The risks associated with unlicensed drivers are dire and significant.
An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that unlicensed drivers cause 20 percent of all automobile accidents.
Furthermore, around 3% of all motorists on the road operate without a valid license, and an alarming 18% of fatal motor vehicle accidents involve unlicensed drivers.
The legal and financial implications of driving without a license vary depending on the country.
However, there is no denying that the consequences can be severe, so motorists must always carry valid identification when operating vehicles on public roads to avoid any potential legal issues down the line.
This article will cover the types of unlicensed drivers and the consequences of car accidents involving them.
Types of Unlicensed Drivers
Unlicensed drivers are those who operate a motor vehicle without obtaining a valid license from their state or territory. This can occur for various reasons, such as having an expired license, being too young to drive, or driving without documentation.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common types of unlicensed drivers:
Most teens have not yet obtained their license due to a lack of experience behind the wheel or access to driver’s education classes.
The danger of crashes per mile driven for drivers aged 16-19 is almost three times higher than that of those 20 years and older, with the highest risk observed among 16-17-year-olds.
Undocumented Immigrants or Foreigners
Undocumented immigrants may be unable to obtain a driver’s license due to their immigration status, while foreign visitors may not have converted their existing driver’s licenses yet from their home countries.
Such individuals often find themselves driving on roads illegally, often because of invalid licenses and unfamiliarity with road rules and regulations.
Older adults are another group commonly found driving without a valid license due to age-related conditions. Some cannot pass the written test or vision exam required for renewing a license.
The elderly may have a visual impairment or other disabilities, preventing them from operating a vehicle safely. Limited physical mobility, medication, and cognitive difficulties are the primary reasons why elderly drivers are unable to successfully renew their licenses.
Compared to middle-aged (35-54) drivers, those aged 70 and up have alarmingly higher rates of fatalities per 1,000 crashes.
Drivers With Expired/Revoked Licenses
Individuals who have had their licenses revoked by the DMV due to previous violations or offenses (such as DUI/DWI) can still find themselves driving illegally.
Additionally, those who fail to renew their driver’s licenses after it has expired can face hefty fines when caught operating a motor vehicle without a valid license plate number.
In cases of emergency, individuals may find themselves having to drive even though they do not possess a driver’s license.
For instance, an unlicensed driver may be forced to drive if someone needs medical attention quickly, and public transportation is not an option.
What are the consequences of driving without a license?
These individuals should consider carefully before driving without a valid license as the consequences could be severe if caught by law enforcement officers.
This negligence has both legal and financial consequences.
Driving without a license is a serious offense with significant legal consequences. In many countries, including the United States, driving without a valid driver’s license or violating the restrictions on an existing license can result in fines, points on one’s driving record, and even jail time.
Depending on the state, a person may be fined from $100 to $1,000—sometimes up to $25,000 if a repeat offense—for driving without a license.
In California, unlicensed drivers face a misdemeanor charge and imprisonment between five days and six months for the first offense. For subsequent offenses, violators face between ten days and one year behind bars.
Furthermore, since unlicensed drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents than licensed drivers, many states impose harsher penalties for related offenses, such as leaving the scene of an accident.
For example, California imposes fines of up to $1,000 and jail time at the state prison from 16 months to 3 years for any driver who leaves the scene of an accident involving injury.
In cases of severe injury or death, a person will face a jail time of 2-4 years in state prison.
Violation of the law can result in hefty penalties, including three years probationary period, restitution for any destruction caused to property, and two demerit points on the unlicensed driver’s California driving record.
A lack of insurance coverage might also lead to legal action from the other individual seeking compensation from the unlicensed driver.
Drivers caught without a valid driver’s license can face steep fines. Depending on the location, penalties for driving without a license can range from $100 to $25,000.
Additionally, if a car accident occurs involving an unlicensed driver, the financial repercussions may be even more severe due to a lack of insurance coverage. Any damage incurred and medical bills resulting from the accident might get paid out of pocket by the unlicensed driver, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
Furthermore, additional costs may be incurred to reinstate the license following the court-ordered suspension period if a driver’s license is suspended or revoked due to repeated offenses.
These costs often include hefty fines and further fees associated with completing a defensive driving course or participating in other educational programs.
Depending on the state or jurisdiction laws, unlicensed drivers may also have their vehicles impounded—a costly process that can cost hundreds of dollars before the vehicle is released.
FAQs Regarding Accidents with an Unlicensed Driver
Based on our years working on personal injury cases, here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) on motor vehicle accidents involving unlicensed drivers.
What are the insurance coverages for accidents involving unlicensed drivers?
Insurance coverage for car accidents involving unlicensed drivers varies depending on the policy. In some cases, it may be limited or nonexistent.
Some insurance companies provide policies that cover all drivers, including unlicensed ones. However, this does not apply if the policy has a built-in exclusion cause covering only certain policyholders.
However, if the policyholder does not carry liability insurance or uninsured motorist coverage, they could be responsible for any expenses resulting from the accident.
Can an unlicensed driver still receive compensation for injury due to an accident?
Yes, an unlicensed driver can still receive compensation for any injuries sustained due to a car accident.
Remember that liability for damages in auto accidents will always be contingent on the negligent party and who was responsible for the collision, regardless of license validity and authority to operate the vehicle.
If an unlicensed driver borrows a car and happens to get into an accident, they may still be insured by the vehicle’s coverage. Generally, auto insurance follows the automobile, not the at-fault driver.
In California, unlicensed drivers may be eligible for reimbursement of their economic losses, including medical expenses and lost wages. However, they cannot be compensated for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, disability, or disfigurement.
How can I receive compensation if an unlicensed driver was at fault?
Depending on the details of the situation, you can typically pursue personal injury claims from the driver’s insurance partner or sue them directly. Your state will determine how much you can recover from a driver without insurance.
Here are some scenarios for when an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident:
- If the licensed driver is deemed responsible for the accident, the unlicensed driver may file a claim against their insurance company.
- If the unlicensed driver is responsible for the car accident, the licensed driver can inquire about their own insurance plan to understand their coverage. If you’re in California, you can use uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) or MedPay (often referred to as personal injury protection) to receive compensation.
- If neither driver has sufficient coverage, they may opt to negotiate a settlement or small claims to cover each other’s expenses.
You may also seek damages from the car insurance company of the unlicensed driver or even the state if the law allows it.
If the driver was driving a vehicle belonging to another person or entity (such as a rental car or company vehicle), you might also be able to file an accident claim against them.
You must consult an experienced personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your car accident case and explain your rights under local laws regarding uninsured drivers and potential compensation.
An attorney can work alongside your insurance provider or other third parties to obtain fair compensation for any losses or damages caused by an unlicensed driver’s negligence or recklessness on the road.
Get a Free Consultation with Expert Car Accident Attorneys at Frantz Law Group
A car accident involving an unlicensed driver can be stressful and time-consuming. Even when you’re not at fault, the legal system and insurance companies may not always be on your side.
Car accidents involving an unlicensed driver can come with unique challenges, such as who is liable for the damages and whether or not an insurance policy will cover you.
Knowing your rights is essential in ensuring a successful outcome if you or a loved one is a car accident victim.
At Frantz Law Group, our expert team of car accident attorneys is here to help guide you through this challenging process. We have decades of experience helping clients navigate the complexities of car accidents involving an unlicensed driver.
Our law firm ensures you understand all available options and that insurance companies do not take advantage of you by offering unfair settlements.
For those seeking experienced legal representation and case review, getting a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers is easy.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Discover how our experienced team can help fight for your rights after a car accident involving an unlicensed driver.