Caring for an aging parent often involves navigating sensitive topics, and one of the most challenging can be their driving.
As reflexes and cognitive abilities decline, concerns about their safety behind the wheel are natural.
But what if the unthinkable happens, and your parent is involved in an accident? Could you be held liable?
In most cases, the answer is no. Your adult child status does not automatically make you responsible for their actions, including their driving.
However, there are a few specific situations where liability might come into play:
- Negligent Entrustment: If you own the car your parent was driving and you knew or should have known they were unfit to drive due to impaired vision, cognitive decline, or other health issues, you could be held liable for entrusting them with the vehicle.
- Financial Responsibility: If your parent lives with you and you help manage their finances, including car insurance, you might be named on the policy as an additional insured. This means the insurance company could initially seek compensation from you in case of an accident, though they would ultimately pursue your parent as the driver.
- Fiduciary Duty: If you have legal power of attorney or are your parent’s guardian, you have a fiduciary duty to act in their best interests. This includes making decisions about their driving safety. If you fail to address concerns about their fitness to drive and they cause an accident, you could potentially be held liable for negligence.
Here are some steps you can take to minimize your potential liability:
- Talk to your parent openly and honestly about their driving. Express your concerns and encourage them to get a driving evaluation if necessary.
- Help them find alternative transportation options. Public transportation, ride-sharing services, or even in-home caregiving services can provide safe and reliable alternatives to driving.
- Consult with an attorney familiar with elder law. They can advise you on your specific legal responsibilities and help you navigate any complex situations.
Remember, the most important thing is to prioritize your parent’s safety and well-being.
Open communication, proactive planning, and seeking professional guidance can help you approach this delicate issue with confidence and minimize the risk of legal repercussions.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/older-drivers
- AARP Driver Safety Resources: https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/
- National Center for Caregiving: https://www.caregiver.org/
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific situation.
I hope this information is helpful and provides some peace of mind as you navigate this sensitive topic.
*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.