My Elderly Parent and Driving: Am I Liable If My Mom or Dad Causes an Accident?

22 September 2016
 Categories: , Articles


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 214,000 elderly Americans were injured in automobile accidents in 2012. If you're the child of an elderly parent, chances are you are doing some caretaking these days. From putting a roof over their heads to paying the bills, many adults are left supporting their parents in their golden years. If your parent is the cause of a motor-vehicle accident, you might be wondering about your own financial responsibilities. Here are a few questions you might have about your liability if your parent is in an automobile accident:

Am I Legally and Financially Responsible for My Parent After the Crash?

Even if your parents live with you, if you pay their bills and are in every other way financially responsible for them, you will not be held legally responsible in the event your parents cause an automobile accident in a car that they legally own. Your parents are adults and are competent individuals, so if they are involved in a car accident, they will need to deal with the financial and legal ramifications of the crash. 

However, even though you won't be held legally responsible, it is still important to contact an attorney to discuss any steps you should take to help you parent with their case. 

What If I Own the Car My Parent Was Driving?

The issue of your liability does become more serious if you are the legal owner of the vehicle your parent was driving. In most states, you will be held financially and legally responsible for the crash because you are the owner of the car. If you rented or leased the car, you will also be held responsible. 

According to Nolo, this is referred to as negligent entrustment. If you loan your vehicle to an elderly parent, and that parent is involved in a crash, the other driver's lawyer can argue that because of their advanced age, they are physically unfit to get behind the wheel. 

Your financial obligation and liability will depend upon several factors, including your state of residence. For example, in some states, there will be a cap on how much you will have to pay the other driver. However, be aware that in most states, even if the other driver is compensated by their own insurance company—which would occur in no-fault states—you might still be held legally responsible. This can leave you open to a lawsuit that could be very financially damaging.

Whatever your situation, your first step after the accident should be to hire a lawyer. It is especially vital if you are the owner of the vehicle your parent was driving.

Can I Legally Take My Parent's Keys Away?

Whether your parent was involved in an accident or not, you might be concerned with your parent's ability to drive safely. If your parent refuses to give up their keys, you might be wondering if you have any legal recourse.

In this case, your best bet is to contact an attorney. Your attorney might advise you to speak with your parent again, and if they are still uncooperative, to take the next step. Begin by contacting your parent's physician or optometrist. Either of these professionals can fill out a medical status report. This report is then taken to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV will actually revoke your parent's license and provide them with an identification card if the medical status report indicates that is what should happen.

If your elderly parent is involved in a motor-vehicle accident, you might be worried about your own financial liability. If you are stressed about this, click here for info on hiring an attorney and talk to several law firms before choosing a lawyer to hire.