Does not having a driver’s license establish fault?

“If the person that hit me didn’t have a valid driver’s license, does that help my case?”

I’m often presented the question of how the lack of a driver’s license affects liability, or “fault” of a party. In short, it doesn’t solely establish liability.

Whether a driver’s license has expired or has been invalidated (or the person could not get a license to begin with), many accidents occur where one driver does not have a valid driver’s license.

In order for a driver of a vehicle to be found responsible (“liable”) for an accident, it must be proven that the driver was negligent in being the cause of the collision. The question then arises: is driving a motor vehicle without a license “negligent?” It might be, but then it must be established that the negligent act (driving without a license) caused the accident.

Courts have come to the conclusion that age, or lack of an operator’s license could not be the proximate cause of an injury. The lack of skill or knowledge about operating an automobile may cause an injury, but if an unlicensed person is entrusted with one and operates it with a degree of care and skill that is required of a licensed operator, fault cannot be based upon the fact of age or lack of an operator’s license.

However, if a vehicle owner was to loan their vehicle to someone whom they know does not have a license, they may be liable through the theory of negligence entrustment (to be discussed later).

All in all, lack of a driver’s license really has nothing to do with whether a person is responsible for an accident, though the unlicensed driver is guilty of breaking California law requiring all drivers to have a license. However, but that is a criminal matter.

Have a particular question relating to the above? Feel free to contact San Diego Personal Injury attorney Josh Bonnici for a free consultation. Contact him at:

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