Can I be sued if my elderly mother causes an accident?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is 86yrs old, walks 8-12 miles every day... yes, she is very healthy and has been walking the same 4-mile loops from her house for 20+yrs. One of them has her crossing a busy 6-lane street to a park. There is a stop light available with cross walk, and every time I've walked with her, she has used it. However, recently some friends have called me and said she has been seen crossing without waiting for the light and has come close to causing an accident. She does have dementia and every time I've asked her about it, she denies any wrong-doing. I have asked her not to go across to the park, and while she says she won't, others still see her walking over there. My Sister-in-Law says if she causes an accident that me and brother could be sued for damages and arrested for neglect. My mother lives by herself. We do stop in weekly to make sure she is ok, but she gets meals delivered and basically continues to take care of herself. Is there a 'neglect or liability issue' that I'm missing here? For her finances, I do have Power of Attorney, but that's all. Thanks

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Your liability depends on the laws of your state and the level of your and your mother's assets. It's sad that I even mention the latter.

Since you have fiduciary responsibility for her finances, there is a possibility you could be financially liable. It also depends on how you've configured her accounts--if you are a joint owner, co-signer, etc.

Consider for a moment, our litigious society... If your mother causes an accident and is found to have sufficient assets, an attorney may take the case for a share of her assets and it could affect your personal resources as well.

I am NOT an attorney and only offer this reply to encourage you to seek the advice of an elder law attorney in your state who can advise you. Until then, I remain in utmost admiration for your mom's ability to walk an average 10 miles a day. WOW! We can all draw inspiration from her.