At any time, there are millions of individuals in the U.S. without citizenship. These include the 100 million international tourist visitors the U.S. takes in each year, many of whom rent cars during their stay, but this also includes millions of additional non-resident aliens. The United States is famous (or infamous) among the nations of the world for the excessive length of time between initial immigration and full citizenship, meaning that at any time an average of 7% of people in the U.S. are non-citizens, though this number skews higher in states like California (at 13%), or lower (3% in Pennsylvania). Ignoring ‘undocumented’ immigrants, we can safely assume that each of the 22 million non-citizen, non-visiting temporary residents are working their way toward U.S. citizenship – or are in the country temporarily, but in a long-term manner in accordance with regulation – meaning such individuals are subject to U.S. law. For instance, resident aliens (conditional or returning registered alien ‘green card’ holders, or permanent non-citizen residents) must file tax returns and pay taxes, but cannot vote or exercise citizen rights. Nonetheless, to obtain and keep employment, many green card holders must drive cars daily.
So what happens if you get into an accident, and it’s the fault of a non-citizen driver? Or what if you’re the non-citizen getting into an accident, and it’s not your fault?
Don’t worry, we here at JT Legal Group are here to help you navigate this legal landscape with confidence and confidentiality.
Like after any car accident, it’s critical to call 911 and to ensure that all parties are safe and do not require emergency medical attention. After this initial step, you should examine both vehicles and document all damage (as with a mobile device) to the best of your ability.
Non-citizen tourists planning to drive in the U.S. will typically rent vehicles from car rental agencies, but might be surprised to learn that rental cars are uninsured. This means that tourist renters are required to purchase personal car insurance or travel (or credit card-backed) insurance to cover any damages to these vehicles or that incurred in an accident. Vehicle renters are also provided with the option to purchase damage waivers, such as collision damage waivers or loss damage waivers (often at extremely low cost), which serve to reduce their liability in the case of an accident. Collision damage waivers are not insurance in the technical sense, but instead represent a promise on the part of the rental agency to waive repair costs in the case of damage or theft during the rental period. These are critical purchases, but can themselves be waived the event of reckless driving, which mean tourists may be held liable for damages up to the full value of the rental vehicle. In addition to damage waivers, supplemental insurance like personal accident and personal effects insurance is essential for non-citizen tourist drivers. Importantly, such insurance is often included with the cost of renting a car in the U.S., a precaution from car rental agencies designed to ensure that liability is kept as low as possible. If tourists purchase such insurance, they will be covered for all damages in an accident for which they were not at fault. If they were at fault, this insurance will cover most victim liabilities.
That said, while millions of tourists visit the U.S. each year, not all of them drive, meaning that it is a safe assumption that the majority of non-citizen drivers are conditional or returning registered aliens with ‘green cards,’ not least due to many such ‘resident aliens’ having to drive every day for work. Fortunately, the responsibilities held by such non-citizen residents regarding car insurance is much the same as those held by citizens, albeit complicated somewhat by international drivers’ licensure. Upon coming to the U.S., even those licensed to drive in their countries of origin must apply for an ‘International Driving Permit,’ – like that obtained by tourist drivers – by which they can present proof of permission to drive in the U.S., same as any resident citizen. Such licensure must be obtained prior to their leaving the country of origin (and cannot be received once ‘in country’), but once licensure is obtained, non-citizens and tourists alike are free to drive on American roads. For non-citizens planning on remaining in the country (for longer than a month), car insurance requirements are the same as those of U.S. resident citizens. All drivers must purchase auto insurance, including bodily injury liability and property damage lability insurance coverage, through which third parties can be compensated in the event that the non-citizen driver is at fault in an accident. We also recommend purchasing medical payment and uninsured motorist coverage (UMC), both in order to comply with state insurance laws (where applicable), and in order to reduce liability in the event of an accident.
This means that if you’re a non-citizen resident involved in an accident (regardless of whether you were at fault), you’ve likely purchased sufficient car insurance to cover any potential liability. Holders of international drivers’ licenses (and resident status) are likely to face little difficulty in purchasing car insurance, and are just as free to ‘shop around’ for a deal as any U.S. resident, so there’s no excuse not to purchase car insurance. It’s in everyone’s interest to have all drivers, including non-citizen resident drivers, covered in the event of an auto accident. By contrast, if you’re the citizen and get into an accident with a non-citizen driver, it’s also likely that they have sufficient car insurance coverage to compensate you for your property damages and medical expenses. However, in the unlikely event that non-citizen residents (or even undocumented immigrants) get behind the wheel without sufficient insurance and damage your car, we recommend that all drivers purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UMC). UMC is inexpensive, and helps to cover expenses incurred following an accident with an ‘at fault’ driver who is uninsured, regardless of their immigration status. Such insurance may prove the difference between a merely time-costly inconvenient accident and a lengthy financial disaster.
Where you, or someone you love, injured or killed by an accident in Los Angeles or elsewhere Southern California? This is an extremely common occurrence in both Los Angeles as well as California more generally. If this impacted you or someone you know or love, contact us immediately at (888) 529-3111 or email@example.com. Our experienced personal injury lawyers have successfully pursued personal injury claims against dozens of negligent drivers who have injured or killed pedestrians, bicyclists or innocent bystanders in Los Angeles in the past in hit and run accidents and we fight tooth and nail to recover every element of damage for our clients that they are entitled to under California law. Without the help of a trusted personal injury law firm like JT Legal Group when you have been injured or killed in a hit and run incident in Los Angeles or some other part of Southern California, your claim may be subject to getting pushed to the side or completely rejected. For more information, including a free consultation regarding your particular situation, contact our firm immediately – we’re here to help you.
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