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Are You Liable for an Elderly Parent's Car Accident?

You should always respect your elders. But you might also want to fear them on the highway. While our elderly relatives may have a wealth of knowledge and compassion, they don’t always make the quickest or best decisions behind the wheel. And as Salon points out, getting older drivers to admit they’re not as safe as they once were is difficult, if not impossible.

So if you’re unable to wrest Grandpa’s keys from his clutches, are you gonna be on the hook when he plows through a sidewalk full of bystanders?

Elderly Drivers

Our population is aging, and most senior citizens have been driving their entire lives. The CDC notes that “fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older.” With almost 36 million drivers on the road over the age of 65, the risk for fatal car crashes is real.

And not all states impose driver’s license renewal restrictions on older drivers. While some states require older drivers to renew in person (not by mail), complete a road test, or submit a fitness-to-drive statement from a physician, it’s normally up to children or relatives to determine whether an elderly person is fit to drive. So does that mean they could be liable for accidents if they don’t confiscate their parents’ keys?

Younger Liability

It is possible for a non-driver to be legally liable for an accident. If you loan your car to a bad driver, you could be liable under negligent entrustment or vicarious liability laws. Normally, this plays out when parents give their car keys to children — the so-called “Family Car Doctrine” can hold parents liable for their children’s car accidents, even if the parents weren’t in the car.

Generally, however, this kind of liability is only extended to the owner of the vehicle. So if an elderly parent is driving his or her own car, it’s less likely that a child or relative would be liable for an accident. However, depending on how knowledgeable a child is to their elderly parent’s impairment when driving, other theories of negligence could attach, even if they weren’t driving your car.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious car accident, you may want to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your legal liability and your legal options.

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