Can I Be Held Liable for an Elderly Parent’s Car Accident?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Responsibility for an elderly parent driving has become a pressing concern for many adults, especially as the aging population grows. In Michigan, over 1.5 million drivers were over 65 in 2020, a 33% increase since 2010. This demographic was responsible for 17% of crashes in the state in 2019.
If your elderly parent has been involved in a car accident, you might wonder if you can be held liable for their actions behind the wheel. Our car accident lawyers at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as an adult with aging parents behind the wheel.
How is Liability Determined in Car Accidents in Michigan?
In Michigan, liability in car accidents is determined by the legal principle of negligence. This means that if a driver, including an elderly parent, acted carelessly or irresponsibly and caused an accident, they could be held responsible for any resulting damages or injuries.
Common negligent actions often committed by elderly drivers include misjudging distances, failing to see oncoming traffic and slow reactions to sudden changes on the road. If your elderly parent acted negligently, the other driver may seek damages from your parents’ liability insurance policy for medical bills or lost wages.
Can You Be Held Responsible for an Elderly Parent’s Car Accident?
Certain legal doctrines may place responsibility for an elderly parent driving on an adult child. In Michigan, the following concepts may apply to your parent’s car accident case:
- Negligent entrustment. This principle says that if you lend your vehicle to someone you know or should know is unfit to drive due to age, inexperience, or any impairment, you could be liable if they are involved in a collision. For example, if you know your elderly parent has declining driving skills and still let them use your car, you might face legal consequences under this doctrine.
- Owner’s liability. Michigan statute 257.401 states that the owner of a vehicle is liable for any injuries or damage caused by the negligent operation of the vehicle, regardless of who is driving it. If your elderly parent is involved in an accident while driving a car registered under your name, you could be held responsible.
- Family car doctrine. Under this doctrine, the head of the household who provides and maintains a vehicle for general family use can be held liable if any family member causes an accident while using that vehicle. If your elderly parent lives with you and uses a car you provide for general family use, this doctrine might place responsibility on you if they cause an accident.
- Fiduciary relationship. In a fiduciary relationship, one party places trust in another to act in their best interest. If you have a fiduciary duty towards your elderly parent, meaning you have power of attorney or are their legal guardian, and they cause an accident, you could potentially be liable. This liability can arise if you fail to supervise or restrict their driving due to their diminished capacity.
Understanding who is at fault if your parent causes an accident can be complex. Our attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. understand these legal principles regarding liability. We can review the circumstances of your case to determine whether you, your parent, or another party is at fault for the damages resulting from the crash.
How to Minimize Liability Risk for Older Drivers
As our loved ones age, their driving abilities might naturally decline, raising concerns about their safety and potential legal liabilities. Taking proactive measures can help minimize these risks. Here are some steps to consider:
- Regular medical check-ups. Encourage your elderly parent or relative to undergo regular medical evaluations. Conditions like cataracts, dementia, or other age-related issues can impair driving abilities. Addressing these early on can prevent accidents.
- Know the warning signs. Help your parent conduct a self-assessment to check for warning signs they may need to limit or avoid driving. Michigan’s Guide for Aging Drivers and Their Families provides a checklist that can alert you to potential issues so you can take proactive steps for your parent’s safety.
- Limit driving conditions. Recommend driving during daylight hours, avoiding rush hours, and staying off highways or high-speed roads. These measures can reduce the likelihood of a high-risk situation.
- Consider alternative transportation. Introduce your parent to public transit, rideshare services, or community-based transportation options for seniors. The more comfortable they are with these, the less they may feel the need to drive.
- Open dialogue. Maintain an ongoing conversation about your older parent’s comfort and confidence levels while driving. Sometimes, they might be unaware of their declining skills unless someone they trust broaches the subject.
How a Michigan Car Accident Attorney Can if Your Elderly Parent is in a Crash
When an elderly loved one is involved in a car crash, the emotional, medical, and legal implications can be overwhelming. A Michigan car accident attorney from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C., can offer invaluable guidance during these challenging times.
Here’s how our attorneys can assist:
- Determine potential liability. Given concepts like negligent entrustment or the family car doctrine, we’ll scrutinize the accident details to pinpoint if you or your parent might be held responsible.
- Streamline insurance matters. We’ll handle the insurance paperwork and communicate with the insurance companies to ensure your parent gets what’s rightfully owed to them under Michigan’s no-fault system. This can include medical expenses related to the crash or lost earnings, regardless of who caused the crash.
- Document and represent medical concerns. We’ll help you obtain and present relevant medical records, emphasizing any age-related health conditions that may have contributed to or resulted from the accident.
- Skillful settlement discussions. If there are disagreements about responsibility or compensation, we’ll step in, ensuring your parent’s interests are defended and aiming for a resolution that avoids prolonged litigation.
- Navigate comparative negligence. Michigan operates under a modified comparative negligence rule, which allows each party to win compensation based on their percentage of fault, as long as it’s under 50%. We’ll evaluate the accident’s circumstances to determine if your parent is entitled to compensation, even if they were partially at fault.
Protect Your Rights With Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C.
Elderly parent car accidents can be heartbreaking. But when facing complex legal situations, such as car accidents involving elderly parents, having a dedicated and experienced legal team can protect your rights. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, we understand the unique challenges of these cases and will use our experience to help you achieve the best outcome for your case.
Contact us to schedule a free consultation with our compassionate and knowledgeable legal team. Let us be your advocates, guiding you through the legal process and understanding the potential responsibility for elderly parents driving.
Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at (1-866-779-7331) and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.