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Posted in Car Accidents on March 4, 2022
Unlicensed drivers can pose a danger on the road. If an unlicensed driver is involved in a car accident, the aftermath can become complex.
Will an unlicensed driver have the insurance to cover damages? Who is at-fault? Can I still file an accident claim?
While each issue is a separate matter and unrelated to the other, they have heavy implications for recovering damages for property and person.
Louisiana is known for many things, including Mardi Gras, jazz, Creole and Cajun culture. Unfortunately, Louisiana is also known as one of the deadliest states for motorists. Recently, Louisiana was ranked third in the nation for traffic fatalities.
Unlicensed drivers play a significant role in fatal crashes nationwide. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation:
While Louisiana does not have statistics specifically for unlicensed drivers, it can be implied using the above information that unlicensed drivers are linked to at least 19% of fatal accidents.
Unlicensed motorists present a distinct danger to other drivers. The demographics of unlicensed drivers are comprised of more than just inexperienced teenagers out mud bogging in dad’s pickup truck.
Unlicensed motorists and drivers with invalid licenses are mostly comprised of the following:
Drivers are unlicensed for a reason. The unique threat that they pose is often due to a complete disregard for safety laws, including:
Unlicensed drivers are more than irresponsible. In most cases, they are a direct threat to anyone else sharing the road in Louisiana.
According to the AAA study, Unlicensed to Kill:
AAA’s report collected data from 2007-2009.
Driving unlicensed and car accident liability are two separate issues. While driving unlicensed is illegal and subject to penalties, traffic accident liability depends on negligence.
Louisiana is an at-fault or tort state, meaning that a driver can recover damages from the at-fault driver. However, it should be noted that driving without a license does not automatically make a motorist liable for a car crash.
Fault in traffic accidents is determined by the negligence of a driver. For example, if a driver with a valid license runs a red light and hits an uninsured motorist, the licensed driver is at fault. The unlicensed driver can legally pursue a claim against the negligent motorist.
In some cases, valid insurance claims are denied to unlicensed drivers. In a case from 2015, a Louisiana court upheld the right of an insurance company to deny coverage to an unlicensed driver:
When an unlicensed driver is at-fault in a collision involving a licensed motorist, recovering damages can present unique challenges.
If the unlicensed driver has insurance, then the licensed driver can file a claim through their insurance. However, as in the case above, the insurance company may deny coverage.
The next option would be to personally pursue civil action against the unlicensed driver. If the unlicensed motorist is driving a 2019 Mercedes-Benz GT-Class, they may have the means to cover your damages.
On the other hand, if the unlicensed motorist cannot personally cover your damages, the last option is to file a claim through your own insurance. If your policy has Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage, you may be able to recover damages.
There are a few exceptional cases when an unlicensed driver causes a collision but does not own the vehicle they are operating.
For example, suppose a mother has a suspended license and borrows her son’s car for errands. If she causes an accident, the other driver may be able to file a claim with her son’s insurance policy.
Generally, insurance policies follow the vehicle, not the driver. The owner of the vehicle’s insurance policy will likely cover your damages.
However, if the vehicle was stolen or driven without permission it could invalidate the insurance coverage.
Suppose a delivery truck driver is unlicensed and causes a collision. Depending on the circumstances, an accident victim may be able to file a claim through their employer’s insurance. However, there are many factors to consider, including:
Car accident claims are rarely straightforward. It may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced car accident attorney from the Law Office of John W. Redmann, LLC.