Legal Guide

Can you still recover for your personal injuries if you are a non-citizen?

Non-citizens who are living in the United States have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit and recover compensation for their injuries when the negligence of someone else causes them physical or emotional harm.

Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution

Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, no one shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” And the United States Supreme Court holds that due process protections apply to every person in the U.S., regardless of whether that person’s presence is temporary, or permanent, lawful or unlawful. This right allows anyone who is injured by someone else to file an injury claim or pursue recovery through a lawsuit.

How Immigration Status May Impact Compensation

For non-citizens who are documented (legal) immigrants, immigration status does not impact the ability to recover compensation or the amount that can be recovered. And while undocumented non-citizens have the right to recover for personal injuries that are caused by car accidents or a slip and fall, certain damages, like future lost wages may be impacted. Whether or not the person has the legal right to work in the United States will likely be considered when calculating lost future wages. Recovering compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, and other losses should not be any different regardless of immigration status.

Some non-legal residents may be concerned that filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit could spark an investigation into their immigration status. If the at-fault party’s insurance company or attorney attempts to use this information to minimize compensation or intimidate the injured party, however, a personal injury attorney can seek to have evidence of the person’s immigration status excluded. And even if an investigation into the immigrant’s status is initiated, a good immigration lawyer can provide guidance and legal assistance to help the non-citizen secure a successful outcome.

Workplace Injuries

Many companies that employ undocumented immigrants subject them to dangerous working conditions. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover the cost of employee injuries and lost wages, whether the worker is an employee with a spouse visa or an undocumented immigrant. While workers’ comp laws prevent insured workers from suing their employers, many of these companies do not supply coverage for unlawful, non-citizen workers. If a worker is injured and the employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, however, the victim has the right to recover compensation by suing the company directly.

Proving Negligence

When a non-citizen is injured by someone else, he or she must prove the four elements of negligence. These are that the:

  • Negligent party owed the victim a duty of care
  • Duty was breached
  • Breach of duty was the cause of the victim’s injuries and losses
  • Injured victim was harmed or suffered losses

Recovering Damages

Once negligence has been proved, the next step is to determine what damages are owed to make the victim whole. If the non-citizen is injured in a crash, for example, the car accident victim may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. Future expenses for ongoing medical care or future lost wages may be recoverable as well.

Additionally, if the immigrant loses his or her life in an accident that is caused by someone else, the surviving family members may be able to recover compensation for economic losses like medical bills and funeral costs, and non-economic losses like the loss of love, affection, companionship, and nurturing. In some cases, if the defendant's behavior was determined to be extremely negligent or outrageous, punitive damages may be awarded as well.

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