When you visit a country for any extended amount of time, at some point, the question must be asked: How will I get around? Here in Florida (especially the Tampa Bay area with limited public transportation options), we have thousands of international visitors each year who decide that they would like to drive themselves around while they stay or vacation here. The current qualifications for a foreign visitor driving in the State of Florida are pretty straight forward:
• Have a valid VISA to be in the United States
• Be a licensed driver in your home country, with proof of that licensing
However, what does an international tourist do when they are involved in a car accident here in the State of Florida? Follow these steps if you ever find yourself in this predicament:
1) Call emergency services if anyone is injured or hurt
Before anything else, see if any driver or passenger is hurt. If anyone (including yourself) is injured in the collision, immediately call emergency medical services (EMS) by dialing 9-1-1. Tell the responder your situation and location and they will dispatch EMS to assess what is happening. Remain calm.
2) Notify your contacts in the U.S.
If you are an international visitor involved in a car accident in Tampa, FL, the first thing that you should do is contact any family or friends that you may have here in the area. The reason for this is because much of the process directly after a crash involves the English language and some knowledge of US insurance policies. Having someone there who is familiar with these processes will be a tremendous help to you. If you know anyone who is nearby and is able to be at the site of the crash, give them a quick call to see if they can meet you there before the authorities arrive.
3) Call the authorities
The police need to be contacted in order for the collision to be registered and the responsible party infracted. Do not use 9-1-1 for this. Instead, use the local sheriff’s office telephone number to report a crash. The number for Hillsborough County, in which Tampa is located, is 813-247-8200. Be sure to say nothing to the other driver(s)/passenger(s), or you may face legal consequences. When the authorities arrive, they will ask you for your license and vehicle registration. Here is when you should explain (as best you can) that you are an international visitor and that your license is from another country. It is important to also mention that an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) would expedite this process because it is essentially a translation of your home driver’s license in the English language, fitted for U.S. processes. However, it is currently not a requirement in the State of Florida. The police will likely ask you what happened. At this point, you may want to contact Law Offices of Christopher DeBari before giving a statement to the police. If you decide to give a verbal statement to the police, you should to the best of your ability, explain what took place without admitting fault.
4) Call your insurance companies
This is probably where it gets most tricky for international visitors, because there are a few scenarios you may find yourself in:
• You are driving your own car
• You are driving a friend’s car with permission
• You are driving a rental car or truck
In any case, contact the specific insurance company that that vehicle is listed under to (a) report the crash and (b) find out if damages are covered under an international driver. If you declined the insurance option at the car rental agency at the airport or rental car office, please remember that sometimes your credit card may come with built-in insurance for your rental car. Identifying the insurance coverage and agencies involved is sometimes half the battle.