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Houston Deadly Accidents and Unlicensed Drivers

Houston Deadly Accidents And Unlicensed Drivers

What Happens When An Unlicensed Driver Causes a Fatal Accident?

In Texas, if an unlicensed driver causes a fatal accident, several legal consequences and procedures follow:

  1. Criminal Charges: The unlicensed driver could face severe criminal charges, such as:

    • Vehicular Manslaughter: If it is determined that the unlicensed driver’s negligence led to the fatality, they could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
    • Criminally Negligent Homicide: If the driver’s actions are found to be recklessly negligent, they might be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
    • Other Traffic Violations: Additional charges related to driving without a license, insurance violations, and any other relevant traffic laws.
  2. Civil Liability: The unlicensed driver (and possibly the vehicle owner if different) could face civil lawsuits from the victim’s family.  Unfortunately, Houston deadly accidents and unlicensed drivers are quite common.  According to the  AAA Foundation, approximately 19% of all fatal accidents involve an unlicensed driver.  This might include:

    • Wrongful Death Claims: The victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their loss, including funeral expenses, loss of income, and emotional suffering.
    • Survival Actions: If the victim survived for a period before succumbing to injuries, the family might file a survival action for the pain and suffering experienced by the victim before death.
  3. Insurance Complications:

    • Coverage Issues: Insurance companies may refuse to cover damages if the driver was unlicensed. However, the victim’s family might still pursue claims against the insurance policy of the vehicle’s owner if applicable.
    • Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If the victim had uninsured motorist coverage, their own insurance might cover some of the damages.
  4. Legal Penalties for Driving Without a License:

    • Fines and Jail Time: Driving without a license can result in fines, community service, and possibly jail time, especially if it results in an accident.
  5. License Suspension or Revocation:

    • If the driver was previously licensed but was driving with a suspended or revoked license, additional penalties and a longer suspension period might be enforced.
  6. Probation and Rehabilitation Programs: The court might order probation, mandatory driving courses, or other rehabilitation programs as part of the sentencing.


UIM Auto Insurance and Unlicensed Drivers

UIM insurance provides financial protection to individuals who are involved in accidents caused by drivers who do not have liability insurance or have insufficient coverage to compensate for damages. Houston deadly accidents and unlicensed drivers also raise several insurance issues. 

Excluded driver: UIM insurance becomes particularly relevant in situations where the at-fault driver is an excluded driver, meaning they are explicitly excluded from the insurance policy and therefore have no coverage for any accidents they may cause.

UIM insurance serves as an additional layer of protection for you, the policyholder, by providing coverage for medical expenses, property damage, and other losses that result from accidents with unlicensed drivers. It helps bridge the gap between the damages you incur and the liability coverage of the at-fault driver, ensuring you are not left financially burdened in the aftermath of such incidents.

By having UIM insurance in place, you can feel more secure knowing that you have an extra level of protection if you are involved in an accident with an unlicensed driver. It is essential to review your insurance policy and ensure that it includes UIM coverage, as it can provide invaluable support in difficult situations.

Liability For Houston Deadly Accidents and Unlicensed Drivers

In Texas, “negligent entrustment” is a legal doctrine that holds a person or entity liable for entrusting a vehicle to another person who is incompetent, reckless, or unlicensed. This means that if someone knowingly allows an unlicensed or otherwise unfit person to drive their vehicle, and that driver causes an accident, the person who entrusted the vehicle can be held legally responsible for the damages.

Key Elements of Negligent Entrustment

To establish a case of negligent entrustment in Texas, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  1. Ownership or Control: The defendant (person being sued) owned or controlled the vehicle.
  2. Entrustment: The defendant entrusted the vehicle to the driver.
  3. Driver’s Incompetence or Unfitness: The driver was incompetent, reckless, or unlicensed.
  4. Knowledge: The defendant knew or should have known about the driver’s incompetence or unfitness.
  5. Proximate Cause: The driver’s incompetence or unfitness was a proximate cause of the accident and the resulting damages.

