Liability of family members for actions of dangerous elderly driver?

by Anonymous
(Everett, WA)

My mother and stepfather, both aged 89, live in Florida, far from any of their children. We all fly there to visit on a regular basis. My stepfather refuses to give up driving, although I just returned from visiting them and I was allowed to drive his car, i.e. be the chauffeur, for the first time.

However, after I returned home, he triumphantly announced over the phone that he's back in his car. He said he even drove for 5 miles on the highway, going 60 mph, and "nothing happened."

The problem is that he has macular degeneration and actually can only see out of one eye, which has blind spots. He also has returned to drinking all day long and is having violent outbursts. He's had other medical problems as well.

There is no communication between me, my siblings and my stepfather's children, even though my mother married this man 20 years ago. The "children" are all in our fifties and sixties.

I want to communicate with my stepfather's children now and explain the horrible consequences of doing nothing about this situation. I am terrified that he is going to kill my mother or kill people in another car, even children - it's unbearable to think about.

My mother is too frail to stand up to him. He takes her with him to be the "navigator" and tell him if he doesn't see something coming up.

This is so stupid. I don't know what to do. I would like to tell his children that, briefly putting aside the issue of endangering others including children, they are going to lose all their inheritance through a lawsuit, or if not the inheritance angle, than the money that will soon be needed to care for their father (and my mother's money, too?) in a nursing home or an assisted living situation.

None of us can afford to support ourselves plus our folks' nursing home or assisted living expenses.

Here is my question: can his children be made financially responsible for a large settlement that goes beyond what my stepfather can pay? He is not wealthy. Am I or my siblings responsible in any way for doing nothing? What can legally be done in this situation?

I am going to do something NOW but I need the complete story so I can tell my siblings and my stepfather's children what will happen to all of us when an accident occurs. Thank you for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability of family members for actions of dangerous elderly driver?":

Anonymous (Everett, WA):

Rest assured, you and your other siblings, whether biologically related or not, will NOT be liable for property damage and/or injuries caused by your stepfather. However, in the unfortunate event your stepfather causes property damage and injuries to innocent third parties, those parties can seek compensation directly from your stepfather.

If this occurs, and the amount of a judgment against your stepfather exceeds the amount of property damage and liability insurance available, then the innocent third parties may have legal access to a part of your stepfather’s estate. As a result, and in this event only, you and your siblings would stand to inherit less.

Be aware though, any inheritance would first pass to your mother. This would be the case subject to the legal requirements of any pre-nuptial agreement (if one exists). In the unfortunate event of your mother’s death, than the inheritance would pass to her biological children first.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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