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Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

Last post 09-26-2011 5:50 AM by NicolaDaly. 9 replies.
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  • 12-14-2007 1:59 PM

    Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

     A family I am currently working with has a father suffering from dementia that has had 2 driving tests and failed.  He is going for a third that the family is hoping will show him he really needs to let someone else do the driving to keep him and others safe.

    There is also a possible legal liability issue for families that do not intervene when an elderly loved one is not capable of safe driving anymore.  Anyone injured as a result of an unsafe elderly driver might pursue legal means to recover any medical bills and also additional damages in possibly large amounts.

  • 03-28-2008 4:58 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    Two weeks ago, I hit an elderly gentleman who blew the stop sign.  I only hit him because he was so slow to react when he saw me and I slammed on the breaks as fast as I could.  Now - he is paying for everything from medical to rentals, to car repairs. 

    My point here is - when does the insurance company test the people that they insure?????  That would help all of us who have seniors in our care.


  • 04-21-2008 9:45 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    One of the concerns I have, that I feel is problem is here in Arizona driver license do not expire for 20 years (no testing until then) and for elders they are tested every 5 years or so and this is not a driving test it's a eye examine and a few questions and a few dollars.  This is not good.  I really wish the law would change so elders after a certain age are tested every year.  There are so many accidents reported due to so many pressing the gas when they thought they pressed the breaks or just the opposite.  After reading the 5 signs from AARP - my mother has experienced each 5 signs and I fear the worst when she goes out.  Between preparing myself to have the (you will have to move) conversation and now (you may not be able to continue driving), I've got my work cut out for me. 


  • 04-21-2008 10:16 PM In reply to

    • JohnT
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 12-11-2007
    • Seattle, WA
    • Posts 95

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    I wonder if there is an address (email or regular) or a person at the Arizona DMV who people can send such suggestions/concerns to?  I've been really impressed lately with the impact that many many folks can have by writing to a government agency.  There are lots of children of seniors from Arizona visiting this site...perhaps the start of a grass roots effort for change?

    Best wishes for your upcoming difficult but important conversations.


  • 04-21-2008 10:31 PM In reply to

    • Audra
    • Top 500 Contributor
    • Joined on 04-21-2008
    • Posts 8

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    I am not sure how all states work, but I am aware of how thing went in NC. After my father-in-law took his neurological test and was labeled with Alzheimer"s the doctor was responsible to report this to the DMV so there was no question of taking the persons license away.

    You may want to ask your families neurologist.

  • 04-24-2008 8:33 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    I was told once to consider contacting the elderly person's insurance agency if you have valid concerns about the safety of their driving and they will investigate - even if the senior still has a l valid liscence they may decide not to renew and then they  would get off the road - we hope...  Any insurance agents care to respond??Huh?


  • 07-13-2008 1:47 PM In reply to

    • bmwpm
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 07-13-2008
    • Posts 1

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    As a former State Trooper, laws an procedures vary from state to state, but you should be able to contact your DMV for their re-examination process or medical review process.  Some states allow family members to petition for a retest (full drivers exam) but some also require lenghty and detailed written expanatioins (sometimes from physicians) as to why the person is unfit/unsafe to drive (CYA on the state's behalf).  A writer above listed they were in Arizona, and AZ does have a Medical Review Program.  You can call the number below for more information on this program and procedures forgetting someone evaluated.  Hope this helps.

    Medical Review Program

    Mail Drop 818Z
    P.O. Box 2100
    Phoenix, AZ 85001-2100
    Phone: (623) 925-5795
    Fax: (623) 925-9323


  • 07-14-2008 3:14 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    I lived in Florida for a long time and the elderly drivers in our midst were always a major concern.   And although the elderly drivers were great fodder for plenty of jokes; "Gramps puts his left turn signal on when he leaves the house in the morning and then just leaves it on all day."  It really wasn't funny if you were the one driving down there everyday.

    Surely you will remember that hilarious fast food commercial that featured a little old lady who could not even be seen behind the wheel of the car she's driving because she's so short.  Well that's not an exageration or even an uncommon sight among Florida's elderly drivers and if you can't see them - can they see you?

    I believe the tag line to that commercial was "Punch it Margaret" which brings me to another safety issue with the elderly - their depth perception becomes so diminished that they are unable to correctly judge the distance between oncoming cars and their own vehicle.  In Florida I'd often have to stand on my brakes to avoid hitting an elderly person who had just pulled into on-coming traffic with all of the speed of a tortoise!

