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Wrongful Death Decision Prompts Discussion on Senior Citizens and Driving

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A recent article found online by your Charleston personal injury attorney not only prompted a discussion of the case, but also the implications of aging as it relates to driving. The estate of a woman who died from serious injuries related to her being pinned between a concrete wall and a Cadillac operated has been awarded $525,000 in a New Jersey jury trial. According to an initial report, the 59-year-old woman was sitting in the front seat of the 2005 Cadillac STS, and was the driver’s full-time home health aide. At the time of the serious car accident (2008), the male driver of the vehicle was 81-years-old and stems from the caregiver’s getting out of the vehicle to direct the elderly gentleman into a parking spot at a local diner. After being struck and pinned the health aide was transported to a medical facility where she was subsequently pronounced dead.

Back in 2008 it was expected the 81-year-old man would be issued a court summons and requited to take a driver’s license re-examination. See below for a more extensive look into elderly driving.

While both sides agreed that the elderly gentleman was negligent in the accident, at issue were the caregiver’s job description, and whether the family could file suit. The defense argued that the caregiver, who was paid $100 a day to cook and clean, was an employee of the elderly man and died while in her capacity as his aid. Thus, because an employee injured or killed on the job is typically covered under workers’ compensation, the caregiver’s estate cannot sue an employer. By contrast, plaintiff’s counsel likened the position to an independent contractor who would not be covered under workers’ compensation. Therefore, the family is entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Further, plaintiff argued, since the elderly man did not expend payroll taxes and had no written contract with his caregiver, he was not her employer, and she was not covered under workers’ compensation.

The two-week trial concluded with the eight-person jury siding with the plaintiff’s argument, deeming the caregiver an independent contractor, and ultimately awarding the woman’s family the aforementioned sum to the caregiver’s family. While such sums are helpful in fulfilling a family member’s last will and testament, as well as settling final expenses, no amount of money can return a mother and grandmother.

As mentioned, your Charleston, SC lawyers would like to discuss senior drivers, as well as senior driving safety. First, everyone ages differently, so there is no exact age or cutoff when someone should stop driving. But with that being said, studies have shown that fatal crash rates increase sharply after a driver has reached the age of 70, not to mention older drivers in general are more likely to receive citations and get into auto accidents. The most common contributing factors that increase the likelihood of a ticket or crash include, but are not limited to; decreased vision, impaired hearing, slowed motor reflexes, and overall reduction in strength, coordination, and flexibility.

For senior drivers, regular check-ups with a physician are extremely important in ensuring you are in the best possible driving shape. For example, having your eyes and ears checked every year, as well as talking with your doctor abut the effects that ailments or medications may have on your driving habits will all contribute to safer driving practices.

Posted In: wrongful or accidental death