On average, unlicensed vehicle drivers are involved in 5 per cent of fatal crashes and unlicensed motorcyclists are involved in 30 per cent. Up to 70 per cent of unlicensed motorists (either due to disqualification or never holding a licence) drive semi-regularly and have a greater risk of being involved in road accidents than licensed drivers. With these statistics, it is no wonder accidents with unlicensed drivers are a common and its important for drivers to know what their rights are and what to do.
Who is liable?
Notwithstanding the fact that driving without a license is unlawful, the same principles of negligence will apply. An unlicensed driver will not be deemed at fault merely because they are unlicensed. For example, if you rear-end a vehicle driven by an unlicensed driver, it will still be you (or your insurer) who is at-fault and therefore liable to pay the damage to their vehicle and any claim for injury compensation.
Who pays for property damage caused by an unlicensed driver?
A difficulty that arises in accidents with unlicensed drivers is that the insurance company of the vehicle they are driving is unlikely to pay their liability for property damage. Insurance companies usually exclude any obligation to insure you in circumstances where the driver was either unlicensed or had a suspended licence. This means any liability will need to be paid for by the unlicensed driver themselves. Considering many unlicensed drivers may be young or otherwise lack sufficient funds to pay for damage to your vehicle, this may make recovering this money difficult. If you have your own comprehensive car insurance policy, this should cover your vehicle damage regardless. Your insurer will usually pay you out immediately and then attempt to recover the amount from the unlicensed driver.
When it comes to personal injury insurance the situation is different. Comprehensive Third Party (CTP) Insurance is the only insurance that will pay out regardless of whether the at-fault driver is unlicensed or has a suspended or revoked licence. CTP covers any injury compensation which the at-fault driver would be liable to pay.
If you are involved in an accident with a driver who admits or who you suspect to be unlicensed contact Policelink on 131 444 and they will determine if police attendance is required at the scene of the accident. If you have already left the scene of the accident, you should still report the matter to a police station and they will investigate the suspected license offence. There are serious penalties for unlicensed driving including large fines and imprisonment.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
Check your legal rights in Queensland if you've been hit by a drunk driver. Information for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrian.