If an unlicensed driver is involved in a car accident, it is highly likely that they will receive a citation from law enforcement. Driving without a valid driver’s license, however, does not impact the handling of the car accident case itself. The crucial factor in such situations is ensuring that the minimum insurance requirements mandated by the state of California are met.
Driving without a license is a violation of the law, yet it is a widespread occurrence in California. Unlicensed drivers pose a significant problem as they may have limited driving experience or a history of driving-related issues, which can create hazards on the road.
California’s Problem with Unlicensed Drivers
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 20 percent of fatal car crashes involved either unlicensed drivers or those with invalid licenses. Among these drivers, nearly seven percent had their licenses suspended or canceled, one percent had expired licenses, and five percent never possessed a license.
California has an estimated population of one to two million individuals who drive without the necessary license.
To operate a motor vehicle, state laws also require individuals to have liability insurance. Failing to maintain current liability insurance coverage can lead to additional legal consequences.
Drivers without a valid license are also more likely to lack insurance coverage or any other financial resources to compensate for the costs arising from property damage and injuries resulting from an accident.
Encountering an accident involving an unlicensed driver can present unexpected difficulties when it comes to seeking compensation for damages and injuries.
Driving without a license does not always make someone responsible for a car accident. When determining who is at fault, each party’s level of carelessness or irresponsibility is taken into account. This also helps decide how to fairly distribute the liability among all individuals involved.
Some examples of negligent behavior on the road are:
- driving too fast
- feeling sleepy while driving
- being distracted
- driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- driving aggressively
In California, the legal concept of comparative negligence applies, which allows for multiple parties to be held accountable for causing an accident. The extent of each party’s responsibility in the collision is determined by assessing their respective levels of negligence.
Driving without a valid license, due to reasons such as inexperience, impairment, or a history of poor driving, plays a significant role in determining the degree of liability assigned to each party involved in the accident.
Seeking Insurance Claims after a Car Crash with an Unlicensed Driver
Typically, unlicensed drivers do not have insurance coverage for the vehicle they are driving, and their limited financial resources may make it challenging for them to personally compensate for expenses.
Nevertheless, there are alternative avenues to pursue in order to recover costs resulting from a car accident with an unlicensed driver. Here are three methods to seek compensation for damages incurred in such a collision:
- In the event that the licensed driver is responsible for the accident, the unlicensed driver has the option to file a claim against the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
- On the other hand, if the unlicensed driver is deemed at fault for the accident, the licensed driver can explore their own insurance policy to determine the available coverage for recovering costs. In California, insurance coverages such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) or MedPay (also known as personal injury protection) are commonly utilized to seek compensation for damages resulting from a car crash.
- In the event that either driver lacks adequate insurance coverage, an injured party may have to resort to filing a lawsuit in small claims court to seek the necessary funds for recovery.
It is crucial to understand that the absence of a driver’s license does not automatically imply a lack of insurance coverage. If an unlicensed driver borrowed a vehicle and was involved in an accident, they might still be protected by the insurance policy associated with that specific vehicle. Generally, car insurance follows the vehicle rather than the driver.
What if the unlicensed driver is also without insurance?
In the event of a collision with an unlicensed driver who is also uninsured, it is highly probable that they do not have any insurance coverage. This could be due to a policy cancellation resulting from a suspended license, or insurance companies typically excluding unlicensed drivers from their policies.
Regardless of the circumstances, being aware of your legal options following an accident with an unlicensed driver is crucial.
Filing a Claim With Your Own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)
In California, it is mandatory for insurance companies to offer UIM coverage to drivers. However, during policy selection, you have the choice to reject this coverage, which must be done in writing.
If you have opted for UIM coverage in your insurance policy, you should be eligible to file a claim with your insurance company. This coverage can assist in compensating for various expenses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident.
Filing a Claim With the Vehicle’s Owner
One potential course of action is to pursue compensation by filing a third-party claim against the vehicle owner’s liability insurance. If the owner of the vehicle knowingly allowed an unlicensed person to drive it, they may be held responsible for any damages caused in the event of a crash.
Even if the vehicle owner was unaware that the unlicensed driver was using their car, they could still be held liable. However, in such cases, you would need to provide evidence that the vehicle owner failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the unlicensed driver from accessing the vehicle.
In the scenario where an unlicensed teenager operates their parent’s car and is involved in an accident, the parents may bear liability if they failed to take reasonable measures to prevent such an incident. The parents can potentially be held vicariously liable for the actions of their child.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Temecula, CA
To explore your legal options following a car accident with an unlicensed driver, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. Contact Zucker Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers, APC at (951) 699-2100 to schedule a free consultation. During this consultation, we can discuss your rights and the potential ways in which we can assist you.