A person's immigration status has a big impact on the rights available to them in the United States. In particular, undocumented people may wonder how their status affects their ability to sue for injuries inflicted onto them by others. Here are two challenges you may face when trying to litigate a personal injury case as an undocumented immigrant.
You May Not Be Able to Sue
Ideally, people's immigration status would not be an issue the courts need to address in personal injury cases, since the legality of their presence in the United States has no bearing on the injury they sustained from liable parties. However, many defendants attempt to use this as leverage in their cases, so it's not unusual for the issue to rear its head before a judge.
Not all states agree undocumented persons should have the right to file civil suits against others. Courts in Massachusetts and New York, for instance, holds the position that people have the right to sue regardless of their legal status. On the other hand, an undocumented person's right to litigate a case may be at the judge's discretion in Wisconsin.
In many states, though, there isn't a law or case law that addresses the issue either way, likely because many undocumented immigrants are hesitant to sue for fear of being deported. It's essential you discuss the issue with an attorney who can advise you on how the court is likely to handle your status and ways to work around the problem.
You May Get Less Money than Expected
The other issue your status may impact are the damages and losses you're awarded. In particular, you may not receive as much money for lost wages and business opportunities because of the instability inherent in being in the United States without authorization. The judge or jury may base how much you can collect on how likely it is you'll remain in the country for much longer.
For instance, a person who has not begun the naturalization process may receive less money than someone who has because there is a higher risk the former may be taken into custody by ICE and deported. The courts may feel there is no need to award you as much money since your ability to earn income may be taken away anyway.
If you are undocumented and you've been injured, it's critical you hire an attorney to assist with the case. The lawyer can help you fight attempts by the defendant to make your immigrant status relevant to the lawsuit and work hard to ensure you get paid a fair amount for your injuries. For more information about this issue, contact an attorney.