What is my potential liability if I was driving an insured vehicle but with my permit?

I am not underage but I had a bumper-to-bumper fender bender which only caused the other driver who is not at fault of the accident a scratch to his car. Is that person able to sue me even if the accident was minor but I was a non-licensed driver? We field a police report but I received no ticket. Now this other car hit while i was on the emergency lane and damaged my door and leg. That other driver who hit me did a hit and run. What will happen to me and will I go to jail if I never received a ticket from the officer?

Asked on June 7, 2014 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

With regard to the fender bender accident, the registered owner of the vehicle you were driving is liable for th property damage to the vehicle you hit.  If the registered owner's insurance carrier denies the claim because you were an unlicensed driver, you and the registered owner could be sued for negligence; however, this would probably be just a Small Claims Court case.

As for the other accident with the hit and run driver, if the hit and run driver is apprehended and has insurance, you would have a personal injury claim against that driver's insurance carrier.  The registered owner of the vehicle you were driving would have a property damage claim against the hit and run driver's insurance carrier.

If the hit and run driver did not have insurance and the registered owner of your vehicle had uninsured motorist coverage, the property damage claim and the personal injury claim would be filed with the insurance company for your vehicle.

As in the fender bender case, it is possible that the insurance company may deny the claim since you were unlicensed.

If the claim is not denied, property damage would cover the repairs to the car you were driving.

As for your personal injury claim, when you complete your medical treatment and are released by the doctor, obtain your medical bills, medical reports and documentation of any wage loss.  Your personal injury claim filed with the hit and run driver's insurance carrier (assuming the driver had insurance or if that driver had no insurance through the insurance company insuring your vehicle if there is uninsured motorist coverage) should include the medical bills, medical reports, and documentation of wage loss.

Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports will document the nature and extent of your injury and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering, which is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.

If the case is settled with the insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit for negligence against the hit and run driver (assuming that the driver has been identified).

If the case is NOT settled with the insurance carrier, your lawsuit for negligence against the at-fault party must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

The answer to your other question is no, you won't go to jail.  You may have to pay a fine for driving without a license.


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