Any time law enforcement officials have to get involved in a situation can make immigrants who do not have documentation of lawful status nervous. Some immigrants will simply avoid these situations. That means that if they are in an accident, they may just flee the scene. If they are injured in an accident that was not their fault, they may never seek the compensation that they lawfully deserve for all that they have suffered.
Most will never even call an Arizona personal injury lawyer to find out about their options. However, if they did, they would learn that they still have rights if they are injured in an accident – regardless of their legal status.
You do not have to be a citizen of the United States to bring a personal injury lawsuit against someone in the country. The 14th Amendment protects you in this matter, declaring that no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The amendment does not say that the state may not deny any “citizen” the protection of the law. It says that states may not deny any person that protection.
If you are injured in an accident caused by another person, you have the same right to work with an Arizona personal injury lawyer to sue the negligent party and to recoup the compensation that you deserve. The courts have consistently upheld this principle. A Texas appeals court ordered one company in 2003 to pay a subcontractor nearly $750,000 in damages after the person was injured on the job. The court specifically rejected the company’s claim that it did not have to pay the worker because he was not a citizen, saying that state law, “does not require citizenship or the possession of an immigration work permit as a prerequisite to recovering damages for lost earning capacity.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court similarly found in 2013 that an undocumented immigrant who was injured on the job was able to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to enjoy the protection of the law. Just as you would be able to call the police if someone was attacking you or call the fire department if your house was on fire, you can call an Arizona personal injury lawyer and bring suit against someone whose negligence caused you to be injured.
Even if you know that you can sue after your accident, you may still feel hesitant to sue. You may worry that you could be deported by bringing attention to your legal status, or you may worry that your legal status could reflect negatively on you or be used as a bargaining chip against you. However, it is a violation of ethical rules for an attorney, prosecutor, or other law enforcement official to threaten you based on your immigration status. Furthermore, an insurance company cannot refuse to negotiate a settlement with you because of your immigration status.
If you did something illegal out of fear, such as providing a false name or identification when officers arrived at the scene of the accident, that could be used against you in court. Just be honest with your personal injury attorney about the circumstances of your case so that your attorney can prepare for this. There are likely ways to strengthen your case despite these issues.
Do not let your immigration status deter you from getting the compensation you deserve after you are injured in an accident. You are entitled to compensation for your medical costs, future projected medical needs, damage to your property, time lost from work, and more. Talk with an Arizona personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights and evaluate the strength of your case.
This blog was written and approved by Brent Gunderson & Brad Denton, lawyers at Gunderson, Denton, & Peterson, P.C.
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