Can Family Members Be Held Liable for Utah Car Accidents Caused by Senior Drivers?

Last month, a road construction crew in St. George narrowly avoided catastrophe when an 84-year-old driver lost control of his vehicle, colliding with one of the worker’s trucks parked along I-15. This incident is just one example of the thousands of crashes involving elderly drivers that occur each year in Utah. Age-related health issues such as deteriorating vision and delayed reaction times create unique risk factors for auto accidents among Utah’s elderly population; but when a senior causes a car accident, can his or her family members be held liable for the victim’s injuries? Salt Lake City car accident lawyer Darwin Overson discusses liability for crashes caused by senior drivers in Utah.

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Am I Responsible if My Elderly Parent Causes a Car Crash in Utah?

The Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) publishes annual crash statistics for the state of Utah. These statistics include targeted reports on specific topics, such as drunk driving, drowsy driving, seat belt use, and senior drivers.

In 2015, the most recent year for which data on senior drivers is available, the DPS reported that elderly motorists were involved in 7,813 crashes, resulting in 3,791 injuries and 59 fatalities. The most common driving errors in crashes with older drivers were found to be the following:

  1. Failure to Yield – 17%
  2. Following too Closely – 9%
  3. Failure to Stay in Proper Lane – 6%
  4. Disregarding Signs or Traffic Signals – 5%
  5. Making Improper Turns – 4%

According to the same statistical report, “Although older drivers have the lowest crash rates of any drivers [in Utah], the percent of crashes involving an older driver has been increasing for over a decade.” If this trend persists, we will continue to see more and more accidents involving seniors – and in turn, there will be more and more families with important legal questions about fault and liability.

In Utah, a person can be held liable for his or her elderly parent’s auto accident if certain facts are true. Utah has a liability law referred to as “negligent entrustment,” which arises in a scenario where Person A allows Person B to use Person A’s vehicle, despite Person A knowing that Person B could pose a safety hazard behind the wheel. Negligent entrustment typically arises in cases involving parents whose teenage children cause accidents, but can also come into play in cases involving seniors. Under CV631, a senior’s adult child may be held legally responsible for harm to a plaintiff, such as crash-related injuries and medical bills, if the following facts all apply:

1. The adult child is the owner of the vehicle. (If the senior driver was using their own vehicle, it is not as likely for their adult child to be held liable.)

2. The adult child allowed the elderly person to drive the vehicle.

3. When the adult child granted his or her permission for the elderly person to use the vehicle, the adult child knew that the elderly person was either reckless, careless, intoxicated, or incompetent. (This also applies to drivers who are inexperienced, though lack of experience is seldom the issue in cases involving seniors, more typically arising when teens cause crashes.)

4. The elderly person was negligent in their operation of the vehicle. Negligence, a crucial element of a personal injury claim, involves failing to exercise necessary and reasonable actions to reduce the risk of a foreseeable accident. The existence of negligence is determined by various factors and pieces of evidence, such as crash debris, eyewitness accounts, and the extent to which the driver complied with traffic laws.

5. The accident occurred because of the elderly person’s negligence.

If you were injured by a senior driver in Utah, liability for damages may extend to the driver’s adult child. Conversely, you may be liable if you allowed your elderly parent to drive your vehicle, despite knowing it could be dangerous.

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Salt Lake City Auto Accident Lawyer Handling Personal Injury Claims

Though often a complex task, determining liability is a crucial step toward recovering compensation for the injuries resulting from a car accident in Utah. If you or one of your family members was hit by an elderly driver, it’s very important to discuss your claim with an experienced auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crash, you could be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, property damage, and other damages.

Darwin Overson is a Utah personal injury attorney representing accident victims throughout the state. With more than 33 years of legal experience, Darwin brings extensive knowledge of Utah’s negligence laws to every auto accident claim, enabling him to devise innovative, aggressive strategies with the aim of recovering the maximum compensation for each client. Whether you are looking for a Salt Lake City motorcycle accident attorney, a Salt Lake City truck accident lawyer, or a Salt Lake City bus accident lawyer, Darwin Overson is prepared to assist with any type of auto accident claim.

To talk about your injury claim in a confidential consultation, completely free of charge, contact the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 today.

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