UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER DEBBI BAKER reported that a 86-year old Ray Ehlers critically injured Miguel Rodriguez while he was loading plants into his SUV. The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Costco store on Morena Boulevard on Sunday 3-21-10 at about 3:00 p.m.. The driver was not charged but his license was taken away according to officials.
According to San Diego police Detective Dan Wall the elderly driver was backing his Cadillac out of a parking spot when he stepped on the gas instead of the brake. His vehicle zoomed backward, hit a car behind him and then hit the SUV knocking it sideways ejecting the victims children out of the vehicles open door. The Cadillac knocked the 40 year old man down and ran over him. The victim suffered severe personal injury including a broken pelvis, a punctured lung and internal bleeding. The children also suffered personal injury.
Applicable California Law
California has no maximum age restrictions on licensing drivers, however drivers are required to have basic competency to drive safely. The California Department of Motor Vehicles offers a special eight hour course for mature drivers over 55 years of age. The victim and his children would have personal injury claims against the elderly man which would include any property that was damaged, medical expenses, loss of earnings and earning capacity and compensation for pain and suffering. The children could have claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress for witnessing their father being run over which in addition to being ejected from the vehicle can be a very traumatic experience.
Auto accidents involving elderly drivers misapplying pedals are common. When they apply the wrong pedal they become confused or disoriented and continue to step on the gas instead of the brake, Wall said. Medical conditions and medications can both affect a drivers acumen, he said. As the population continues to grow older the issue of older driver competency will be of growing concern.
I know on a personal level that as my parents got older and progressively became less physically and mentally competent, I worried not only for their own safety but for others on the road. The loss of independence and autonomy for older people can be devastating psychologically and emotionally. The problem is, to coin a phrase not one size fits all, some relatively young seniors are poor drivers and other relatively older ones are very competent drivers. That is why guidance and advice from friends and family members of seniors is so crucial. However, as devastating and scary as the incident was for the elderly man, the victim and his children should seek advice from an experienced auto accident attorney specializing in personal injury law.