I am liable if my mom is sued for a car accident if I'm on her checking account?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I am on my mother's checking account (in case she is incapacitated & bills need to be paid). My question is, if she is in a car accident and is sued can I be sued too? We both live in Oklahoma. (BTW--In Oklahoma you don't pay anything for your driver's license after age 65 OR do you need to pass a vision test, a written test OR a road test. This makes it more difficult to get an elderly driver off the road.)

Expert Answer

In general, you are NOT legally liable (responsible) for damages from an accident caused by your mother. The fact that you share a checking account with her does not change that basic rule, except that whatever money is in the account may be subject to a claim by another driver. If some of that money in the account is actually yours rather than your mother's, you might have to be able to prove that in some way in order to protect that money from a claim arising out of an auto accident.

You are still protected from legal responsibility for an accident even if you provide your mother with some or all of the money that goes into that checking account, or if you provide her with any other financial support. You are protected from liability even if she lives with you and you pay all her driving expenses, such as paying for the car, insurance, and gas, as long as the car belongs to and is registered to her rather than to you or another member of your immediate family.

From your question, it also sounds like you are concerned about your mother continuing to drive. You should know that even if you think she should not be driving, you do NOT have a legal obligation to try to get her off the road if she is driving her own car, or anyone else's car (other than yours). This is true regardless of what you know about your parent's physical condition, health history, driving record, and driver's license or insurance status.

Although you are not legally responsible for damages your mother causes in an accident in any of these circumstances, you should be aware of one situation in which you might be. If you let your mother drive YOUR car, or a car that belongs to your immediate family, when you know that her driving abilities are diminished or that she's not properly licensed, you might be liable for some part of the damages she causes in an accident. To find out about the laws in Oklahoma regarding your potential financial liability for your mother driving your car, contact a representative for your car insurance company and ask them what the law is in Oklahoma and whether your insurance policy would cover liability for your mother driving your car.