Application to Unlicensed Drivers

When it comes to unlicensed drivers, negligent entrustment typically involves situations where a vehicle owner allows someone to drive their car knowing that the person does not have a valid driver’s license. This lack of a license can be seen as evidence of the driver’s incompetence or unfitness to operate a vehicle.

Example Scenario

If a car owner allows their unlicensed friend to borrow their car and the friend causes an accident, the victims of the accident could potentially sue the car owner for negligent entrustment. The key factors would be whether the car owner knew or should have known that the driver was unlicensed and whether this lack of a license contributed to the accident.

Legal Consequences

  • Civil Liability: The vehicle owner can be held financially responsible for the damages caused by the accident, which can include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Insurance Issues: Insurance policies may not cover accidents involving unlicensed drivers, leading to significant out-of-pocket expenses for the vehicle owner.

Preventive Measures

To avoid negligent entrustment claims, vehicle owners should:

  • Verify that anyone driving their vehicle has a valid driver’s license.
  • Ensure the driver is competent and capable of safely operating the vehicle.
  • Avoid lending their vehicle to individuals with a known history of reckless driving, DUI, or other indicators of incompetence.

Negligent entrustment laws serve to encourage responsible behavior by vehicle owners and to protect the public from unsafe drivers.

Recoverable Wrongful Death Damages

In Texas, when a wrongful death is caused by an unlicensed driver, the surviving family members or beneficiaries of the deceased can seek various types of damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. The specific damages available can include both economic and non-economic losses.

Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

  1. Economic Damages: These are quantifiable financial losses resulting from the death, such as:

    • Medical Expenses: Costs for medical treatment the deceased received before death due to the accident.
    • Funeral and Burial Expenses: Costs associated with the deceased’s funeral and burial.
    • Loss of Financial Support: The income and financial contributions the deceased would have provided to the family had they lived.
    • Loss of Inheritance: Potential inheritance the family would have received if the deceased had lived a normal expected lifetime.
  2. Non-Economic Damages: These compensate for more subjective losses, including:

    • Loss of Companionship and Society: Emotional pain and loss of companionship suffered by family members due to the deceased’s absence.
    • Mental Anguish: Emotional distress and suffering experienced by the family members.
    • Loss of Consortium: Spouses may claim loss of consortium, which includes loss of love, comfort, and companionship.

Eligible Claimants

Under Texas law, the following family members are typically eligible to file a wrongful death claim:

  • The deceased’s spouse
  • The deceased’s children (including adult children)
  • The deceased’s parents

These individuals can file a claim individually or collectively. If none of these family members file a wrongful death claim within three months of the death, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate may file the claim unless the family requests otherwise.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. These are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages are awarded in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct, which might apply if the unlicensed driver’s behavior was particularly egregious.

Factors Influencing Damage Awards

Several factors can influence the amount of damages awarded in a wrongful death case, including:

  • The deceased’s age, health, and life expectancy
  • The deceased’s earning capacity and financial contributions to the family
  • The relationship between the deceased and the family members
  • The circumstances surrounding the accident and the degree of negligence involved

Legal Process

To pursue a wrongful death claim, the family members or beneficiaries should:

  1. Consult Molina Law Firm:  Consult Molina Law Firm to begin your case investigation. 
  2. File a Lawsuit: The lawsuit must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is generally two years from the date of death in Texas.
  3. Prove Negligence: Establish that the unlicensed driver’s negligence caused the fatal accident and resulted in the claimed damages.

Wrongful death lawsuits are complex and require thorough legal representation to navigate the intricacies of proving liability and calculating damages accurately

How Molina Law Can Help

Insurance companies have teams of people who begin an accident investigation the moment an accident happens.  If you are involved in an accident, you should have someone who looks out for your interests.

If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury and need guidance, contact the Molina Law Firm at (281) 922-4300 for more information or to schedule a Free Accident Consultation. Their team of dedicated professionals is ready to provide expert advice and representation to help you seek the fair compensation you deserve.


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