In Indiana, in order to legally operate an automobile, and you are required to have a driver’s license. To obtain a driver’s license, you must pass a written driver’s test and pass a road test. These conditions exist throughout the country. Indeed, all states and Washington D.C. require an individual to pass a road test and a written driver’s test before being issued a driver’s license. Thus, may wonder what happens when an individual is injured in an accident but the individual does not possess a valid driver’s license.
In short, although operating an automobile without a valid driver’s license is a criminal offense, the absence of a driver’s license does not automatically prohibit an individual from recovering for their injuries. However, in the context of a claim for personal injuries, disagreements often occur over whether the absence of a driver’s license is even admissible evidence. When these disagreements occur, and if left unresolved, a judge is asked to determine whether the jury will be allowed to hear evidence about the absence of a driver’s license. Like many areas in law, an exploration into the facts of an individual matter is usually necessary to assess how a judge is likely to resolve these types of disagreements.
For example, just because a driver does not possess a valid driver’s license at the moment of the accident, it does not necessarily mean a judge will allow a jury to hear this information and it is important to identify whether the individual ever possessed a valid driver’s license at any time in their life and to identify what the driver was doing at the time of the accident. The basic and indisputable purpose of the driver’s license requirement is to certify that the owner of the license has proven they are capable of operating an automobile on public roads in a safe and responsible manner. Therefore, if an individual previously passed a road test and written test, but forgot to renew their license, and is then rear-ended while stopped at a red light, the fact that the individual did not possess a valid license at the time of the accident has little relevance, and is not likely admissible. This is because the individual had previously demonstrated a base understanding of the rules of the road and a base proficiency at operating an automobile and the competence is not in dispute since they were properly stopped at the time of the accident.
On the other hand, if the individual has never possessed a license and has never passed a road test and written test, and is injured in an accident while changing lanes shortly after passing a sign signifying a lane was ending, it is more likely a judge would allow a jury to hear evidence about the absence of a valid license. This is because the same factors that make it necessary for individuals to pass a written and road test (knowledge of right of way practices and warning signs) are the same factors that are associated with the facts of the accident.
If you have questions about how the absence of a valid driver’s license impacts a claim for personal injuries, call one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.