Can a U.S. resident sue someone for a hit and run that happened to their son in Mexico, if he is a resident in Mexico?

One of my family members got hit by a vehicle and was a victim of a hit and run and the person who did it was found and confessed to it. Can the mother who is a U.S. resident sue the person who did the hit and run to their son in Mexico and who is a Mexican resident?

Asked on April 15, 2017 under Personal Injury, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First, if the son is an adult (18 or older) and not legally incompetent (with the mother as guardian), the mother cannot sue anyone for his hit-and-run: he may be able to, but one adult, even a mother, cannot sue on another competent adult's behalf.
Second, if as you indicate, the accident occured in Mexico, any lawsuit could most likely only be brought in Mexico, under Mexican law; U.S. courts would most likely have no jurisdiction over an accident occuring in another country. A U.S. court would have insufficient connections to an accident occurring in another nation to exercise jurisdiction or legal authority.
Third, even if jurisdiction, or court power, could be asserted over a Mexican resident for an accident in Mexico, it would be very difficult to legally serve the Mexican resident with the summons and complaint to start the lawsuit, unless he happened  to be here in the U.S.; and even if you were able to do that, if he simply ignored the suit and remained in Mexico, it would be almost impossible to actually recover or collect anything from him, unless he had significant U.S. assets (e.g. a U.S. bank account or U.S. real estate).


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