What Happens if an Unlicensed Driver Causes a Car Accident in Lafayette, Louisiana?

drivers completing accident report after crashDriving without a license is illegal in Louisiana and across the nation. People who are caught driving without a license could face serious criminal penalties.

These people often get caught after a crash with another vehicle. While victims of these accidents want unlicensed drivers to be punished, the bigger concern is obtaining compensation for injuries and damages.

Galloway Jefcoat’s experienced Lafayette vehicle accident lawyers discuss what happens if an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident. If you have questions after a crash, call us to schedule a free legal consultation. There are no upfront fees with our services.

We are ready to take your call: (337) 984-8020.

Can I File a Claim for Medical Bills and Other Damages?

Many victims of car crashes with unlicensed drivers can file claims to recover compensation. Sometimes those who are driving without a license in Louisiana still have liability insurance. If the unlicensed driver does not have insurance, which is often the case, you may be able to seek compensation from your uninsured motorist coverage.

If you were involved in a multi-vehicle collision and there is another licensed driver, you may be able to file a claim with his or her insurance. You may only be able to do this if that driver is at fault for the collision, though. For example, if the third driver is responsible for 30 percent of your damages, you could seek that 30 percent from his or her liability insurance.

Victims of unlicensed driver car crashes may be able to seek compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses (surgery, prescription medications, medical tests, appointments with doctors, treatment in the ambulance, etc.)
  • Ongoing medical costs if you have a long-term or permanent injury
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
  • Damage to your vehicle or other personal property in the collision
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost enjoyment of life

However, every accident is different. It is best to contact a licensed attorney to discuss your legal options. The experienced lawyers at Galloway Jefcoat can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. We know how to determine who may be liable for damages and how to determine the value of those damages.

Is the Unlicensed Driver Automatically at Fault for Damages?

No, unlicensed drivers are not automatically at fault because they lack a valid license. Fault for a car accident injury or any other personal injury is based on negligence. If an unlicensed driver breached a duty of care owed to you and this resulted in you suffering an injury and damages, you may a valid negligence claim against that driver. Your lawyer must provide evidence of negligence, as the burden of proof is on the victim.

Some of the questions that are asked to help determine fault include:

  • Was one driver speeding?
  • Is there evidence of drowsy or distracted driving?

While driving without a valid license is against the law, it is not the cause of a car accident. If you were involved in a car crash with an unlicensed driver, you could be found at fault if you were negligent.

Is an Unlicensed Driver Covered by Liability Insurance in Louisiana?

It is possible for an unlicensed driver to still have car insurance. It depends on the terms of the insurance policy. That said, many car insurance policies say that coverage will be terminated if a driver’s license expires or gets suspended by law enforcement. However, there are many factors to consider, including who owns the car and whether he or she had permission to drive the car.

What if the Unlicensed Driver Borrowed the Car?

Was the unlicensed driver borrowing someone else’s car? If so, the owner may bear liability and you may be able to seek compensation from their liability insurance.

Did the Driver Have Permission?

If the owner of a car gave someone without a license permission to drive, and that person is listed on the owner’s car insurance (such as one of the owner’s children), the owner’s liability insurance should cover accidents caused by this person. There may be situations when the unlicensed driver is not specifically listed on the policy, but this person lives in the owner’s house, which means coverage may still apply.

If the unlicensed driver did not have permission to drive and did it anyway, car insurance is unlikely to cover damages that driver causes in a crash. There may be exceptions to this, such as if the owner left the keys in a place where the unlicensed driver had easy access to them.

Car crash claims that involve unlicensed drivers can quickly become complicated, which is why you need an experienced lawyer helping you. Galloway Jefcoat takes on car accident cases at no upfront cost to the victim.

I Got in a Car Crash Without a License. Can I Still Seek Compensation?

It depends. If your driver’s license was only expired for a few days when the crash occurred, your insurance may not have lapsed yet. However, if your driver’s license was suspended or revoked, you may not have insurance coverage, as insurance companies are often quick to cancel policies when this occurs.

Whether you can recover compensation after a crash without a valid driver’s license may come down to your own insurance policy.

Louisiana requires all drivers to have a minimum amount of car insurance coverage. There is also a law that severely limits (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 32:866A.(1)) your recovery of compensation if you do not have car insurance at the time of the accident.

The law says you cannot recover the first $15,000 of your injury claim or the first $25,000 of your property damage claim. Your claim would only cover the portions of your damages that exceed those thresholds. In short, if you did not suffer a severe injury, car insurance might not cover much of your damages.

There are some exceptions to this law when your claim might not be limited because of your lack of insurance:

  • Hit-and-run accidents
  • Drunk-driving accidents, if the driver pleads no contest or is formally convicted of driving while intoxicated
  • Intentional car crashes
  • Accidents that happened while the driver was committing a felony

Why do Some Louisiana Drivers Drive Without a License?

Many unlicensed drivers had their licenses suspended or revoked. Some of the reasons this may have happened include:

  • Conviction for DUI
  • Failure to maintain required auto insurance coverage
  • Criminal conviction
  • Too many citations for traffic offenses

Many others simply failed to renew their driver’s licenses. They may have forgotten or simply chose not to do so. Underage drivers also make up a portion of unlicensed drivers – they are either too young to obtain a driver’s license or they have not passed the test.

What’s the Penalty for Driving Without a License in Louisiana?

Whenever you get behind the wheel, you must be able to present a valid driver’s license if the police have reason to request one. Some are not able to present one simply because they do not have it with them. However, others have suspended or revoked licenses, which are much more serious offenses.

Driving Without a License in Your Possession

If you cannot present a valid license but your license has not been revoked or suspended, you are going to receive a traffic ticket. However, courts will often dismiss these tickets if you appear and present your license. That said, you may still receive a fine for driving without a license in your possession.

Louisiana Wallet Program

Thanks to Louisiana’s Wallet Program you can present a digital image of your driver’s license to satisfy the requirement to present a valid license upon request.

Driving With a Suspended License or a Revoked License

Those caught driving on a suspended or revoked license could be fined, sent to jail and/or have the suspension of their license extended for another year.

The maximum penalty for driving on a suspended class A, B or C license carries a maximum penalty of $5,000 and possibly six months in jail. The maximum sentence for class D or E license holders is a $500 fine and up to six months of jail time.

Protecting Your Legal Claim After an Accident With an Unlicensed Driver

There are steps you can take after an unlicensed driver crash to protect your claim for compensation.

  • Call the police to report the crash – The report serves as an official account of what happened (date, time, location, parties involved, insurance policies, etc.), and it should say the other driver did not have a license.
  • Exchange information with the other driver – Exchange contact information and insurance information.
  • Take notes on the crash – For example, write down or record a voice memo on your phone in which you state the make, model and registration number of the other vehicle involved.
  • Photograph the scene – Pictures of the vehicles involved, damage to the road, debris, position of the vehicles on the road, traffic signals, road signs and visible injuries can help your lawyer prove your claim.
  • Seek medical treatment right away – Even if you think you have minor injuries you should get to the hospital right away so the seriousness of your injuries can be assessed by qualified medical professionals.
  • Call an experienced lawyer for assistance – The legal process is complex and you do not need to go through it alone.

Contact Galloway Jefcoat for Post-Crash Legal Help

After a car crash, you need experienced legal assistance to help you recover full compensation for your damages. Those who go without legal assistance from an experienced attorney often do not recover all the compensation they need.

Galloway Jefcoat has been helping crash victims in Louisiana for decades, at no upfront cost.

Schedule your free legal consultation to learn more: (337) 984-8020.