Can an Undocumented Immigrant Sue for Personal Injury?
Many undocumented immigrants feel helpless when they’ve sustained any kind of accident injury. Fears of deportation and arrest may stop undocumented immigrants from filing personal injury claims. These individuals than suffer in silence while the negligent individuals who hurt them escape responsibility.
There are over 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. If you or a loved one or a friend is an undocumented citizen who sustained an injury in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, then you should contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Mattiacci Law for a free consultation so we can help you better understand your rights and best strategies towards compensation.
Immigrants (both documented and undocumented) are typically the individuals who work some of the most dangerous jobs. This includes construction, demolition, agriculture and roofing tasks that may put an undocumented worker at risk of injury on a daily basis.
Many workplace injuries involving undocumented immigrants are associated with employers exposing their employees to dangerous conditions, heavy equipment and even dangerous chemicals that other people are afraid to be around each and every day. There are countless instances in which undocumented workers suffer devastating or life-altering injuries and then simply are confused or unsure as to what they can do about these injuries within the legal system. This is especially the case when undocumented workers are not provided healthcare or worker’s compensation benefits from their employer.
Many employers hire undocumented immigrants to save money. The employer benefits from not only getting cheaper labor but often will not have paid for worker’s compensation insurance and can save additional money by not having to pay benefits such as health insurance.
It’s important for everyone to know that immigrants, legal or not, are protected under the law to pursue personal injury lawsuits no matter where the accident occurs. But still, so many immigrants simply aren’t aware of their rights or are stifled by fear when it comes to obtaining their rightful compensation when they have legal grounds for a negligence claim.
Being able to prove the four elements of negligence is paramount to just about every personal injury claim, regardless of immigration status. The four elements include the following:
- Breach of Duty
Proving negligence is unique within every personal injury case, which is why hiring an experienced personal injury legal team is so crucial to your chances of success in obtaining your maximum amount of compensation.
Personal injury claimants, whether legal citizens or undocumented immigrants have the right to request compensation for all the damages associated with their accident. Some of the common types of recoverable damages include:
- Lost wages
- Hospital bills
- Rehabilitation and medication expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- And more…
It’s important to know that your citizenship status and overall authorization to work within the United States does not prevent you from obtaining these crucial compensatory damages after sustaining an injury that was caused by another party’s negligence.
Deportation Fears Stop Many From Filing a Claim — But You Have Rights
There’s no denying the fact that many companies will take advantage of undocumented workers when it comes to dangerous jobs. Many employers will ask undocumented workers to do things that less vulnerable employees, like union workers, would fight against. There are many instances in which employers will skimp out on safety equipment and regulations towards their undocumented workers, all for the sake of saving money.
In construction cases or when workers are hurt on the job, there can be significant consequences for the employer if that employer does not have worker’s compensation coverage. For example, if an employer in Pennsylvania hires undocumented immigrants and does not maintain worker’s compensation insurance then the employer can be held criminally liable for failing to have that insurance. See 77 P.S. § 501. Not only that, the injured worker can sue his or her employer for damages such as pain and suffering, which would usually be barred by worker’s compensation laws.
Personal injury lawsuits support people who desperately need to recover their rightful compensation in order to cover the damages the accident and subsequent negligent party caused. Pennsylvania and New Jersey courts have firmly stated that immigration status has no bearing on whether or not an accident victim can receive their rightful compensation. While many immigrants can be afraid to engage in the court system, they still have the right to do so.
Deportation Based On Filing a Claim Is Illegal
Anyone telling undocumented immigrants they have no legal rights is spreading misinformation. In addition, many unscrupulous people try to convince undocumented immigrants that their legal right to bring claims if injured is limited and that they face deportation if they try. This is also misinformation and can discourage claimants from seeking personal injury damages to which they are entitled.
Under the law, immigration status is irrelevant to the right to seek damages when injured by another’s negligence. This doctrine applies throughout the United States. Those injured in an accident should never hesitate to contact an attorney and pursue compensation for an auto accident, workers’ compensation claim, or other injuries for which they have entitlement to damages.
Can You Get Deported for Suing While Undocumented?
The Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are barred from deporting an immigrant because he or she filed a personal injury lawsuit. According to the INS, they have never deported anyone due to a personal injury claim. In addition, no system exists where immigration authorities become aware of a resident’s status, location, or other harmful information because of a lawsuit.
Attempting to deport or deporting an individual because they are undocumented and filed a personal injury claim could be construed as obstruction of justice. To avoid this problem, immigration authorities usually avoid taking deportation action against litigants in these cases.
What Should Undocumented Immigrants Do If They Suffer a Job-Related Injury?
Many undocumented immigrants work hazardous jobs, including construction, agriculture, and transportation. Accidents in these fields are common and sometimes severe. Undocumented immigrants should never assume they have no standing to bring a claim when suffering from an injury.
The law requires workers' compensation insurance Employers must carry these policies or face serious repercussions. As a result, their employees enjoy coverage should they fall, be struck by a vehicle, or suffer injury from heavy machinery.
If you are an undocumented immigrant and suffer an injury on the job, take the following steps:
Report the Injury
Denial of workers' compensation claims often results because they went unreported to the employer. Under the law, injured employees are responsible for reporting the injury right away. In most cases, this can be done by telling your direct supervisor, who then will complete the necessary paperwork and inform the human resources department.
One mistake many workers make, whether documented or undocumented, is not reporting an injury because they believe it is too minor. Often, what seems minor at first becomes an expensive, long-term health problem over time.
For example, an employee might twist his or her ankle and think no medical treatment is needed because the immediate pain is minor. However, a few days later, the ankle starts to hurt more and more when walked on, and the employee has trouble remaining on his or her feet without pain. Clearly, the injury needs medical intervention, but problems can result from the employee’s failure to report the sprain right away.
Failure to notify feeds into a worker's compensation defense because it adversely impacts the employer’s ability to investigate the incident and provide prompt medical care. It strengthens the objections that the injury could have been caused by something else or that the employee's activities worsened it.
Take All Required Drug and Alcohol Tests
Drugs and alcohol often play a part in workplace accidents. In certain industries, such as trucking, being under the influence also violates the law. In addition, most companies have a policy against being under the influence at work, especially in environments where injuries frequently happen, such as on a factory floor.
If your employer insists on a drug or alcohol test, you must comply right away. Failure to take the test could lead to claim denial.
See a Doctor
Medical exams are pivotal in establishing a workers' compensation claim. They are the basis on which doctors generate the medical records that prove the injury occurred, determine its seriousness, and outline needed treatment.
When Do You Need a Workers Compensation Attorney?
If you suffer from a minor injury, miss little time from work, and your employer agrees with your claim, you probably do not need a workers' compensation attorney. However, there are many situations where a workers' compensation advocate is vital, such as the following:
The Workers’ Compensation Claim Is Denied
Claims denials need a strong response from a workers' compensation attorney. Companies often deny claims in the hope the injured party will withdraw it. A workers' compensation lawyer will force a reversal of the denial or take the case to court.
Your Receive Inadequate Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation should cover all medical costs, lost wages, and any other damages. If the payment offered falls short, see a workers' compensation attorney.
You Suffer Retaliation
Unfortunately, some managers retaliate against workers’ compensation claimants. Harassment, demotions and reduced work hours after a claim often occur before the employee’s ultimate termination. If any retaliation happens to you, see a workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one has endured an injury due to someone else’s negligence, then you are capable of filing a personal injury claim. But there’s no doubt about it that undocumented individuals need legal assistance while navigating these types of legal situations.
Contact us for a free consultation so we can review your accident situation and help you determine your best course for legal action.
Related Content: How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia