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

by Gina Corena

Last Updated on September 30,2023

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

In November 2021, Ely Campos-Granados sped down Russell Road in Las Vegas. She had been drinking. Extremely high doses of methamphetamine and amphetamine surged through the 29-year-old’s system. Her pulse pounded. She flew into the future, traveling 70 mph in a 45-mph zone. Her car veered over the double-yellow centerline, into oncoming traffic.

Sara Scow-Fanell (52) was traveling in the opposite direction when Campos-Granados’ swerved into her path. Scow-Fanell sustained several injuries, eventually dying from blunt force trauma. 

Las Vegas Metro police arrested Campos-Granados, charging her with DUI resulting in death, speeding 21 mph over the speed limit, and failing to drive properly on a divided road. Blood tests found the amount of methamphetamine in her system was seven times above the intoxicated limit.

Tragically, incidents related to DUIs, especially during festive periods, are not uncommon. The holiday season often sees a spike in drunk driving cases, leading to devastating consequences for victims and their families. It’s essential for passengers to be aware of the signs of a driver under the influence and to know what to do if they find themselves in a car with an impaired driver.

Campos-Granados did not have a driver’s license at the time of the accident, and court records revealed she had a pending 2018 warrant for driving without a license.

The Many Faces of Unlicensed Drivers

The story of Campos-Granados is one story involving an unlicensed driver among a multitude of stories with different drivers in varying circumstances, resulting in endless possibilities of outcomes. According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA), unlicensed drivers make up approximately 3% of all drivers on U.S. roads. 

An estimated seven million people drive without licenses. Some of these individuals have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked because of driving violations. But there are many other groups comprising this moving mass of the unlicensed, including:

  • Kids that are not old enough to have a valid license
  • Teens that have not taken and passed driver’s license tests
  • People with revoked licenses because of medical conditions, like seizures
  • Older people that fail driver’s license renewal exams
  • Older people with age-related impairments like mental or visual ailments
  • Immigrants that have not obtained a valid American license, regardless of their driving status in their home countries

The Repercussions of Roads Filled with Unlicensed Drivers

In the AAA’s findings, a correlation between unlicensed drivers, drunk driving, and hit-and-run accidents. A considerable portion of unlicensed drivers are involved in fatal crashes. The study shows:

  • Approximately 20% of fatal accidents involve unlicensed drivers
  • Approximately 50% of unlicensed drivers involved in fatal accidents are illegally intoxicated 
  • More than 50% of unlicensed drivers attempt to flee from an accident scene

A report conducted by The Nevada Traffic Safety Department reported that in 2019 more than 200 teenagers were pulled over and found to be driving without a license. Most of these stops were made within school zones and areas with school crosswalks.

As the number of unlicensed drivers rises, the number of fatalities from car crashes increase. 

To make matters worse, most of these unlicensed drivers are uninsured. Accidents involving unlicensed and uninsured drivers often lead to an entangled mess of financial and legal challenges.

So, Is an Unlicensed Driver Always at Fault?

Because unlicensed drivers often flee the scene of an accident, locating who to hold liable can get complicated, and just because an unlicensed driver gets into a car crash, it does not mean they are at fault for the collision. 

Determining fault is not typically that simple. Liability is usually found by an investigation answering the following questions: 

  • Who broke the traffic rules? 
  • Who disobeyed the right of way? 
  • Who had a lapse in judgment?
  • Were any of the drivers intoxicated or distracted while driving? 

If an unlicensed driver is found to be liable, the next mess to untangle is trying to recover damages. There are usually a few scenarios, including: 

  • If an unlicensed driver was operating an uninsured vehicle, the other driver that is not at fault can use their uninsured motorist insurance coverage to cover medical expenses and other expenses resulting from the crash.
  • If the unlicensed driver was driving a borrowed vehicle, the insurance company covering the borrowed car may take care of damages if the unlicensed driver had the owner’s permission to drive it. 
  • If an unlicensed driver wrecked someone else’s car without permission and was found liable, the insurance company will typically not cover the damages. If the unlicensed driver has an insurance policy on another vehicle, other drivers involved in the accident could make a claim against that policy.
  • There is always the option of directly seeking compensation from the unlicensed driver. This may prove challenging, and often, the unlicensed driver does not own enough assets to be substantial.

The Checklist for an Accident with an Unlicensed Driver

The best reaction after an accident with an unlicensed driver is action. Knowing how to act will help in the inevitable investigation of the accident that is on its way. If an accident with an unlicensed driver occurs, here is a brief action plan:

  • Reporting the accident is essential – No matter how much the unlicensed driver begs not to report it. No matter whose fault it is, an unlicensed driver faces additional penalties and fines. To recover damages for a vehicle or injuries, a report must be made. 
  • Contacting the insurance company – When an accident occurs, big or small, notifying the auto insurance company is crucial. They also need to know the accident involved an unlicensed driver. In cases where the unlicensed driver is uninsured, the uninsured or underinsured coverage can be used. 
  • Seeking medical attention – After any serious accident, medical care should be pursued. Even if there does not appear to be any serious injuries, attention should still be sought. Medical exams are evidence, and sometimes, injuries are not immediately apparent and need to be discovered to be properly treated. 
  • Reach out to a personal injury attorney – An experienced attorney can take the time to investigate the accident. They can answer questions and provide advice and guidance. Untangling the mess that comes along with an accident involving an unlicensed driver, they can work on your behalf to secure compensation for property damages and sustained injuries.

Our skilled car accident lawyer in Las Vegas is committed to providing personalized attention and professional representation for your case.

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