    I feel that we have an obligation as their family, friends and neighbors to rescue the elderly drivers from themselves.  Especially when you see these kinds of driving errors - please don't hesitate to take steps.  Don't wait for a serious accident to have this conversation because the grandmother you save may be your own!!  Frank talk saves lives.


  • 07-14-2008 8:11 PM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    Thank you for sending the Medical Review Program info.  It's important to know which way to turn, when you are dealing with an elder person who is determined not to listen nor except age and ability - does not always go hand in hand. 

  • 09-26-2011 5:50 AM In reply to

    Re: Possible liability issues for families with unsafe elderly drivers

    When an instance of alleged elder abuse or neglect occurs, a host of legal issues may arise.  You may be confronted with issues ranging from premise liability to inadequate security to product liability to medical malpractice. 

    To help you understand the legal process and the potential challenges you will face in any legal battle, InjuryBoard has put together the following information to help you better understand and move through the legal process by understanding the general issues involved and what you can expect as part of the litigation of your case. 

    Common Categories of Legal Issues

    Premises Liability In legal terms, a resident at a nursing home is considered a business invitee, meaning that the business (the nursing home or assisted living facility [ALF]) would owe the invitee (the senior citizen resident) the highest duty of care.  This means that the nursing home has a legal duty to regularly inspect the premises, discover dangerous conditions, and then make them safe for your loved one and all other residents.  If the facility knows or should have known about an unsafe condition on the premises, or if he or she could have discovered the unsafe condition through reasonable inspection, they will be liable for injuries incurred. 

    Inadequate Security – If a facility offers its residents inadequate security that leads to an accident or injury, that facility may be liable to a lawsuit for their neglect.  If a facility is understaffed, some residents are likely to receive substandard care.  If it is proven that an accident resulted from inattention due to inadequate security, the facility could also be held responsible. 

    Medical Malpractice If a facility’s doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider made a medical error in providing care, it may be a case of medical malpractice and subject to a lawsuit.  Medical malpractice claims, however, are frequently ineffective.  In some states, the maximum amount of money recoverable in a medical malpractice suit is capped at $250,000 (excluding medical costs and lost earnings).  While this may seem like a lot of money, after the costs of bringing the case to trial and your attorney’s fees are deducted, there may not be much left.  As a result of these caps and depending on your location, many attorneys may be reluctant to take on medical malpractice cases. 

    Wrongful Death – When elder abuse or neglect causes death, a wrongful death law suit" may be appropriate.  As a part of this claim, it is important to determine which people are entitled to file a law suit on behalf of the deceased person’s estate.  When you choose to file a wrongful death suit, you must first establish the deceased’s beneficiaries, the beneficiaries’ relationship to the deceased, and the heirs.  This unearths a multitude of other relevant questions, such as wills, the estate, and whether the deceased died intestate (the person died without leaving a will or declaration. 


    The Legal Process

    Once a law suit is filed, you should expect an investigation and discovery period.  During this time, the attorneys for both sides of the litigation (plaintiff and defendant) will research issues regarding their cases, conduct interviews, and file motions relating to their cases. 

    There are generally three methods by which a case can be resolved. 

    Settlement – This occurs when, prior to trial, the parties to the dispute agree on an outcome.  Many times, the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff an agreed-upon sum of money. 

    Mediation – This is a type of dispute resolution in which a neutral third party hears both sides of the dispute and then assists the parties in reaching an agreement. 

    Trial – In a trial, both parties in dispute present information, evidence, and witnesses before the court in an effort to achieve a resolution to their dispute.  Many cases reach a settlement before going to trial. 

    Time Constraints of the Legal Process

    When considering a law suit, you must always be aware of any statute of limitations.  Generally speaking, a statute of limitations is just the maximum period of time, after a certain event occurs, that a person may bring a law suit based on that situation. 

    The statute of limitations for bringing a claim based on elder abuse varies by state.  In some states, the statute of limitations is two years, but this limitation can be extended if the resident is legally incompetent.  Sometimes there are specific requirements if the facility is owned by a government agency.  Because this is a complex legal area with many variables, we recommend family members who are considering these questions or deciding whether to file suit contact an attorney as soon as possible.


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