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Can You Sue An Uninsured Foreign Citizen In U.S. Civil Court?

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Being involved in an auto accident that's not your fault is never a good experience -- but if you find yourself suffering injuries or facing expensive car repairs after colliding with a citizen of another country who doesn't have auto insurance, you may fear you'll face even more administrative and logistical headaches when trying to collect damages. Can you sue a foreign citizen in a U.S. court for damages resulting from an accident? What are your options if the citizen goes back to his or her home country? Read on to learn more about how U.S. personal injury law can extend to foreign citizens.

When can you sue a foreign citizen for an accident that took place in the U.S.?

Your ability to sue a foreign citizen in U.S. courts largely depends upon the person's current residency. Many foreign citizens have a permanent residence in the U.S., either legally or illegally. If the foreign citizen has a U.S. mailing address, you should be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against this person in your county (or in the county where the accident took place). If the foreign citizen is a resident of another state, you may need to file the lawsuit in your nearest federal district court instead. 

However, if the foreign citizen was legally visiting the U.S. on a vacation, you may have trouble filing a lawsuit and having a hearing set before the citizen is set to return to his or her home country. If this person holds dual citizenship (with one citizenship being American), you may be able to file a lawsuit against this individual in federal court, with service of process provided in the foreign country. This person will be required to respond to the lawsuit in writing, and may be able to appear for pre-trial conferences and other hearings via telephone or video conference call.

When may you be unable to sue a foreign citizen?

If the foreign citizen responsible for your injuries is a resident of another country, not a dual U.S. citizen, and returns to his or her home country before you can file a lawsuit, it's unlikely you'll have any legal recourse. While you could file a lawsuit against this person in his or her home country, this is often logistically difficult (particularly if you don't speak the native language or the person who hit you is from a country where judicial bribes are more common than the rule of law). Fortunately, in many cases, your auto insurance policy may provide some property and medical coverage for your accident under your uninsured motorist coverage. For more information, contact a professional such as Richard M Altman.