As Joplin, Missouri car accident lawyers, we receive many inquiries from people who have been in an accident with either an uninsured or an unlicensed driver. This issue is much more widespread than you might imagine. For most of us, as law abiding citizens, it would not occur to us to drop our auto insurance, or to get behind the wheel with no driver's license.
However, about 1 in 10 motorists do drive illegally nationwide, according to traffic researcher Robert Scopatz of Data Nexus Inc. This translates into hundreds of Joplin drivers and thousands of Missouri drivers who are on the road illegally.
This statistic includes some people who never had driver's licenses to begin with, and others who lost their licenses but kept driving anyway. In this economic climate, licenses are lost for financial reasons even more often than for negligent behavior behind the wheel.
Not paying parking tickets, neglecting child support payments or missing a court hearing can trigger a license suspension. Fines can pile up, leaving many without the financial means to restore their legal driving privileges. Many people feel they have no choice, and are therefore justified in driving without legal licenses.
In fact, AAA estimates that as many as two-thirds of people who have had their driver's license either revoked or suspended keep right on driving. Their statistics show that one fifth of fatal car accidents involve an illegal driver.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports these traffic arrest statistics for 2010:
• Operating motor vehicle on highways while driver's license/privilege revoked (suspended for points) --1,443 arrests, which shows a 26.36% increase from 2009.
• Operated motor vehicle on highway while registration or driver's license/privilege revoked (suspended for nonpayment of court fine costs) -- 2,903 arrests, which shows a 44.00% increase from 2009
• Operated vehicle on highway without valid license - 1st or 2nd offense -- 7,234 arrests, which shows a 6.11% decrease from 2009
What happens if you are in a Joplin, Missouri car accident with an unlicensed driver?
The answer depends on a variety of factors.
• Did the unlicensed driver have insurance? (Usually they do not.)
• Did the fact that the person had no license contribute in any way to the accident?
• Who was at fault for the accident?
• Did a licensed driver knowingly loan the car to the unlicensed driver?
Just the fact that someone was driving without a license is not necessarily cause for a civil suit, particularly if they were not at fault for the accident. They will face a fine, or perhaps jail time if it is a repeat offense, but your insurance will still have to cover the damages.
If someone is driving without a license or insurance, you may have an uninsured motorist claim, which can be handled through your own insurance policy.
Each car accident case is different and unique, involving different Missouri statutes. After a car accident, it is not uncommon to have many questions. The Joplin injury attorneys at Aaron Sachs and Associates offer answers to common questions on the "Law You Can Use" page of our website, including a free brochure, The Top Ten Questions People Have After an Accident, and a free DVD, What to do After an Accident . Contact us at any of our five Missouri offices for more information, or to schedule a free initial consultation about your car accident claim. There is never any pressure or obligation.