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Are You Liable for an Older Adult Parent's Car Accident?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

You should always respect the older adults in your life. But you might also want to fear them on the highway.

While our older adult 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 cannot take an aging parent’s keys away, are you on the hook when they plow through a sidewalk full of bystanders?

Older Adult Drivers 101

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. If your older adult parent causes such a crash, the results can affect their caregivers.

These accidents can happen without much warning. Driving ability can fade quickly, and you might not always see the signs they should stop driving.

Also, not all states impose driver's license renewal restrictions on older drivers. Some states do require older drivers to:

  • Renew in person (not by mail)
  • Complete a road test
  • Submit a fitness-to-drive statement from a physician

However, in many cases, it's normally up to children or relatives to determine whether an older person is fit to drive.

So does that mean you could be liable for accidents if you don't confiscate a parents' keys?

Family Members: Liability of an Adult Child or Younger Adult

It is possible for a non-driver to be legally liable for an accident. If you loan your motor vehicle 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 vehicle's owner. So if an older adult parent is driving their 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 about their older adult 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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