Tale of Caution: Liability for Grandpa Still Driving at 93

Taking the keys from an elderly loved one is a position no family member wants to be in. Not only is it awkward, it can often escalate quickly with the elderly driver extremely unwilling to give up driving, a huge symbol of independence. What can happen, though, with liability for Grandpa still driving in his 90s?

Mary’s father, Donald, is 93 years old. Donald is in good physical shape and can operate a car. His mental health, however, has been deteriorating lately. His doctor recently diagnosed him with dementia and, because he lives in California, reported his diagnosis to the DMV. As a result, Donald eventually had his driving privileges revoked and no longer has a license to drive. Without a license, he was unable to register his vehicle.

Donald did not take to this very well. In fact, he protested vehemently to all of his family members, including his daughter Mary. On days when he was lucid, it almost seemed like he was wronged for being unable to drive to the diner for coffee or to visit a friend a few streets away.

Mary felt terrible for her father. One day when she was visiting him, he asked if he could borrow her car to go to the gas station down the street for coffee and a newspaper while she handled some paperwork for him. Wanting to please him and not argue, and considering he was having a good day, she reluctantly handed him her keys. After he got to the store Donald forgot where he was. He was flustered, confused, and slammed on the gas to try and get home. Instead of Drive, he was in Reverse, and smashed into the store, injuring two workers and causing extensive damage to the building.

Much to Mary’s surprise, months later she discovered she was being sued by the store. Upon finding out whose car Donald had, they made the assumption that Mary had allowed him to drive the car. Now, Mary was liable for damages!

Don’t let this Tale of Caution happen to you. Never let an unlicensed driver operate your vehicle, including elderly drivers with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. California law states that doctors must report these impairments to DMV for a reason. While the loss of independence can be devastating for some seniors, the costs of being held liable for loaning Grandpa your car makes it not worth it to allow elderly drivers to continue driving when they are not supposed to be.

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