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Driving Without a License

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Sometimes we get calls where the caller states that the police officer investigating a crash indicated that the other driver involved didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Invariably we are asked if the lack of a driver’s license can be used to establish fault for the crash.

We have, over the years, represented people who were injured in a crash, who were driving and did not have a driver’s license. We’ve also been on the other side of the situation where the driver responsible for hitting our client didn’t have a valid driver’s license.

There are solid arguments on both sides regarding whether a jury should be told a driver did not have a license at the time of a crash.

Remember that negligence depends upon what a driver did or failed to do and whether they caused the crash.

Imagine a 14-year-old who is behind the wheel driving his pregnant mother to the hospital. The 14-year-old doesn’t have a driver’s license and wouldn’t qualify for a driver’s license. But, he was driving through the intersection with a green light when another vehicle ran a red light and T-boned his car. Under that scenario, try to convince me that the 14-year-old’s failure to have a license makes a difference in figuring out who caused the crash.

But what about the law in Indiana that says “an individual may not operate a vehicle on a public highway without a valid vehicle driver’s license?” Should that simply be ignored at a trial?

While the statute might prohibit the operation of a vehicle without a license, that statute doesn’t address who is at fault for causing a collision in any given circumstance.

A violation of a safety statute, particularly a statute requiring a license, doesn’t mean much unless you can link that statute in a causal way to a collision-causing act or omission.

Let’s change the scenario of the 14-year-old driving his pregnant mother to the hospital.

Suppose that 14-year-old was the one who ran the red light. Suppose further that the 14-year-old had a history of driving without a license. The mother he was taking to the hospital had been warned numerous times not to let her son get behind the wheel because he had been stopped for speeding and running a red light.

Suppose those facts were presented to a court. In that case, the fact that the 14-year-old didn’t have a license may very well be admissible in court if someone sues the mother for negligently allowing the 14-year-old to drive without a license.

The mere fact that a jury might hear evidence that the boy had no license doesn’t mean that the jury will find the mother was negligent. A jury could decide that the mother had no choice but to let the 14-year-old drive to make it to the hospital in an emergency.

When it comes to operating a vehicle without a license, the facts and circumstances about the crash must be carefully analyzed by a court when asked to decide whether to admit such evidence.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com.