Does the immigration status of someone injured in a car accident prohibit the person from filing a lawsuit to recover for damages?
The United States Constitution guarantees all “persons” due process, regardless of immigration status. That means that both documented and undocumented immigrants may file lawsuits after they are injured in car accidents. While the Texas Supreme Court has not directly ruled on this issue, it is bound by the federal Constitution.
After a lawsuit has been filed, the person being sued, known as “the defendant,” may try to make an issue of immigration status in other ways. However, the defendant will not be able to have the lawsuit dismissed on the ground that the person who filed it, known as the “plaintiff,” is not a U.S. citizen.
There are two main issues a defense lawyer may raise to try to mitigate a plaintiff’s damages.
The first issue is that of lost wages. With more severe accidents, the plaintiff is sometimes unable to work for a period of time, sometimes even permanently. Even in less serious accidents, a plaintiff may lose his or her job due to the time it takes to visit doctors or to receive treatment. Defense lawyers sometimes argue that because an immigrant is not eligible to work in the United States, any recovery of future wages should be at the rate of the plaintiff’s home country.
The second issue in which immigration status may be raised is that of future medical care. Plaintiffs who are severely injured may require treatment in the future. Awards for future medical payments are common in car accident cases. Defense lawyers may argue that because an illegal immigrant is not lawfully in the United States, the rates for medical care that should be applied are those from the plaintiff’s home country.
Although the Texas Supreme Court has not decided either of these issues, the results are mixed in other states.
In addition to these issues, attorneys representing injured persons will often try to preclude defendants from obtaining information about a plaintiff’s immigration status. The theory is that some people in the United States carry negative feelings toward illegal immigrants—or even those who are legally present in the U.S.—and that these negative impressions may reduce an award of compensation unfairly.
Working with an experienced Texas lawyer can help mitigate potential issue relating to a plaintiff’s immigration status.
After any accident resulting in injury, receiving fair compensation for your injuries, both economic and non-economic, is vital. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Reyes Brown Reilley offer free initial consultations at our Dallas office location, at your home or hospital room. Call (214) 526-7910 to be connected 24/7 with one of our staff, or fill out our online Contact Form to schedule a consultation.