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Can You Be Held Liable If Your Elderly Parent Has A Car Accident?

As our father grew older, my sister and I would have discussions with our father about his driving.  We thought he should stop driving and he would disagree. 

As we continued our “discussions” with him on this issue – we worried that we might be liable if he got into a car accident.

We found out that generally, the answer is “NO”. 

The only times you might be considered liable is…

  • if you own the car involved in the accident
  • if you co-own the car
  • if you loaned the car to a person whom you know is unfit to drive

According to a blog article written by the law firm of Shollenberger, Januzzi and Wolfe, LLC,

In order for a car accident plaintiff to hold an adult child responsible for an accident caused by an elderly parent, it would have to be shown that there is some recognized legal duty the adult child had to prevent the parent from causing harm to others, either in general or specifically while driving.  Such legal duty is generally not currently recognized, though adult children—particularly those who have power of attorney—should consider that they have a moral obligation to do what they can to prevent an aging parent from getting behind the wheel when it becomes dangerous for them to do so. In some states, physicians do have a duty to report elderly drivers they feel should not be getting behind the wheel. – Law Firm Of Shollenberger, Januzzi and Wolfe, LLC.

Now of course, every municipality will have it’s own specific set of laws concerning this issue so I would strongly recommend that you contact an elder law attorney in your area to get the exact answer about liability issues concerning seniors and driving accidents.

What If You Have Power Of Attorney Over Your Parent?

Some adult children and/or caregivers have obtained a power of attorney over their senior loved one (which is often a very good thing to do). 

Essentially, when you have power of attorney over an aging parent, you are granted legal permission to make decisions on behalf of your parent that they may not be able to make for themselves.

So, if you do have this legal document, are you then liable if your senior parent causes a car accident?

Again, the answer is “NO” and the reasons that you might be considered liable are the 3 that I mentioned earlier.

Tips On How To Stop Your Elderly Loved One From Driving

Many adult children and caregivers have to deal with this very difficult issue and I have been there with my own father so I can relate!

There are basically 5 tips that may help you…

  • Plan out your approach towards giving up their car.
  • Speak with respect.
  • Start with questions about why they want to continue driving.
  • Listen to their concerns.
  • Don’t patronize.
  • Investigate viable options to replace driving.

You can read more about implementing these tips here.

*Note: we are not attorneys and this should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult with an attorney to get answers that are specific to your own situation.