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Unlicensed Driver’s Purchase of Vehicle Leads to $5.5M Crash Settlement

A car dealership has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $5.5 million – while still denying liability – after it reportedly sold a vehicle to an unlicensed driver who was later behind the wheel in a hit-and-run crash that resulted in catastrophic brain injuries for the pedestrian he struck. 

Technically, car dealerships can sell a vehicle to an unlicensed driver, but it’s a rare scenario. It’s not one that is likely to happen unless the individual:

  • Is paying cash for the vehicle in question (most banks offering a vehicle loan will require the vehicle be registered, which typically requires a valid license).
  • Does not drive the vehicle off the lot – either for a test drive or after purchase.

In the recent settlement, the Washington car dealership (part of a national chain) insisted it had done nothing wrong, as kit did not hand the unlicensed buyer the keys and it was his mother her drive the vehicle off the lot. It was the expectation or assumption of the dealership, according to The News Tribune, that the buyer would obtain a license if he was going to drive the vehicle. However, he reportedly did not do that. This hit-and-run pedestrian accident occurred approximately one year after the vehicle was purchased in June 2015. 

At the time of the crash, the driver was 25, while the victim, a 60-year-old architect, was in the crosswalk, heading back to work after a mid-day stop at the pharmacy. The driver did not stop after the collision. The man who was struck suffered catastrophic brain injury and was initially not expected to survive. His family called his recovery “nothing less than remarkable,” and he even began walking again last summer. However, he has never fully recovered from his brain injuries, will not be able to return to work and requires 24-7 care.

His wife, who filed the lawsuit on her husband’s behalf as well as her own, alleged the dealership in question acted negligently by failure to use reasonable care. An injury lawyer representing the plaintiffs noted that while there is no law that prohibits sale of a vehicle to an unlicensed driver, one could make the common law argument that such a practice was poor judgment. The dealership knew this buyer didn’t have a license and sold the vehicle anyway. Further, within the last five years, the dealership reportedly sold some 1,200 vehicles at various locations just in that state alone to individuals who legally were not allowed to drive.

A defense attorney representing the company argued there’s nothing illegal about that, and there could be valid reasons one might buy a car but not be able to drive it. For example, a person might by the vehicle for use by a caregiver or their child. it could be a collectible vehicle one has no intention of driving.

Florida law requires if you are registering a vehicle with four wheels, you must secure auto insurance.

One might be unlicensed and still have insurance (though it’s rare because it’s so expensive). So if you are struck by a driver who is unlicensed, it’s best to discuss your legal options with a car accident lawyer in South Florida. If nothing else, you may be entitled to benefits through your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy, as well as uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

A Lakewood dealer sold a car to an unlicensed driver. A $5.5 million lawsuit followed, July 13, 2018, By Alexis Krell, The News Tribune

More Blog Entries:

Passenger Injuries in South Florida Car Crashes, July 5, 2018, South Florida Pedestrian Accident Attorney Blog

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