Driving with an Expired Driver’s Licence: What it could mean to you

Not many people are aware that every auto insurance policy in Ontario is identical or that every auto policy in Ontario contains within it a section known as the Statutory Conditions. These Conditions are important. Failure to comply with them can have serious consequences. Statutory Condition No. 4 (1) Authority to Drive, reads as follows:

The insured shall not drive or operate or permit any other person to drive or operate the automobile unless the insured or other person is authorized by law to drive or operate it.

In other words, if you operate your vehicle while you have an expired driver’s licence or lend your vehicle to someone who has an expired driver’s licence there is no insurance coverage on that vehicle. Having no coverage has numerous consequences. If an accident occurred while someone was driving your vehicle without a valid driver’s licence:

You would be responsible for repairing or replacing your vehicle even if your vehicle was not at fault for the accident; If your vehicle injured someone in the accident your insurance company would not be obliged to provide you with a lawyer or a defence to any lawsuit; If the court was to enter a judgment against you in a lawsuit the insurance company would not be responsible for paying any portion of that judgment; and, If you were injured in that accident your own insurance company would not have to pay you certain important no-fault accident benefits including an income replacement benefit.

The courts have interpreted this Statutory Condition rather strictly. A recent case held that even if you were not aware that your driver’s licence was expired at the time of the crash you still do not have access to any insurance coverage unless you can prove that you exercised all reasonable care by establishing a proper system to ensure compliance with the Statutory Condition. In other words, you have to prove that you took some positive steps to ensure that you were licensed and did not just rely on the Ontario government to notify you before your driver’s licence expired. Given the serious consequences of driving without a valid driver’s licence it is important that we all make note of the date that our driver’s licence is set to expire and ensure that we renew it well in advance of the expiry date.

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