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Elder Driver Causes Florida Crash That Killed Father, Infant; Six Others Injured

Police investigating a double fatal crash in Altamonte Springs say an elderly woman confused the gas and brake pedals as she approached a busy intersection. traffic1

Witnesses later told reporters they watched in horror and helplessness the woman was traveling approximately 60 mph when she plowed into a line of vehicles stopped at a red light. As a result, authorities say, a father and his infant child were killed. The child’s mother is in critical condition, as are two others. Additionally, three other people were injured and had to be transported to the hospital, though their injuries are described as non-life-threatening. In all, five vehicles were damaged. The elderly woman was not injured.

Cases like this are heartbreaking on so many levels. The majority of older adult drivers practice safe habits behind the wheel and would never want to hurt anyone. However, the physical reality of aging means that there are risks posed by some older drivers that put others in serious danger. Those include things like:

  • Deteriorating eyesight
  • Diminished hearing
  • Reduced reflexes
  • Declining cognitive function/ dementia onset
  • Increased likelihood of medications that may cause drowsiness or impairment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports as of 2012, there were 36 million licensed drivers in the U.S. over the age of 65. That’s a 34 percent increase from 1999. By 2025, it’s expected 1 in 4 drivers on the roads will be over 65.

Even though these drivers tend to have lower rates of DUI, usually wear their seat belts and avoid driving in unsafe conditions, their crash rates tend to be relatively high per vehicle mile traveled.

A study published in June 2015 by Caring.com and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International revealed that 14 million Americans were involved in crashes caused by an elderly driver in 2014. Not all of those resulted in injury, but that revelation highlights the scope of the problem.

When an elderly driver causes an injurious or fatal crash, it may be necessary for our Orlando car accident attorneys to examine whether additional defendants should be named in subsequent litigation.

The first element we would look at is who owned the vehicle. There are a few legal principles here that may establish negligence. The first is that of dangerous instrumentality. In Florida, motor vehicles are a dangerous instrumentality, and so if the owner of one lends it to someone else, he or she may be liable for damages, even if they personally did nothing wrong. Beyond that, we would explore the possibility of negligent entrustment. For example, if an adult child lends an elderly parent a vehicle knowing that parent’s advanced age makes him or her unfit to drive, that may be constitute negligent entrustment.

In some instances, it may be possible to hold a physician accountable. If an eye doctor or other health care provider failed to notify the Florida Division of Motorist Services of a condition that would clearly prevent a patient from driving safely, that may be grounds for litigation by anyone injured as a result of that patient’s poor driving. Doctors are not mandated by law to report such instances, but failure to do so could be argued as a form of negligence.

Florida law requires drivers over the age of 80 to renew their license every six years. That’s compared to every eight years for those younger than 80. Older drivers also have to pass an eye exam with every renewal.

The state’s confidential reporting system also allows anyone – including doctors, police officers, relatives or even bystanders – to report a potentially unsafe older driver to the state. Officials from there can request medical reports and require testing at a local driver’s license office.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Infant, father killed in Altamonte Springs crash, Oct. 16, 2015, WFTV.com

More Blog Entries:

Three Sisters, Two Others Killed, Boy 6 Critically Injured, in Horrific Florida Crash, Aug. 30, 2015, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

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