two vehicle car crash, both men looking at the damage

Being in a car accident is bad enough—finding out afterward that the driver who slammed into you doesn’t have a driver’s license is a heart-sinking feeling. That’s because anyone driving without a license is also unlikely to have car insurance coverage.

If you’ve been injured and have medical bills from a car accident caused by an unlicensed driver, don’t walk away from a potential claim just yet. A car accident lawyer at Joye Law Firm can review your legal options. You may still be able to recover money for losses caused by an unlicensed driver. At the very least, we can help you understand the options available to you during a free initial consultation.

Call Joye Law Firm or contact us online for a free consultation. Our law firm has offices in Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, Summerville, and Myrtle Beach. We assist injured people, just like you, throughout South Carolina. If you can’t come to us due to your injuries, we can come to you.

Understanding the Why Behind Unlicensed Drivers: Common Reasons and Risks

People drive without a license for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • They never obtained a license. This could apply to young drivers who haven’t gone through the licensing process or adults who never learned to drive legally.
  • They have a suspended or revoked license. Some drivers have their licenses suspended or revoked because of traffic violations, DUIs, or other offenses and may STILL get behind the wheel.
  • They don’t have insurance. Some drivers can’t afford the high cost of car insurance, but can’t legally own a vehicle without it. This often leads people to avoid getting a license altogether.

Unlicensed drivers pose a threat to public safety because they often lack the knowledge, training, and experience required to operate a vehicle safely. Their lack of experience could make them more likely to take risks or make errors behind the wheel.

Initial Steps to Take After an Accident with an Unlicensed Driver

If you’re involved in an accident with an unlicensed driver, here are some crucial steps to take:Someone taking a picture of their car right after they got in a car crash

  • Check for injuries: The highest priority is to check yourself and any passengers in your vehicle for injuries. If necessary, call 911 immediately.
  • Move your car to safety: If possible, move your car to a safe location off the roadway. This will help avoid further collisions with oncoming traffic who may not notice the stalled vehicles in time.
  • Call the police: Report the accident to the police and request a copy of the police report. The police will investigate the accident and gather essential information from all parties involved.
  • Gather evidence: If you’re able, take pictures or video of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, and any visible injuries. Try to get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Don’t admit fault: Avoid admitting fault or discussing the details of the accident with anyone except the police.
  • Contact your insurance company: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Let them know the details of the accident and that the other driver was unlicensed.

The Role of Police in Accidents Involving Unlicensed Drivers

Law enforcement plays a critical role in investigating accidents involving unlicensed drivers. After securing the scene, police will examine every angle of the accident by doing the following:

  • Accident investigation: The police will investigate the scene of the accident, interview all parties involved, and gather witness statements.
  • Driver’s license check: The police will verify if the drivers involved have valid licenses. If the at-fault driver is unlicensed, they will likely face additional citations or other penalties.
  • Accident report: The police will create an accident report that details the events of the accident and the information of all parties involved. This report will be crucial evidence when filing an insurance claim or when taking legal action.

By following all these steps and cooperating with the police, you can help protect your rights and improve your chances of a smooth claims process after an accident with an unlicensed driver.

Insurance When an Unlicensed Driver Gets into an Accident

When someone injures you in a car accident, you have the right to make a claim against the driver’s auto liability insurance for your medical bills, lost wages, and damage to your vehicle. Car owners in South Carolina are required to maintain auto liability insurance coverage to operate their vehicles in the state.

That’s an important distinction if you are in an accident with an unlicensed driver. The driver may declare that he or she doesn’t have insurance, but the driver may not be the car owner. The driver may not know whether the car is insured or may be misstating the facts. This may happen if the driver is: Disappointed couple talking to someone

  • Intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • A teenager who doesn’t understand auto insurance
  • Driving someone else’s car and doesn’t understand auto insurance
  • Being uncooperative
  • Confused by the chaotic accident scene

Police who respond to the accident will ask for insurance information. They will check the driver’s name against the car’s registration (which should be under the owner’s name), and inquire further about insurance if there is a discrepancy.

The point is that you shouldn’t necessarily rely on what an unlicensed driver who has just caused a crash says at the accident scene. A car accident lawyer can determine whether the car that hit you is covered by liability insurance.

