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Unlicensed Drivers, Will They Always be At-Fault for an Accident?

by | Jun 25, 2022

Most drivers have likely been in an accident where the other driver was at fault. Maybe they weren’t following the rules of the road or perhaps they just didn’t see you coming. But what about when the driver who caused the accident wasn’t licensed? Whose fault is it then? 

Many people seem to think that unlicensed drivers are always at fault, but is that really true? Let’s take a closer look at personal injury law and find out.

Liability in car accidents

Before we can determine who is at fault in an accident involving an unlicensed driver, we need to understand a little bit about liability in car accidents. In general, the person who caused the accident is going to be held liable for any damages that occur as a result.

When a court determines who is at fault, they will look at a number of factors as evidence.

Traffic rules

One of the main things that they will look at is whether or not the driver was following the traffic rules. This includes things like speed limits, stop signs, and yield signs. If the driver who caused the accident wasn’t following any of these rules, they are more likely to be found at fault.

Accepted evidence for this will usually be witness statements, traffic camera footage, and the police report.

Lapse in judgment

Sometimes, everyone involved in an accident follows the traffic rules. But, there can still be temporary lapses in judgment that lead to accidents. For example, if a driver isn’t paying attention and rear-ends another car, they will likely be found at fault.

The same thing can happen if a driver is distracted, whether it’s by their phone, passengers, or something else. If their distraction leads to an accident, they will be held liable.


Sobriety is another factor that can play into liability. If a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are probably going to be found at fault for any accident that occurs. This is because it’s illegal to drive while intoxicated and it significantly impairs a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

There are a few different ways that sobriety can be determined after an accident. The police will usually administer a breath test or field sobriety test at the scene. They may also look for things like open containers of alcohol in the vehicle or signs that the driver was impaired.

The results of these tests can be used as evidence in court to determine liability.

What is the liable party responsible for?

If the court finds that the driver who caused the accident is liable, they will be responsible for any damages that occur as a result. This can include property damage, medical bills, and even lost wages if the victim is unable to work.

The amount of money that the liable party has to pay will depend on the severity of the accident and the damages that were incurred.

Are unlicensed drivers always at fault?

So, what happens when an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident? Some people are surprised to learn that unlicensed drivers are not always automatically at fault. Just because someone doesn’t have a license doesn’t mean that they can’t follow the traffic rules or exercise good judgment.

There are some circumstances where an unlicensed driver might not be found at fault. For example, if the other driver was intoxicated or not following the traffic rules, the unlicensed driver might not be held liable for the accident.

Of course, there will still be repercussions for driving without a license. The unlicensed driver might have to pay fines or even spend time in jail.

Common scenarios with unlicensed drivers

There are a few common scenarios where unlicensed drivers are involved in accidents.

Borrowed cars

The first is when someone borrows a car from a friend or family member and gets into an accident. In this case, the driver might not be found at fault if the owner of the car gave them permission to drive. Their personal vehicle insurance might also cover them if they have any.


Another common scenario is when a teenager gets into an accident while they are driving without a license. In this case, the parents might be held liable if their neglect enabled the child to drive without a license.

Other reasons

There are a few other reasons why someone might not have a license. For example, they might have a suspended or revoked license. Or, they might be an undocumented immigrant who cannot get a permit.

In any of these cases, insurance companies likely won’t cover the damages if the unlicensed driver is found at fault because most insurance policies require that the driver have a valid license.

What to do in the event of an accident

If you are ever involved in a collision with an unlicensed driver, there are a few things that you should do. First, call the police. They will be able to investigate the accident and determine who is at fault. 

Many unlicensed drivers will try to flee the scene or beg you not to call the police, but it can come back to bite you if you don’t. Your neck might start hurting the day after the accident, and you’ll have no way to track down the other driver without a police report.

That’s why you should then exchange information with the other driver. Get their name, relevant insurance information, and contact details. It would be best if you also took pictures of the damage to both vehicles.

If there are any witnesses, be sure to get their contact information as well. Witnesses can help to corroborate your story if there is any dispute about what happened.

Finally, you should contact an experienced Wisconsin personal injury lawyer. They will be able to help you navigate the legal system and get the compensation that you deserve.

Contact Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. today

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with an unlicensed driver, contact Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. today. Our experienced personal injury lawyers will fight for your rights and get you the compensation that you deserve.

Book a free consultation to get started.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

The outstanding legal team of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. provides each client with top-quality legal representation. The firm is known throughout Wisconsin for its careful and thorough legal work.
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