Close Menu X

How Can We Help?

Accidents with Diplomatic Vehicles

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that exempts diplomats from lawsuits or prosecution under the host country's laws. The idea is that diplomats require immunity if they are going to serve in "unfriendly" nations or during times of conflict. After all, who would want to serve as a diplomat in a foreign country, knowing they could be imprisoned or executed just for showing up to work?

Of course, it's not hard to imagine the problems that can crop up when a group is immune from lawsuits or prosecution. The City of New York famously spent more than a decade chasing millions of dollars in parking violations issued to scofflaws who happened to be diplomats. Diplomatic immunity even occasionally becomes fodder for Hollywood - anyone remember Lethal Weapon 2?

So if you've been involved in an accident with a diplomatic vehicle you may be primed to expect the worst. But before you vow to go vigilante like Riggs and Murtaugh you may want to read on. And, yes, that will be the final Lethal Weapon 2 reference.

The 1978 Diplomatic Relations Act and the Foreign Missions Act requires that any vehicle owned and operated in the U.S. by a member of a foreign mission carry liability insurance coverage at all times. In fact, all foreign missions must provide the Office of Foreign Missions with written proof of continuous insurance coverage. As of the date of the writing of this article the minimum acceptable limits of liability coverage are $300,000 combined single limit (i.e. $300,000 each accident), or split limits of $100,000 personal injury per person, $300,000 personal injury per accident and $100,000 property damage per accident.

But how does this work in practice if diplomatic immunity prohibits a lawsuit against the owner and driver of a vehicle with diplomatic plates? The answer is found in a federal statute: 28 U.S.C. ยง1364. That statute gives federal district courts "original and exclusive jurisdiction" in any civil action brought by a person against an insurer who insures a member of a diplomatic mission.

In essence the law allows for a lawsuit by the plaintiff directly against the insurer of the diplomat. The lawsuit is tried in federal court, without a jury and is not subject to the defense that the insured is immune from suit by reason of diplomatic immunity. From the standpoint of the plaintiff, the fact that the case is brought against the insurer instead of the insured shouldn't matter. The result is what does matter, namely just compensation for the victim for the injuries they sustained.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Our Awards and Accolades

    • The Best Lawyers in America
    • The National Trail Lawyers | Top 100 | Trail Lawyers
    • Newsweek Leaders In Showcase Personal Injury | 2011
    • Lawyers of Distinction | 2018
    • 2014 | Litigator Awards | Ranked Top 1% of Lawyers
    • Nation's Premier | NAOPIA | Top Ten Attorney | Personal Injury
    • American Law Society | Official Home of America's Top Lawyers
    • Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms | U.S.News & News Report | Rankings
    • New York Law Journal | 2015 Verdicts & Settlements | Hall of Fame | Motor Vehicle | Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP | Top 20 Verdict
    • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    • Verdict Search's | Top NY Verdicts
    • Certified
    • National Association of Distinguished Counsel | Nation's Top One Percent | NADC
    • 2016 | Litigation Elite - Top 100 Trail Lawyers
    • Martindale-Hubbell | Distinguished | Peer Rated for High Professional Achievement | 2017
    • Who's who Legal | WWL
    • The National Advocates | Top 100 Lawyers
    • America's Top 100 Attorneys | Top 100
    • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trail Lawyers
    • Super Lawyers
    • Best Law Firms of America | LifeTime Member
    • Avvo | 10.0 | Superb | Top Attorney Personal Injury
Email Our Attorneys

Have Questions? Get A Free Case Review

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy