Driving without a license is a crime in California and every other state. So what happens when an unlicensed driver gets in an accident? Although this is never good news, the consequences depend largely on the circumstances of the accident.
Even if you are driving with a valid license, you need to know what will happen if you are involved in an accident caused by an unlicensed driver.
Is an Unlicensed Driver in an Accident at Fault Automatically?
When an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident, you might assume that they are automatically liable. The reasoning is that they shouldn’t have been on the road in the first place – and if they hadn’t been on the road, they wouldn’t have been involved in an accident. California, however, does not accept this reasoning.
An unlicensed driver might face penalties, including jail time, for driving without a valid driver’s license. You can be certain that the other side will try to use the infraction against them in a personal injury claim.
However, liability for the accident doesn’t depend on the presence or absence of a valid driver’s license. After all, the lack of a driver’s license does not directly cause an accident. Most car accidents result from a driver’s negligence.
What Happens if You Suffer an Injury in an Accident Caused by an Unlicensed Driver?
In an accident caused by an unlicensed driver, the key question is not whether the driver has a valid license, but whether they carry auto insurance. Since California is an “at-fault” auto insurance state, you must depend on the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage for compensation unless they can afford to pay your claim personally.
A disproportionate percentage of unlicensed drivers don’t carry valid insurance. California requires its drivers to carry liability insurance with coverage limits no lower than $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, plus $5,000 for property damage. You can legally carry more than this amount of coverage, but not less.
If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you might be out of luck unless you have uninsured motorist coverage or other optional coverage that may apply. You could file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to pay the awarded damages.
What Happens if Someone Without a License Crashes Your Car?
Imagine this common scenario. Your rebellious 15-year-old “borrows” your car for a joy ride and then gets into an accident with someone else. Who pays compensation to the injured party? Normally, the liability insurance policy associated with your car will pay the damages, at least up to the limits of your coverage.
If the injured party’s claim exceeds your policy’s limits, you could be held personally liable for the difference in a personal injury lawsuit.
Suppose instead that your unlicensed friend borrowed your car with permission and caused a car accident. Your liability insurance would cover compensation to an injured party. If your coverage limits were insufficient to cover the victim’s full damages, your friend’s liability insurance (if any) would kick in.
If that is not enough, or if your friend lacked insurance, you might bear liability for the remainder of the damages.
What if an Unlicensed Driver Steals Your Car?
Finally, consider the situation where someone steals your car and gets into an accident. Are you responsible for the resulting damages? In a word, no. California is an “at-fault” state, and since you would not be at fault, a court would not hold you liable.
However, this might not stop someone from suing you anyway. As long as you can prove that someone stole your car, you will likely win the lawsuit.
Do You Need a Lawyer if an Unlicensed Driver Causes a Car Accident in Los Angeles?
If you were involved in an accident as an unlicensed driver, you have two problems: criminal and civil liability. Having an attorney on your side will help you fight against claims and limit your financial and criminal liability.
If the other driver was driving without a license, you still need a lawyer to help you win your claim and maximize your compensation.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.