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Is Driving without a License Negligence Per Se?

Is driving without a driver's license a bad idea? Yes, obviously, it's not only a bad idea, it's criminal. If you were pulled over while driving without a license, the officer would likely arrest you and have your car towed from the scene. But, how is the fact treated when there is an auto accident? What if the driver who caused the accident was the one who was driving without a drivers license?

The rule is that evidence that a person who caused an accident was driving without a driver's license does not, in and of itself, create negligence. That would also be referred to as negligence per se. Negligence per se would mean that you would not have to prove anything further beyond the license issue. The fact that the driver's vehicle caused the accident and the driver was unlicensed woudl be enough to end the case.

Rather, the law in Massachusetts is that a driver's failure to have a valid driver's license is merely evidence of negligence. That means, the fact could be presented to the jury and the jury would likely be instructed to treat the fact as evidence of negligence. The jury could take that piece of evidence and then, depending on the facts, find that there was NOT any negligence.

The same issues arises when injured party is the unlicensed driver. In that situation, unlicensed operation may be considered as some evidence of negligence, which may bar him if it is found to have been a contributing cause of his injuries.

So you might be thinking that driving without a license is a major factor in a case because it, at least, must be considered as evidence of negligence. But, it's tough to imagine a situation where not having the valid license is really a material fact supporting negligence. In any negligence action, we're looking to how the driver's were driving, not whether they were allowed to drive. Imagine if the only evidence we had was that a party was unlicensed. It seems implausable that the case could be resolved in favor of the other party. It's possible, but unlikely and would require a unique fact pattern.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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