Can Adult Children Be Held Liable if an Elderly Parent Causes a Crash?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on October 29, 2021 in Car Accidents
Updated on April 24, 2024

old man standing by car at sunsetAdult children may have a lot of tough decisions to make as their parents get older. One major concern may include having to decide when an elderly parent should give up driving. This is especially relevant if a medical or physical condition may make them an unsafe driver. What if your aging parent has a crash and causes someone else harm? Could you be held liable for the damages?

PKSD discusses this difficult subject. Talking to an elderly parent about giving up their car keys is a huge ask. It is the same as asking them to give up some of their independence. However, what happens if they cause a crash and a loved one riding with them is seriously injured?

If you have been injured in a car crash, learn how our Milwaukee-based car accident lawyers may be able to help. We have a proven track record of helping injury victims. Call our firm 24/7 for a completely free consultation. There are no upfront costs to retain our services.

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Can I Be Held Liable for a Car Crash Caused by My Aging Parent?

Most of the time, it is probably not likely that any adult child will be held liable for a crash caused by his or her aging parent. Even though you may feel responsible for your parent’s well-being, it is unlikely that you can be assessed with any fault.

When Determining Liability Gets a Little Tricky

There may be one or two situations where an adult child having liability for an elderly parent’s car crash could be argued. For instance, say you knew your parent has a condition that could affect his or her ability to drive safely. If you knowingly allowed your parent to drive your car under those circumstances, then you may have some accountability if a crash results.

Are Aging Parents More Likely to Be in a Crash?

As we get older, it is only natural that we experience declining vision, a slower reaction time and other physical changes that could affect our ability to drive.

There are several medical conditions that can affect older adults and their ability to drive, including:

  • Moderate to severe forms of arthritis
  • Diabetes, especially when complicated by hypoglycemia
  • Cataracts
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Heart conditions
  • Dementia
  • Significant loss of hearing

That said, your loved one’s doctor can examine your parent and help to determine if it is safe for him or her to continue driving, and if so, for how much longer.

Does Wisconsin Have Laws About When the Elderly Should Stop Driving?

No. Although Wisconsin does have laws for license renewals once a driver turns 65. Up until that time, a driver may renew their license online. After the age of 65, drivers must visit the DMV in person every eight years. If the DMV feels there is a concern during this renewal period, they may request additional testing or ask for a copy of that individual’s medical report.

The renewal period will require an in-person:

  • Vision test – This test is free and conducted by DMV staff. You can also have this exam completed by an optometrist, licensed medical doctor, physician’s assistant, osteopath or advanced practice nurse prescriber.
  • Written test – Not always required; only if specifically requested by another qualified party, such as a law enforcement officer or another individual who has firsthand knowledge of that driver’s abilities.
  • Highway sign ID test – Although scored separately, this exam is given at the same time as the written test.
  • Road test – A road test may be required if deemed necessary by DMV personnel or another qualified individual.

Doctors who provide care for seniors with serious medical conditions are not required to make any report to the motor vehicle authorities.

Having the Talk When It May Be Time for Your Parent to Stop Driving

When it becomes unsafe for your aging parent to drive, it may be time to have “the talk” with them to help them make the decision to willingly give up their keys.

However important this conversation is, it should be handled with sensitivity, as this is a sudden and permanent loss of freedom. Some steps that may help your loved one to accept this transition a little better include:

  • Taking them to a quiet, private location – you want them to hear you, but without causing them embarrassment
  • Scheduling a time that is convenient to your loved one – and be sure they are feeling calm and well-rested
  • Talking about the situation without being pushy, demanding or confrontational – your loved one has done nothing wrong
  • Listening to your aging parents’ fears, their concerns – and their grief over their loss
  • Being careful not to push or expect them to immediately agree with your point of view. They likely need time to process what you are saying
  • Helping your family member to research and discover as many facts on their own as possible – it will be easier if they feel the decision is theirs
  • Working with them to develop a plan – for instance, maybe for a time, they can continue to drive short distances at certain times during the day

If your parent is unwilling to stop driving, it may be necessary to seek a motor vehicle power of attorney (POA) to help protect them and others on the road. A POA puts you in charge of all matters related to licensing, registering or driving their vehicle. This request should include a notarized document providing relevant information about your parent and their vehicle.

Call Our Firm for Trusted Legal Assistance Today

Our qualified attorneys at PKSD are here to answer your questions and provide legal assistance after a crash that causes you harm. Contact our law office at any time to get started. We have recovered millions in compensation for our clients, and we are ready to fight for fair and just compensation on your behalf.

No Upfront Costs. Proven Results. 414-333-3333

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