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Can family be held liable when an elderly driver injures someone?

As our population ages, there are more senior and even elderly drivers on the road. Nearly 36 million drivers today are at least 65. Some are conscientious, safe drivers. Others, whether because of cognitive impairment, vision and/or hearing loss, slowed reaction time, physical impairments or the effect of medications, pose a danger to themselves and others on (and even near) the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older."

Many people who have elderly relatives are faced with the unenviable task of convincing them to retire their car keys and embrace local senior ride-share programs and other forms of transportation. However, driving is often as important to an older person's independence as it is for teens who are just getting their driver's licenses.

To make matters worse, West Virginia, unlike some states, has no special provisions for seniors when renewing their driver's licenses. Licenses must be renewed every five years, and no tests are required.

Do family members have any legal responsibility when a senior driver injures someone or worse while behind the wheel? In many cases, they don't.

If a person gets into a crash in his or her own car, generally it's difficult to hold anyone else liable. That's easier to do when adult children or other family members let an elderly loved one drive their vehicle.

However, if it can be proven that family members knew that someone wasn't fit to drive and didn't do everything reasonably possible to prevent it, it's possible that they could be held liable for negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries that were the fault of an elderly driver, it's wise to find out what legal options you have to seek compensation from that driver and/or the driver's family.

Source: FindLaw, "Are You Liable for an Elderly Parent's Car Accident?," Chistopher Coble, Esq., accessed May 29, 2018

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