What Happens If You Get Into an Accident With an Expired License?

Last Updated on August 31, 2021

Holding a valid driving license is a legal requirement for drivers in the United States. If you are driving and you do not own a license, then that puts you on the wrong side of the law and you may find yourself facing penalties, fines, and legal fees.

The exact charges for driving without a license vary from state to state, but in every part of the country, it is considered a violation and it could result in a number of expensive penalties.

Things get a little more complicated if you get into an accident when driving with an expired license. In fact, you may find that getting in an accident without a valid license voids your insurance policy. Read on to learn more and to find out what you should do next if you find yourself in this situation.

Legal Consequences of Driving Without a License

What Happens If You Get Into an Accident With an Expired License?Ticket fines for driving without a license will cost you up to $250 depending on where you were driving. What’s more, is that you may end up with points on your permanent driving record, which of course could result in your losing your right to drive. It’s also common for the vehicle to be impounded.

The severity of the fines will increase depending on a number of factors. For instance, they will be smaller for the first offense and gradually increase for each subsequent offense. Likewise, the fines will tend to be lower if the license has only recently expired. Ultimately, this comes down to the discretion of the officer and you may be let go with only a warning if the license is only just out of date.

But of course, there is no guarantee that you’re going to get a lenient officer. Instead, you might find that you are asked to step out of the vehicle and find an alternative means of transportation home. This is to prevent the ‘continuation’ of the offense. Your car may also be impounded to ensure you follow instructions. In this scenario, you will be charged for the cost of towing and impounding. This will be in addition to the cost of the ticket.

Also, note that any change to your driving record is going to impact the premiums associated with your insurance.

Another thing to realize is that in most states there is a ’30 day grace period’. In other words, for the month following the expiration date of your license, you will still be treated as though you still have it in date. The idea here, of course, is to provide you with time to get the license renewed.

What if You Have an Accident Without a License?

If you have an accident, however, then things become a little more complicated. You might risk being sued and at the same time, you could find that your insurance company is unwilling to pay.

First, you will face the consequences of driving without a license, which will include a fine and having your car impounded. Don’t expect leniency here: as you have demonstrated that you are potentially a hazard on the road, you can expect to face the full force of the law and the maximum charge. If the accident was your fault, then you will have points added to your record and these will be on top of the points that you receive for driving with an expired license.

At the same time, you may find that your insurance company refuses to cover you for the damage. This will depend on the insurance company in question and the details of your policy. Some companies will pay-out regardless of the status of your driving license as you were still covered by the insurance and there is no law stating that one is dependent on the other.

However, you might alternatively discover that there was small print in the contract requiring the driver to hold a full and in-date driving license. If this is mentioned in your policy, then you will not have the help of an insurance company and that means that you will need to cover all expenses incurred by yourself and the other party (only where the accident is deemed your fault).

You may be able to afford to cover these expenses yourself. However, in some cases you might face astronomical costs – especially medical bills – and this might leave you unable to pay. In this situation, you might be sued by the other party in order to get the money. In the worst-case scenario, this could even lead to your losing your property as you attempt to pay for the full amount.

As mentioned above, this is ultimately at the discretion of your auto insurer. It is very common, however, to find that this requirement is in the fine print of your insurance policy. Insurers want to try and attract only the safest and most reliable drivers to their policies and that means looking for people who are going to have valid driving licenses whenever they hit the road.

How to Proceed If You Get Into an Accident With an Expired License

As you can see, it is very important to maintain a valid driver’s license at all times. It’s best practice to renew your driver’s license as soon as possible to avoid expiration. While you may only get a warning if you get pulled over with an expired license, you could face severe consequences if you have an accident with an expired license. Just as it were if you had an accident without insurance, if you have an accident with an expired license, you could find yourself facing astronomical costs with no way to pay them. The best way to avoid this is simply to make sure that your license is always valid whenever you decide to get behind the wheel.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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