medication-induced car wreck in 2006. Patrick had been taking Ambien when he crashed his car in Washington, D.C. He enrolled in a rehabilitation program soon after the incident.

The FDA has issued warnings about Ambien, noting thatpatients often experience memory problems after awakening. There have been reported cases of patients sleepwalking, driving, cooking and eating food, and making phone calls while under the influence of the powerful sedative—and not remembering it in the morning.

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