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Can a Foreign Tourist be Sued for an Auto Accident in California?

California is a popular destination for tourists around the world. But what happens when someone from another country is at fault in an auto accident? Can the tourist be sued? What happens when they leave?

These questions face many Americans who have been injured in an accident from a out of country foreign national.

Two Sisters Die in Tragic Accident with British Tourist in Madera County

In a tragedy for a close-knit family, two inseparable sisters are both dead when they were struck by a vehicle that didn’t stop at a stop sign. The two women, 50 and 45, were returning from a doctor’s appointment on a rural road when the accident happened.

The California Highway Patrol says that the victims were about a mile from their home near Sharon, California, when the car hit them. At least two others were in the car and were taken to the hospital with moderate injuries. The driver who ran the light was from the United Kingdom on a trip to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A California Highway Patrol officer say the driver could be facing criminal charges despite his foreign status. The charges would be issued as they are for local offenders.

Civil Liability for Foreign Tourists

There is no law that says you can’t sue someone from another country, and in fact, anyone visiting from another country has to obey all criminal and civil laws. However, what happens then the person leaves the country?

Jurisdiction Issues

The lawsuit would be just like any other if it weren’t for the sticky requirement of jurisdiction. To be able to have a judgement in an American court be valid against someone in another country, the U.S. court must have jurisdiction over the person while living somewhere else.

International law based on treaties between countries allows for jurisdiction over a foreign national who has left the country, but it can be tricky and complicated. You need an attorney who understands how to get jurisdiction over a foreign national living outside the U.S.

Alternatives to Lawsuit

There are alternatives to a traditional lawsuit against the at-fault driver if you are unable to get legal jurisdiction over the person:

Claims against American Company: There are circumstances where an American Corporation is liable for the actions of the foreign national, or the accident is caused in some way by an American company. It so, then you can sue that company. An example might be that the people were employees of an American Company on company business. Another would be that something in their rental car malfunctioned and caused the accident.

Foreign National have insurance for liability when in the Country: When one visits a foreign country, insurance can be purchased for liability that might arise when overseas. If the foreign national has that insurance, then it might cover the damages.

Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM): In some circumstances, it may be possible to get compensation from your own auto insurance if you have UM/UIM, which is designed to pay for your damages in an auto accident when there is no other insurance coverage available.

Medpay/Personal Injury Proteciton: Another possibility is if you have Medpay or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) on your own automobile policy. These will pay up to a certain amount for some damages from a motor vehicle accident regardless of fault. Medpay only pays for medical bills, and PIP will pay for medical bills and some other damages like lost time from work and pain and suffering.

What do I do if I’m Injured in a Crash with a Foreign National?

You need to speak to an attorney right away. There are a lot of complicated issues with jurisdiction and insurance coverages, so the sooner you see an attorney, the sooner you can develop a plan that will get you compensation for your injuries.

At Maison Law, we offer a free consultation where you can be advised of your rights and have your case evaluated. In a complicated case involving foreign jurisdiction, don’t risk going it alone, but get someone on your side where you can get the compensation allowed you under the law.

Contact Maison Law at 559-203-3333 to talk to an Madera personal injury attorney who can give you the peace of mind that your case is being competently and professionally handled so you can focus on your recovery.


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