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Auto Insurance Coverage for Unlicensed Drivers

Possession of a valid driver’s license, while a prerequisite for the legal operation of a car or truck on the public roads, is clearly not a prerequisite for being physically capable of driving a vehicle. As a result, a great many motor vehicles in the United States are driven by persons not legally licensed to do so. Such unlicensed operations, and the vehicular accidents that inevitably result from them, raise a number of issues in the area of motor vehicle insurance.

Auto insurance policies often contain provisions stating that coverage under the policy will not extend to damage or loss resulting from the operation of a covered vehicle by a person not legally licensed to operate a motor vehicle. While such provisions are often upheld as not violative of public policy, which favors use of the public roads only by those legally entitled to do so, they are contrary to the general thrust of mandatory auto insurance coverage, which is to provide insurance protection to innocent third parties involved in motor vehicle accidents, and they may be found violative of statutory provisions requiring some kind of omnibus coverage for the operation of cars and trucks by permissive users. Questions may also arise as to insurance coverage when a named insured allows a first permittee to operate his or her vehicle and the first permittee in turns allows a second permittee, an unlicensed driver, to drive the vehicle.

The business of insurance in the United States, including that of motor vehicle insurance, has traditionally been governed by the separate laws of each of the states rather than by a single unified body of federal law. As a result, the answers to questions concerning insurance coverage of motor vehicles operated by unlicensed drivers will vary from state to state, and will be found in the state statutes regulating the business of insurance and in the decisions of courts dealing with issues of insurance law.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.