It goes without saying that driving without a license is against the law. So, how does it work when you've been in an accident while driving without a license? Can you still file a claim against the at-fault party? What if you're the at-fault party? Does it make you more liable if you were driving with no license?
In this article, we'll discuss what, if any, ramifications driving without a license has on your potential insurance claim after an accident as well as any additional penalties you may face. If you've been in an accident and have specific questions about your case, give us a call or text at (602) 345-1818 to set up a free initial consultation with our New Mexico or Arizona car accident lawyers. You may also fill out this online form to request a free consultation.
Can I File a Claim If I Was in an Accident Without a License?
While driving without a license is illegal, if you're in an accident, it won't stop you from filing a claim to pay for damages. The fact that you had no license will be treated as a separate issue. The at-fault party or parties will still be responsible for the damages and injuries the wreck caused.
Driving with No License in Arizona
The Arizona statute that defines the crime and outlines the penalties associated with driving without a license is ARS 28-3151. Breaking this law could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor conviction and up to four months in jail and a maximum fine of $750 if an offender has never obtained a license. In the event that a driver does have a valid license but did not have it in possession at the time of the traffic violation, he or she will be fined $120 (plus surcharges).
When a driver is found driving with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license, ARS 28-3473 outlines the violation and punishment. The penalty for violating this law may be a Class 1 misdemeanor, up to six months jail time, and a maximum fine of $2,500.
According to Arizona law, subsequent offenses for driving with no license or suspended license have greater penalties.
Driving with No License in New Mexico
In New Mexico, the statute that discusses driving with no license is NMSA 1978, § 66-5-2. The law reads:
66-5-2. Drivers must be licensed.
Except those expressly exempted from the Motor Vehicle Code [ 66-1-1 NMSA 1978], no person shall drive any motor vehicle or moped upon a highway in this state unless he:
- holds a valid license issued under the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code; and
- has surrendered to the division any other license previously issued to him by this state or by another state or country or has filed an affidavit with the division that he does not possess such other license; however, the applicant need not surrender a motorcycle license duly obtained under Paragraph (3) [(4)] of Subsection A of Section 66-5-5 NMSA 1978.
Any person licensed under the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code [ 66-1-1 NMSA 1978] or expressly exempted from licensure may exercise the privilege granted upon all streets and highways in this state and shall not be required to obtain any other license to exercise the privilege by any county, municipality or any other local body having authority to adopt local police regulations.
Drivers convicted of driving with no license could face misdemeanor charges, fines, and jail time. If you receive a citation for driving with no license and you bring your license to court, you won't be convicted of driving with no license.
In the event you drive with a suspended or revoked license in New Mexico, you may face even greater penalties. As written in NMSA 1978, § 66-5-39, driving with a revoked license may result in up to a $1,000 fine and up to 364 days in jail. If you are convicted of driving with a revoked license in NM, you will also have your license revoked for another year. If you drive with a suspended license, you may be sentenced to 90 days in jail and have to pay a $300 fine.
Is an Unlicensed Driver Automatically Liable?
No, an unlicensed driver is not automatically liable for an accident. Arizona and New Mexico follow a fault-based system, which means that liability will depend on who the negligent party was, and that party or parties will be responsible for paying for the damages they caused. Sometimes, however, the at-fault party will be the unlicensed driver, and he or she can either hold complete liability for the accident or share liability, depending on the specific situation. When fault is shared, liability is divided among the responsible parties based on the percentage of fault each is determined to have contributed to the accident. Each party's settlement will also be reduced by the amount of fault they played in the incident. Unfortunately, many times, an unlicensed driver will be uninsured.
What Happens When the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured?
Despite how unfortunate and maddening it may be to get into an accident with a driver who has no insurance, it happens every single day. In these cases, your own uninsured motorist insurance or other forms of insurance may help compensate you for the damage. Sometimes injured parties may have the option to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault, uninsured driver, however, a lawsuit against the irresponsible driver could be a waste of time and money if the driver lacks sufficient money or assets to cover damages. If an uninsured driver has borrowed the car, the actual owner may have insurance with which you can submit a claim. The insurance will typically follow the vehicle, not the driver.
Be Careful of Hit-and-Run Accidents
Sometimes an unlicensed driver who has been in an accident (especially if he or she feels at fault) will leave the scene. In hit-and-run scenarios, it's important to try to remember some details about the accident:
- The color, make, and model of the hit-and-run vehicle
- The license plate number
- Specific features of the car, including dents, scrapes, bumper stickers, etc
- Features of the driver or passengers, such as hair color, gender, etc
If you missed some of these details, there may also be eyewitnesses who are willing to provide their description of what happened to authorities to include in the official police report.
If the hit-and-run driver is liable for the accident, in Arizona, they are responsible for paying for the damages caused. However, if authorities are unable to find the hit-and-run driver, you may have other options for recovery, such as filing a claim with your own insurance company. Some types of policies that could help you pay for injuries and associated losses include your medical payments coverage or uninsured motorist coverage within your own insurance policies.
Note that leaving the scene is recognized as a crime in Arizona and New Mexico. If the hit-and-run driver is found, they can be charged to the fullest extent of the law.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Regardless of whether you were the unlicensed driver or the licensed driver in the accident, the at-fault party will be responsible for damages and injuries caused. Schedule a free consultation with our car accident lawyers at (602) 345-1818 or fill out our online form here. We're standing by to help you get the compensation you need and deserve so that you can recover and get back to your life.
Note that the information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice. To get specific legal advice regarding your situation, call or text Impact Legal to set up your case review today.