The issue of sovereign immunity shielding a negligent driver with diplomatic status from both criminal and civil liability is now in the news because an American woman driving a tagged diplomatic sedan in the UK killed a 19-year-old local resident who was riding his motorcycle in central England. Since that time, the boy’s parents have met with President Trump in the White House, but there has been no indication as of yet, that the federal government will waive sovereign immunity.
The American driver, who apparently is the wife of a U.S. Diplomat, was driving on the wrong side of a rural British road. The U.S. Embassy in London has declined to waive diplomatic immunity, and she has departed that country, leaving the grieving British family in the lurch without recompense and no ability to seek justice.
Accidents With Diplomatic Tagged Vehicles
Every country has the same problem in these situations. Here in the U.S., our Congress has crafted a unique solution for civil liability of a negligent driver on diplomatic status.
Here is how it works: To obtain diplomatic tags, the Embassy of every country must apply to the State Department, which issues the diplomatic tags. To obtain the tags, the Embassy must provide evidence of liability insurance for that vehicle with a U.S. office in a certain minimum amount, which is much higher than our local minimums.
If a person incurs injuries and/or property damage because of the negligence of a driver of a diplomatic tagged vehicle, a claim can be lodged with that insurance company. The injured person will need the car’s tag number to identify the insurance company. Our State Dept maintains a list of the diplomatic vehicles and can match the tag with the insurance company involved. If the insurance company denies liability or their offer is not fair, the injured person can bring a civil action for damages in a local federal court.
By law, there is no jury trial, but a federal judge is required to try the case and is authorized to enter a judgment against the insurance company after the trial if the judge finds in favor of the injured person.
The Defendant in such a case is NOT the diplomat or a foreign government, but the insurance company for the diplomatic driver! The bottom line: the victim can recover monies, and the foreign government is never involved in the claims or litigation process. State or DC law –depending on where the collision occurred – will apply to the case.
Getting a Diplomat Car Crash Accident Lawyer
We have experience a in representing clients with such cases. There are more diplomatically tagged vehicles in the DC area –with the possible exception of New York– than anywhere else in the country.
If anyone is struck by a diplomatic tagged vehicle, the injured person should:
- Call the police even if you are not sure of the nature and extent of your injuries.
- Take a cell phone picture of the license tag, because if the police or injured person do not obtain an accurate diplomatic tag number, the legal ability to make a claim will probably be lost.
- Call The Lapidus Law Firm IMMEDIATELY !
A lawyer who has experience with claims involving diplomatic vehicles can help, assuming the diplomatic vehicle driver is at-fault for the accident. If the case has to be brought in federal court because of either an inadequate settlement offer or an unreasonable denial of liability, the firm’s lawyers are admitted to practice law in federal court in Maryland and D.C. and are willing to file suit there if it’s necessary to resolve the case.
Call us at (202) 785-5111 in DC or at (301) 852-7500.