If the car that hit you has no liability coverage, you may need to file a claim against your own uninsured motorist insurance coverage. South Carolina requires insurance companies to offer car owners uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) coverage with their auto liability insurance. Further, South Carolina drivers are required to purchase uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist coverage protects the policyholder directly. It pays if you are injured and/or your property is damaged by an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver. The coverage limits must be equivalent to the minimum liability coverage required in South Carolina, which is:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 for all persons injured in one accident
  • $25,000 for all property damage in one accident.

If you don’t want underinsured motorist coverage, you must decline it in writing. Many car owners have both UM and UIM coverage without realizing it. You should check with your insurer. You will be glad you have these coverages if you have been hit by an unlicensed driver. We have successfully represented victims of accidents where UM and UIM coverage was the saving grace in making our clients whole again. Read these case studies here:

  • $325,000 settlement for a Mt. Pleasant collision where the at-fault driver only had the minimum $25,000 in liability coverage. Attorney Jeff Gerardi worked with the victim’s UIM provider, asserting that this injury, while minor to some, was life-changing to his client. Ultimately, Attorney Gerardi prevailed and our client’s UIM policy provider contributed an additional $300,000, allowing her to forge a new career path after the collision ended her career as a Veterinarian.
  • Headshot of attorney Tommy Terrell$450,000 settlement for the victim of a high-speed rear-end crash in Myrtle Beach. In this case, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy maxed out at $50,000. Attorney Tommy Terrell knew this wouldn’t cover our client’s medical bills, property damage, and time out of work. Through his advocacy, the client’s UIM policy covered an additional $400,000 allowing him to pay off all of his medical debt from the crash.
  • $340,000 for a Summerville Veteran hit by a drunk driver. The impaired driver only had $40,000 in liability coverage which did not cover our client’s medical bills, let alone his other damages. Thankfully, he had $300,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. However, his insurer attempted to avoid paying out the claim because our client was in a rental vehicle at the time of the crash. Through skilled negotiation and attention to a pending Supreme Court case, Attorney William Asche secured the entire policy amount for our client.

Compensation Beyond Auto Insurance in an Accident with an Unlicensed Driver

Sophia talking on the phone with a client

It is possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against an unlicensed driver who has caused you injury in a car accident. For a lawsuit to be successful, you must be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of a judge and jury that the driver’s negligence led to your injury.

However, for a lawsuit to be worthwhile, there must be assets available that can be seized if you are awarded damages to replace the insurance settlement that is not available. The assets must be enough to cover the costs of pursuing the lawsuit and still provide a payout for you.

In some circumstances, an unlicensed driver may have assets that can cover the cost of your damages. Or there may be a third party who can be held liable for the actions of the unlicensed driver, such as:

  • Parents of an underage or otherwise dependent driver whose license has been suspended or revoked.
  • Grown children with guardianship over an elderly driver whose license and insurance have expired.
  • An employer may be held liable for injuries caused by an employee who was driving as part of their job at the time of the accident. The employer may or may not know about the status of their employee’s driving license, like in this Joye Law Firm case.
  • A restaurant, bar, or theater that served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated adult or someone they should have known was intoxicated and who later drove the vehicle that hit you.
  • A social host who intentionally served or allowed alcohol to be served to a person under 21 years old who later drove the vehicle that hit you.

Contact a Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney in South Carolina

If an unlicensed driver caused a car accident that left you injured in South Carolina, you should consult a knowledgeable S.C. personal injury lawyer about the potential to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses.

Mark Joye sitting at his desk

At Joye Law Firm, our South Carolina car accident attorneys seek to find all of the compensation available to help the injured people we represent. Contact us online or by phone at 888-324-3100 to get started with a free consultation about the circumstances of your car accident injuries.

When you hire Joye Law Firm, you benefit from over 300 years of combined legal experience. Our attorneys are highly respected in their field, with many holding leadership positions in state and local organizations. For example, Attorney Mark Joye served as President of the Charleston County Bar Association, and Attorney Sydney Lynn was President of the South Carolina Association for Justice.

We understand that the financial impact of a crash can be overwhelming, so we offer a “No Fee Guarantee” to all clients. This means if we are unable to obtain compensation for you, you won’t owe us anything. From the beginning, you can trust that we will be upfront with you about all legal fees and the possible outcome of your case.

 

Originally published April 5, 2022, revised May 21, 2024.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with over 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves as the President of the Charleston County Bar Association and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent case, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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