Can the insurance company ofan at-fault driver refuse to pay for damages if an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel?

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Can the insurance company ofan at-fault driver refuse to pay for damages if an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel?

My daughter, grandson and I were in a car accident. My grandson was behind the wheel. We though he had a permit, which we found out was invalid. My grandson had lost his permit, so he went to DMV to get a duplicate, where he found that it was not valid. It seems a permit was given to him in error, but the only proof of that is the permit he had, which we cannot find. The other driver was at fault, but now we do not know what to do at this point. The other drivers insurance company has called asking to speak to my grandson.

Asked on June 29, 2011 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it may be possible for *your* insurer to disclaim coverage in this situation. The problem is that you allowed your grandson, an unlicensed driver to drive; therefore, it is very likely that you breached the terms of your coverage, by allowing an uninsured driver to drive.

As for the at-fault driver's insurer...some states do not allow a lawsuit by an uninsured driver, which your grandson would be considered (since he doesn't have a license or permit; he can't be insured). However, CA does not appear to be one of those. If that is the case, you should be able to sue the other party, and their insurer should have to defend. Of course, if your grandson was not eligible to drive, while you say the ohter driver was at fault, it may be legally, he was--at the very least, the issue of negligence and fault is muddied. You should consult with a personal injury attorney; he or she can confirm whether you can sue (note: if you can't sue, the  other insurer will not pay--they have not need to) and also the strength of your claim and what it might be worth.


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