In Maryland, a plaintiff seeking tort damages for an injury caused by someone else’s negligence can bring a claim for lost earnings, medical bills, and pain and suffering damages.
But what if the plaintiff is an illegal immigrant? This is a loaded question in the era of Donald Trump. Below are some common questions and answers.
Can you bring a claim if you are in the country illegally?
You can. Undocumented immigrants can bring a personal injury claim just like anyone else.
How will they find out that I’m an illegal alien in the first place?
Smart defense counsel will propound interrogatories and inquire at deposition as to your immigration status. There is no good way around giving honest answers.
Can you bring a future lost wage claim?
Yes and no. Any illegal immigrant can bring a claim for future lost wages just like anyone else. The question is whether future loss of earnings is limited to what you would make in the country where you can legally reside. Many immigrants come here because their earning capacity is far greater here than in their country of orgin. In most cases, a court is going to limit damages to those that could be earned in the country from which they came.
This causes two problems. First, it can mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the rest of the plaintiffs’ life. Even if it does not because the worker would be a good wage earner anywhere, there are difficulties in getting good data from other countries that would be admissible at trial.
A California court wrestled with this issue in Rodriguez v. Kline. It is an instructive case for attorneys dealing with this issue. The court in this case found the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that he is lawfully allowed to work for compensation in the United States.
Can you get lost future medical bills?
This is a little easier path than getting lost wages. In Maryland, you are entitled to the reasonable value of past and future medical care, and that standard is independent of geography. So, while it might not be a slam dunk, your chance of getting the regular and customary rate in Maryland for future medical bills is pretty good.
I’m a plaintiffs’ lawyer and I don’t know how to handle this problem. What do I do?
Tread lightly. Plaintiff’s counsel must make a preliminary determination of whether a loss of earning claim is viable. You can’t let your client get blind sided by the question and you have to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect the client. You might want to consider waiving the lost earning claim. You can advise the client to take the 5th Amendment but that has awful implications for your case. You also have to keep in mind that the defense attorney or, more likely, the insurance company or the defendant has a real incentive to get your client deported.
But it is incumbent upon you to get all of the facts and your client’s legal status and the statute of limitations on any crime he many have committed. But also keep in mind that it is generally not a crime for an unauthorized alien to be in the country.
I’m an illegal immigrant who has a claim? Should I just drop it?
Probably not. There should be ways to navigate your claim while keeping deeper inquiry about immigration status at bay. But you really need to have a candid conversation with your advocates to figure out the best path for you given all of the relevant factors.
More Resources for Victims
- How much will I get for my claim?
- Read a sample demand letter for money damages
- Questions victims ask us
- How to negotiate these claim?
- Get the help you need to understand what is to be done in your case and what the value of your claim might be.
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