Hi there, this is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California. I practice in the area of estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, Medi-Cal benefits planning.
Today, I’m going to talk about dementia and driving. So, one of our primary sources of independence is our cars. This is true even as we age and probably even more so as we age. Tests, renewals, our license renewals that require tests can be an incredibly stressful time in an elderly person’s life. No one wants to fail and face the prospect of being without a car. However, sometimes it is time to get off the road as we age. We often see articles in the paper of accidents due to elderly drivers who maybe hit the gas when they think they’re hitting the brakes. Or they’ve driven somewhere but don’t remember how to get home, or why they even drove to the place in the first place. So, if you have a loved one who’s experienced any stages of dementia and is still driving, you need to know these three legal issues.
First, that if anybody gets in an accident, including an elderly person, the liability for that accident can’t extend beyond their car insurance. In other words, if the car insurance is not enough to cover damages from that accident, then the cost of that accident could leak into that elderly person’s estate, their home, their small savings, whatever it is they have.
The second is that doctors, upon diagnosis of dementia, are required in California to report their findings to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and finally, once there is a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles of a diagnosis of dementia, whether it be mild or severe, the DMV will call that person in to have a re-examination, which typically means a written test, sometimes even a driving test and if the diagnosis is severe dementia, then it may be an automatic pulling of the license.
So, caregivers, loved ones of the elder of who is driving, if you feel your elder should not have kept their license and went through this DMV re-examination, and you still have concerns that they’re a liability on the road because we’re concerned of the first reason, we don’t want liability to extend to their estates, you can also anonymously report them to the Department of Motor Vehicles and they’ll be brought in to be tested once more, which may trigger more in-depth examinations. You may not want to go to that level but you should know that those are the legal remedies available to you if you’re concerned about your elder who has dementia and is driving.