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No Charges for 92-Year-Old Driver Who Hit 9 Parked Cars in Wis.

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on February 19, 2015 12:06 PM

Have you seen the viral video of a car hitting about nine other vehicles in a Wisconsin parking lot? Thankfully, no one was injured, and bystanders were able to get the driver to stop.

It turns out the driver, Russell Kerr, was a 92-year-old man whose foot became stuck on the gas pedal, Milwaukee's WISN-TV reports. The man panicked and lost control of the car. Police said Kerr wouldn't be charged with a crime, as they considered his actions accidental.

But will he be sued by the cars' owners? And will the state DMV let him keep his license?

What Tort Claims Are Possible?

While many of the vehicle owners' car insurance policies will pay them if they have the appropriate coverage, the other side of insurance -- which policy-holders usually don't see -- comes when the insurance company sues the person who caused the accident. In this case, Kerr would find himself on the receiving end of as many as nine lawsuits from different auto insurance companies, seeking to recoup the benefits they paid to the vehicle owners.

Car owners who aren't insured would have to sue Kerr directly if they wanted him to pay for damage to their cars. (This is one of the benefits of having insurance: The insurance company cuts you a check and handles all the litigation.)

As an interesting thought experiment, if another person had loaned Kerr his car, then the car's owner could also be on the hook for damages. Under either the doctrines of vicarious liability or negligent entrustment, the owner could potentially be sued for letting an unsafe driver use his or her car, when the owner knew or should have known that the driver was unsafe.

Can the DMV Take Kerr's License Away?

Police can't unilaterally take away Kerr's license, WISN explained, but the DMV certainly can. In Wisconsin, a driver needs to have the cognitive and sensory abilities to drive safely. If there's a doubt about a person's ability to drive, the state DMV can cancel a person's license or require a person to retake either the written test, the road test, the vision test, or any or all of those tests.

As a group, drivers 65 and older were behind only the 16-to-20 and 21-to-34 age groups in terms of motor vehicle fatality rates, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Only two states -- Illinois and New Hampshire -- require elderly drivers (75 or older) to retake a road test in our to renew their licenses. At least 25 more states just require elderly drivers to retake the vision test at the DMV in order to renew their licenses; Wisconsin isn't among them.

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