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Driving Unlicensed: What Happens When Unlicensed Drivers Cause Car Accidents

a young, unlicensed driver sits behind the steering wheel of a carDriving is a rite of passage, a privilege, and a means of independence. Unfortunately, many drivers, for one reason or another, willfully choose to operate a moving vehicle without a valid license after it suspended or revoked for reckless driving, or for driving while intoxicated. This unnecessarily puts the lives of other drivers sharing the road in danger. As experienced Albany car accident attorneys, we have seen too many Albany car accidents that involved drivers who should not have been on the road because they were not properly licensed.

Non-licensed Drivers and Car Accidents

According to a study done by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, non-licensed drivers cause 20% of all automobile accidents. Another study, using data from 2007 to 2009, estimated that around 3% of all drivers did not have a valid driver’s license. Furthermore, about 18% of fatal automobile accidents involved drivers without a valid license. Of the aforementioned 18%, 6.5% of the were operating a moving vehicle with either a revoked or suspended license, 1.1% drove with either a cancelled or expired license, and 5% had no license at all.

Persons in certain age groups that are more likely than others to operate a vehicle without a valid license. Recent statistics revealed that half of all accidents involving drivers lacking a valid license were 21 to 34 years of age. Furthermore, half of all fatal accidents that involved drivers lacking a valid license were found to have been drinking while driving.

What Happens When An Unlicensed Driver is Involved in an Accident?

When a person operates a vehicle without a valid license, it is possible for the owner to be held liable for injuries resulting from an accident. This is called the “permissive use doctrine” and is provided for in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 388.

The owner may be found liable for injuries sustained by others when the driver had the permission of the owner, or is in the course of employment and ruled to be an “agent” of  the employer, or when the owner negligently entrusts the automobile to an incompetent driver. Negligent entrustment liability applies only if  the owner knew or should have known that the driver was physically or mentally unable to operate the motor vehicle safely.

Unlicensed Drivers and Negligence Per Se

Sometimes the argument that the doctrine of negligence per se will be made. In sum, the violation must fall within the scope of the statute itself. This means that liability will not be found unless the violation that occurred is the one that the statute was intended to protect against, and the injury sustained was caused by that violation.

However, generally this doctrine is not applicable. To operate a motor vehicle on the public roads, a driver must be duly licensed as required by New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 509. Courts have held that a violation of this law is not, by itself, an acceptable use of the negligence per se doctrine for an Albany car accident. This is because the licensing requirement is merely administrative and is not determinative of the issue of whether harm will be caused by its violation.

Nevertheless, if the driver had their license revoked or suspended, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 509 would permit the negligence per se doctrine to be used if the cause for the revocation or suspension was also the cause of the accident. Moreover, if the Albany car accident was caused by the negligence of a minor who is not legally entitled to drive, the negligence per se doctrine may also be used because it shows inexperience, but only as some evidence of negligence and not a presumption of negligence.

If You’ve Been Injured in an Albany Car Accident Caused by Someone Driving Without a License, Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany Can Help.

As practicing Albany car accident attorneys with more than 90 years of combined experience, the legal team at Anderson, Moschetti and Taffany understands how to effectively represent clients who have been injured in an Albany personal injury case. If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving an unlicensed driver, please consider giving us a call.

We’ve achieved impressive awards and settlements for past clients, and promise to compassionately advocate for you or a loved one to obtain full compensation for injury utilizing our decades of experience. Call us today for a FREE case evaluation at (518) 785-4900 , or contact us online to schedule your consultation with our legal team.

Related Resources: 

Understanding the Permissive Use Doctrine: Find out if you could be held responsible if an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident using your vehicle.

What To Do After an Accident With An Underinsured Driver: Learn what happens and how your expenses will be covered if you’re in an accident with an unlicensed driver who is also uninsured or underinsured.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013 but has been updated as of July 2018.

Jeff Anderson

About Jeff Anderson

As the managing partner at the law firm, Mr. Anderson has over three decades of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases and has achieved numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients. Read More About Jeffrey Kyle Anderson »