Gaithersburg, MD asked in Elder Law for Maryland

Q: Liability for relative's declining mental state.

Wife's 52 y/o sister is in declining mental health and should not drive though she asks to from time to time. She last drove - erratically - weaving, not seeing lights and signs - in June. Can we or other family members aware of her mental state be held liable should she cause injury or damage - if, for example, she sneaks out to drive in the middle of the night - because we didn't act to prevent it (take her keys, disable her car)? We've let her hang on to her keys b/c we don't think she'll try to drive and will get agitated and combative if we try, in her perception, to take away her freedom or "treat her like a 5 year old." Thank you.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Thomas C. Valkenet
Thomas C. Valkenet
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You may not be liable for damage she causes, but you will feel just awful if she injures others. The remedy is for a family member to petition the court for guardianship. You will need certificates from her physicians, and then the court will appoint a lawyer to look after the sister's interests. Put the decision in the hands of the doctors and the courts, don't wait for a tragedy.

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