Diplomatic immunity is the privilege foreign diplomats receive from the State Department that exempts individuals from certain laws. In the realm of civil personal injury cases, a diplomat recognized as having diplomatic immunity is immune from being a named defendant in a personal injury lawsuit.
This is distinguishable from Sovereign Immunity as Diplomatic Immunity applies to a foreign diplomat, while Sovereign Immunity applies to federal, state, or local entities of the United States. Whether an individual is granted diplomatic immunity is usually left at the discretion of the State Department. Abdulaziz v. Metro. Dade Cty., 741 F.2d 1328 (11th Cir. 1984).
How do I know if a party has Diplomatic Immunity?
If a potential named defendant has diplomatic immunity, chances are they will let you know from the start. But it is ultimately up to the plaintiff in a lawsuit to confirm. This can be done by contacting the State Department who is usually more than willing to confirm whether or not someone has diplomatic immunity.
If someone has diplomatic immunity, can I still have a personal injury claim?
If a potential defendant does have diplomatic immunity, you can potentially still have a personal injury claim if there is insurance to cover the tortious act. As stated in 28 U.S. Code § 1364:
(a)The district courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction, without regard to the amount in controversy, of any civil action commenced by any person against an insurer who by contract has insured an individual, who is, or was at the time of the tortious act or omission, a member of a mission (within the meaning of section 2(3) of the Diplomatic Relations Act (22 U.S.C. 254a(3))) or a member of the family of such a member of a mission, or an individual described in section 19 of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of February 13, 1946, against liability for personal injury, death, or damage to property.
(b)Any direct action brought against an insurer under subsection (a) shall be tried without a jury, but shall not be subject to the defense that the insured is immune from suit, that the insured is an indispensable party, or in the absence of fraud or collusion, that the insured has violated a term of the contract, unless the contract was cancelled before the claim arose.
If a defendant protected by diplomatic immunity commits a personal injury, death, or damage to property, a cause of action can still be commenced directly against any insurer who provides coverage for such circumstances. Additionally, the matter must be filed in federal district court without a jury trial.
It is also worth noting that 22 U.S. Code § 254e requires that every mission, and family members of the mission who enjoy the diplomatic immunity privileges, must have liability insurance for the operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft. If you are injured in a car crash where the party causing the crash has diplomatic immunity, you will likely have a direct cause of action against the insurance carrier of their vehicle.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a person with diplomatic immunity, you may still have a direct cause of action against any insurance carrier who insures such situations. Curcio Law can help you navigate this challenging situation. Give us a call or text us at 703-836-3366, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.curiciolaw.com.
Justin Curcio joined Curcio Law in January 2020. Justin received his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 2015. After passing the Virginia Bar in 2015, Justin was in-house counsel for an insurance defense firm (Allstate/Esurance/Encompass) for over four years before joining Curcio Law. During law school, he worked for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the law firm of Bartlett, McDonough & Monaghan, LLP. Contact Justin at email@example.com.