There are believed to be upwards of 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, the bulk of them residing along the Mexican border with Texas and New Mexico. Most of these immigrants came to America hoping to find a good job and a better life for their families. But they now live in constant fear of immigration authorities and uncertainty surrounding their legal rights within the United States.
This uncertainty extends to the rights of undocumented immigrants to bring civil lawsuits. For example, if an immigrant is injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, can he or she bring a personal injury claim? Unfortunately, fear of exposing their status often keeps many seriously injured immigrants from even seeking legal advice.
While immigration is an especially complex area of law involving both the federal and state governments, the basic principle of American law is that everyone has access to the courts. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution says all “persons” within its jurisdiction are entitled to “due process” and “equal protection of the laws.” This means that everybody residing in Texas or New Mexico, not just citizens or authorized immigrants, have certain basic legal rights, including the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Indeed, many courts have expressly said immigration status is not a bar to recovering damages. In a 2012 case, a Texas appeals court said three undocumented immigrants could recover damages for lost wages as the result of a truck accident. The negligent defendant argued the plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation because they could not legally earn wages in the United States. The court said that did not matter in the context of a state personal injury lawsuit. Similarly, other Texas courts have said lack of proper immigration status does not prevent an injured employee from seeking or receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Immigration is often driven by a shortage of native workers to fill certain high-risk jobs. This means undocumented immigrants are especially prone to on-the-job accidents. Negligent parties (and their insurance companies) may also use a victim’s immigration status as a weapon to get out of paying compensation.
That is why it is imperative for any accident victim, regardless of immigration status, to seek advice from a qualified El Paso and Las Cruces personal injury lawyer. No matter what you may have done or said to enter the United States, every person has the fundamental right to the assistance of counsel. Even if you simply need an attorney to help explain your legal options, we can help.
Nobody should ever use immigration laws as a justification for avoiding the consequences of their own actions. If you have been injured in a car or truck crash, a job site accident, or through the use of a defective product, call the Lovett Law Firm today at 915-757-9999 in El Paso, or 575-523-555 in Las Cruces, to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.