UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Debbie Baker reported that Ray Ehlers, a 86-year- old San Diego man, critically injured Miguel Rodriguez as he was loading his SUV. The incident occurred on March 21, 2010 at a Costco parking lot in San Diego around 3:00 p.m.. According to officials, Ehlers was not charged but his license was taken away.
San Diego police Detective Dan Wall said Ehlers was backing his vehicle out of a parking spot and stepped on the gas peddle instead of the brake. Ehlers vehicle hit a car behind him, and then hit the Rodriguez SUV causing the victim’s children to be thrown out of the vehicles open door. Ehlers vehicle knocked the 40-year-old man to the ground and ran him over. Rodriguez suffered severe injuries including a broken pelvis, a punctured lung and internal bleeding. His children were also injured.
Applicable California Law
California has no maximum age restrictions for the licensing of elderly drivers, other than having the 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 Rodriguez’s family would have personal injury claims against Ehlers, including property damage, medical expenses, loss of earnings, and earning capacity, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. The children could also have claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress for the traumatic experience of witnessing their father being run over.
Auto accidents, resulting from elderly drivers misapplying pedals, occur frequently. According to Wall, as a result of applying the wrong pedal, they become confused and continue to apply the gas instead of the brake. Wall also stated that medical conditions and medications can both affect a driver’s good judgment.
On a personal note, as my parents got older they became progressively less physically and mentally competent. I grew concerned for their safety, as well as others, on the road. The loss of independence for the elderly can be challenging in many ways. The problem is, some relatively young seniors are poor drivers and other older ones are still very competent . It is crucial that family members remain alert as to the competency of seniors. In this case, the victims should obtain the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.