California drivers are required to drive with a valid driver’s license. Driving without a license is illegal. However, an unlicensed driver can still collect damages when injured in a car crash.

A License Is Mandatory

The California Vehicle Code mandates that all drivers have a license. A driver can be fined or cited for driving without a license.

When one is licensed to drive and merely fails to carry the license with him, he is guilty of an infraction or fine. Typically, a court will dismiss the violation if the driver shows he had a valid license at the time of the occurrence.

However, where a driver has a license in his possession but refuses to produce it to an officer upon request, the driver may be cited for a misdemeanor.

Car Accidents Without A License

A common defense by the insurance company is that an accident victim was not licensed and therefore, the victim was negligent. We have seen this defense attempted in a jury trial. The argument is without merit.

California law states that driving without a license is not evidence of the negligent operation of a vehicle. Care or lack of care is to be decided from all the facts of the accident.

For example, let’s say an unlicensed driver is driving through an intersection on a green light. His car is “t-boned” by a wrongdoer who runs a red light. Does the unlicensed driver bear any responsibility for the collision? The answer is, no. The wrongdoer is solely responsible for the crash. The fact the driver did not have a license has nothing to do with causing the collision. The unlicensed driver is entitled to recover all of his damages caused by the crash.


If you are an unlicensed driver who suffered injuries in a car crash, call MCIS for a free consultation.