Can I Be Liable for My Elderly Parent’s Car Accident?

Deciding when it’s time to hang up the keys for good can be an emotionally-challenging process for elderly parents and their children alike. For the driver in question, giving up the keys can signal a loss of independence and freedom. But if driving has become dangerous, it’s in everyone’s best interest. If you are concerned that your elderly loved one is no longer safe behind the wheel, it’s important to step in. Avoiding the conversation can result in serious consequences, including injury or death. In certain cases, you can even be on the hook for your elderly parent’s auto accident.

Age alone doesn’t affect our ability to drive, but many aspects of aging do. There are 80-year-olds with clear vision, excellent cognitive abilities, and exemplary physical health who may continue driving safely for years, and there are 60-year-olds with poor vision, severe arthritis, and multiple prescription meds who should have stopped driving years ago. The ability to drive safely after a certain age has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. That being said, according to the CDC, “fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older.” Considering that there are nearly 36 million drivers over the age of 65 on the road today, this is a real problem. If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one’s driving, contact a Boston auto accident attorney today.

Does Massachusetts Impose Restrictions on License Renewal for Older Drivers?

In short, yes. In MA, if you are 75 or older, you have to renew your license in person, and the RMV will conduct unsafe driver investigations if requested. Also, after age 75, you must renew your license in person every five years. At these in-person renewals, a free vision test will be conducted. If indications of driver impairment are present, a written test and / or a road test may be required. If certain impairments are present, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the license renewal will be denied. The RMV may place restrictions on the license, based on the observed impairments. Examples of these restrictions include:

  • No driving at night
  • Driving only while wearing glasses or corrective contact lenses
  • Driving a vehicle equipped with an adaptive device
  • Only driving a vehicle with automatic transmission

But Can I Be Liable?

In most cases, you will not be liable for an elderly parent’s accident. However, if you loan your car to an elderly parent or loved one, and you should have been aware that he or she was no longer a safe driver, you could be liable under vicarious liability laws, or negligent entrustment. These laws typically pertain to parents who loan their car to a child, but it can be the other way around under certain circumstances. Your liability if your parent is driving his or her own car is limited. Chances are, you won’t be liable. But – and there’s always a but – it’s not impossible. If it can be shown that you were aware of your parent’s impairment, and you knew that your parent continued to drive, you could be liable for negligence.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers Serving All of Massachusetts

If you are concerned that an elderly loved one is no longer capable of safe driving, it’s important to speak up. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we are no strangers to accidents caused by elderly drivers who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. As uncomfortable as this conversation may be, it’s certainly better than an accident that results in serious injuries or death. If you need advice, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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