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Injured by a Driver without a Valid Drivers’ License — Is it even admissible at trial?

When injured by a driver that did not have a valid drivers license is the fact the defendant was not licensed admissible at trial? Meet Joe Tunstall, head of our Personal Injury Section. In Swicegood v. Cooper, 341 N.C. 178 (1995), the NC Supreme Court held that evidence of Plaintiff’s poor driving record was admissible to prove contributory negligence by negligent entrustment, denying the in limine motion. In Thompson v. Three Guys Furniture Co., 122 N.C.App. 340 (1996), the court held that the status of an individual’s driving credentials generated issues of material fact sufficient to withstand a summary judgment motion in a negligent entrustment action. In Dwyer v. Margano, 128 N.C.App. 122 (1997), the court again held that the status of an individual’s driving credentials was a genuine issue of material fact. In this case, the fact that Margano had a up to date foreign driver’s license was not sufficient to show that his rental car company should not have trusted him with the car. In Tart v. Martin, 353 N.C. 252 (2000), the NC supreme court wrote that “negligent entrustment is established when the owner of an automobile entrusts its operation to a person whom he knows, or by exercise of due care should have known, to be an incompetent or reckless driver” 353 N.C. at 254 (quoting, Heath v. Kirkman, 240 N.C. 303, 307 (1954)). In all four cases the driver’s ability to operate a car, from both a skill and a licensure perspective, were admitted as evidence for a variety of reasons. Whether the fact that a defendant did not have a license appears to be fact specific as to admissibility. The courts appears to have given specific gravity to the reason for the admissibility and what it is being used to prove. Therefore, fair or not, it appears that whether a court allows the defendant’s failure to even have a valid driver’s license only is admissible if there are other evidence of bad driving in the past. If you have injuries from a car accident and have questions, feel free to visit our website.

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