Who May be Liable if an Elderly Parent Causes a Crash?
March 24, 2022
Many older drivers are able to enjoy independence well into their seventies and beyond. Some, however, may develop certain medical conditions that may make activities like driving unsafe.
Helping older drivers recognize their limitations and when it is time to stop driving is difficult. What happens if an elderly parent continues to drive, despite developing a medical impairment, and ends up causing a crash? Could their adult children be held liable for damages?
Bernstein & Poisson discuss more about aging drivers, including when adult children could be liable for an elderly parent’s crash.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash and need legal assistance, our trusted law firm is ready to help. Contact our firm anytime to schedule a free initial consultation. We have representatives ready to take your call 24/7.
Could I Be Liable if My Elderly Parent Causes a Crash?
Crashes are assessed for liability on a case-by-case basis. Typically, adult children are not responsible for their parent’s actions, even if that parent lives with the adult child.
The law is less clear in other situations, such as if:
- You allowed your parent to drive a vehicle registered to you
- Your parent had a known medical or visual impairment
- You knowingly allowed them to drive your vehicle with a medical impairment
If your situation fits these three criteria, it may be harder to avoid any liability.
What Are Nevada’s Driving Laws for Older Drivers?
Nevada does not have any laws saying people must stop driving after a certain age. However, there are some changes to the licensing renewal process once drivers turn 65.
Drivers 65 and Older
At age 65, drivers must begin renewing their license once every four years instead of every eight. Up to age 70, drivers with a four-year license may renew by mail every other four years. So if you just renewed online for the next four years, your next license renewal must be in person.
Drivers 71 and Older
From age 71 and older, drivers must renew in person at a Nevada DMV. Alternatively, these drivers can choose to renew their license by mail every other four years. If they renew by mail, however, they must submit the following documents with their renewal:
- A Nevada DMV Eye Exam Certificate completed and signed by a physician
- Doctor’s note approving the driver’s ability, along with any recommended restrictions
When renewing in person, the DMV administers an eye exam. In some cases, a driver may also have to take a written test, road test, or both. This is typically only required if there are concerns a driver may have a condition that could make driving unsafe.
At times, elderly drivers with a medical or visual impairment may still be able to drive with a restricted license. Some examples of common driving restrictions for an elderly or senior driver include:
- Wearing corrective glasses or contact lenses
- Driving only between dawn and dusk (not at night)
- Being limited to residential or secondary roads, no highway driving
Restrictions vary and are applied on an individual basis to accommodate that driver’s specific impairment concerns.
When a Driver’s License May Be Revoked
An older driver will not lose his or her license simply because he or she is a certain age. Any individual with a known condition or impairment that makes driving unsafe can have driving privileges revoked.
Are Older Drivers More Likely to Cause a Car Crash?
Overall, older adults are statistically safer drivers. They wear their seatbelts, follow posted speed limits and other traffic laws. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, older drivers are still more likely to have a serious crash. The main reason is due to the onset of age-related vision, mental, physical and other cognitive function issues.
Common Medical Issues That Can Make Driving Unsafe
There are many age-related conditions or impairments that make driver more difficult. However, according to recent scientific studies, some of the most common age-related medical conditions that may increase the risk of a crash include:
- Medical conditions, like Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Moderate to severe forms of arthritis
- Diabetes, especially if complicated by hypoglycemia
- High blood pressure
- Vision changes, such as cataracts and macular degeneration
- Serious heart conditions
- Hearing loss
Although difficult, it is important to help your elderly parent recognize when it is time to either stop driving or drive with limitations. For instance, avoiding driving on busier highways, in bad weather or at night.
Are There Early Signs To Watch For?
Often the best indicator is if your elderly parent’s doctor says their health or physical condition makes driving unsafe. However, there are some questions you could ask an elderly parent that can help.
- Are you finding that you often feel nervous when you drive?
- Do you have trouble with your night vision?
- Do you find you get lost easier than before or forget where you are going?
- How well do you see road signs and pavement markings?
- Are you taking any medication that makes you sleepy?
- Do you notice changes in your reaction time?
- Can you still easily judge the distance of other vehicles?
- How well can you turn your head to look for other traffic?
- Is your peripheral vision still good?
- Do friends and family frequently say they feel uncomfortable driving with you?
- How often do other drivers honk at you for near misses or other driving errors
These are just a few questions to help start a conversation about your elderly parent’s driving abilities.
How Do I Tell My Elderly Parent it is Time to Stop Driving?
It is important to remember that when a parent gives up driving, he or she is losing independence. While it may be necessary to help them reach that decision, it is helpful to remember how hard it is for them.
When an elderly parent truly must give up driving, there are steps you can take to make it easier:
- Remember your loved one has not done anything wrong to bring this about
- Do not bring this topic up suddenly or catch your loved one by surprise
- Schedule a time to talk to your loved one when they are calm and well-rested
- Have the conversation in a private place and where they will not feel embarrassed
- Rather than being confrontational or condescending, ask questions and listen with compassion
- Do not expect your loved one to make an immediate decision
- Empathize with your aging parent’s fears and give them time to digest the conversation
- Help your elderly parent to evaluate their own driving abilities
- Allow them to do their own research and ask them to help you create a realistic plan
- Discuss transportation alternatives to help them to keep some level of independence
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