According to an article published by ABC News that cites the AAA Foundation for Public Safety, an unlicensed driver is the cause of one in every five fatal car crashes in the United States. While unlicensed drivers are involved in thousands of accidents—both fatal and non-fatal—in the United States each year, they are not automatically held liable, despite the common misconception that a lack of driver’s license is synonymous with liability in a car accident. For more information about the relationship between being unlicensed and liability, as well as identifying the liable party in an accident involving an unlicensed driver, refer to the following:
What Happens When an Unlicensed Driver Gets in an Accident?
An unlicensed person is not automatically considered liable for damages in an automobile accident based purely on his or her state of being unlicensed. Rather, liability is dependent upon negligence, or the lack of acting responsibly while driving. In most cases, the driver who caused the accident is the driver who is considered to be at fault, and therefore is the driver who will be held liable. In many cases, the driver who caused the accident is not the driver who is unlicensed. However, being unlicensed does have consequences, and both the unlicensed driver of the vehicle, as well as the owner of the vehicle, may face legal ramifications.
Consequences of Driving Without a License in Texas
Texas law requires every person who operates a motor vehicle to be in possession of a driver’s license. As such, if a person is found to be driving a car without one, he or she will be in violation of the law. For a first time offense, a fine of no more than $200 may be imposed; for a third time offense, a conviction may result in jail time of up to six months and a fine of up to $500. In the case that the unlicensed driver causes a car accident, he or she may be held liable for his or her negligent actions, and be responsible for the cost of physical damages and personal injuries, as well as face additional charges for driving without a license.
Understanding Negligent Entrustment
In instances where an unlicensed driver causes a car accident, the owner of the vehicle may be held liable under a law known as negligent entrustment. Negligent entrustment refers to the liability of the owner of the vehicle in the case that the vehicle was loaned to the driver who caused the accident, if the owner knew that the driver was incompetent. In Texas, loaning a vehicle to a person who is unlicensed, drunk, or otherwise known to be reckless or incompetent can be considered negligent entrustment.
Texas Driving Laws
In conclusion, driving without a license and driving negligently are not the same thing; as such, liability during a car accident is not dependent solely upon a person operating a vehicle without licensure. However, if a person who is unlicensed causes a car accident, they may face consequences for both their negligent actions as well as operating a vehicle illegally, as may the owner of the vehicle for negligent entrustment.
If you or a loved one has been hit by an unlicensed motorist and suffered an injury or loss of life, contact Tate Law Offices today for a free consultation.