As the population ages, so too does the number of older adult drivers on the roads. While many older individuals can drive without difficulty and continue to drive safely, age-related changes in vision, physical fitness, and cognitive abilities may impact driving skills.
As a result, this raises significant legal concerns and responsibilities, particularly as they pertain to car accidents. As our San Diego car accident lawyers dive into this particular topic, we’ll consider the legal climate in California, the rights and responsibilities of older drivers, and how personal injury law implicates this demographic.
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What Does California Law Saw About Older Adult Drivers?
California drivers age 70 and older must renew their driver’s license in person at a DMV office. This requirement is due to a state law enacted in 2012 with the aim of eye-testing mature drivers and possibly written and road tests, depending on their driving record and any physical or mental conditions that could affect their driving ability.
However, that does not technically mean that older drivers are more likely to cause accidents. The DMV does not have a specific age at which driving privileges are removed, nor can age alone determine anyone’s ability to drive safely.
Reporting Unsafe Drivers
Californians can report a potentially unsafe driver to the DMV. These reports can be submitted by a family member, police officer, or medical professional. When a report is submitted, the DMV will review it and, depending upon its conclusion, may require the driver in question to undergo a driver- or medical evaluation (DS 326).
It’s important to note that the identity of the person making the report is kept confidential. The driver will not know who reported them, which can alleviate concerns about family conflict or retaliation.
What Are the Legal Responsibilities of Elderly Drivers?
Traffic laws apply to all drivers, including the older population. Laws that govern safe driving include remembering speed limits, yielding to pedestrians, and prohibitions against driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Failure to obey traffic laws can lead to severe consequences, such as fines, license suspension, or criminal charges.
Additionally, elderly drivers who violate traffic laws and cause injuries or damages can be held personally liable for their actions. When an older driver violates a traffic law and causes an accident that produces injuries or property damages, they can be sued for personal injuries or held liable for those property damages.
Responsibility to Maintain Fitness to Drive
It is the responsibility of older drivers to be sure they are fit to drive. This fitness includes maintaining good physical health, having regular eye exams to ensure they see well, and treating and managing any chronic conditions that could affect driving ability, such as heart disease.
When an older driver has a medical condition that interferes with their ability to drive safely and does not take appropriate steps to manage the condition, the driver may be held responsible if they cause an accident. This liability is known as negligent entrustment and can result in severe legal and financial consequences.
Legal Considerations in Car Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers
If a mature driver causes an accident that results in an injury, the injured party may file a personal injury claim. In California, the injured party has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
The injured party must prove that the older driver was at fault in causing the accident. If the injured party proves that the driver was negligent, they can recover damages.
Typically, this means that the injured party must point to some evidence that the driver violated a traffic law or otherwise failed to maintain their driving fitness.
What Damages Can You Claim in Older Driver-Related Personal Injury Cases?
In a personal injury case, the injured party may be entitled to damages.
In California, these can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
The damages awarded will depend on the severity of the injuries, the impact on the injured party’s life, and the mature driver’s degree of fault.
Get the Compensation You Deserve With Legal Assistance From HHJ Trial Attorneys
Like all drivers, mature drivers should operate motor vehicles safely and in compliance with traffic laws. California has laws and procedures specific to elderly drivers, including in-person license renewal and the ability to report potentially unsafe drivers.
Older drivers who cause accidents may be held liable for resulting injuries or property damages. This can result in personal injury claims and significant financial liability. Mature drivers and their families should be aware of their legal obligations and take steps to ensure safe driving.
If you’ve been involved in an older driver-related accident, contact our car accident attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.