Injuries sustained in a car accident, workplace accident, construction accident, or any other type of accident can dramatically affect the life of the victim. Some victims won’t be able to work. Others may face the loss of a limb or permanent disabilities.
Some lose the simple ability to play with their children or enjoy their hobbies. All of these are painful and compensable losses. Victims have the right to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for these losses. Unfortunately, many victims are deterred from asserting this legal right due to their immigration status.
Injury victims have the right to file personal injury claims, regardless of their immigration status. Texas law also offers protections for plaintiffs without legal immigration status. The experienced Texas personal injury attorneys at PMR Law know how to file claims for all injury victims, regardless of their immigration status.
Undocumented immigrants and personal injury claims
Although Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation outlawing sanctuary cities and granting law enforcement unprecedented powers in tracking down undocumented immigrants, the plaintiff’s immigration status is not only inadmissible at trial, but defendants cannot even ask about it during pre-trial proceedings. This means that a defense attorney cannot inquire about a plaintiff’s immigration status at any stage of a personal injury lawsuit.
Non-citizens can sue a citizen (or corporation) of the United States. While this area of the law is not the same in every state, there are many cases that have upheld a plaintiff’s right to sue for personal injury, regardless of immigration status. In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that an undocumented immigrant had the right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, regardless of immigration status. The plaintiff in the case was Gorgonio Balbuena, a Mexican citizen, and an undocumented immigrant.
While working at a construction site, Balbuena suffered a serious head injury and other physical trauma and could not work as a result. His claim was initially dismissed because he was unable to provide proof that he had legal authorization to work in the United States. Eventually, however, the appeals court realized how unfair that was and clearly stated that his immigration status had no bearing on his right to sue for injuries.
Many other courts in states across the country have also been guided by this decision. In the case of TXI Transp. Co. v. Hughes, 306 S.W.3d 230 (Tex. 2010), the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a person’s immigration status is inadmissible for the purpose of accusing them of not telling the truth in court. (Before this case, a defense attorney could claim that an undocumented immigrant was less likely, to tell the truth in court simply because he or she did not have legal immigration status.) The Court made a powerful statement that this appeal was prone to create racial and ethnic prejudices and that this cannot be tolerated because it undermined the very basis of the judicial process.
Things to consider before deciding to file a personal injury claim
In order to successfully file a personal injury claim, you must prove: (1) that the defendant was legally at fault (“liable”) for causing your injuries, and (2) the value of the losses you suffered (your “damages and damages”).
The person legally at fault for causing an accident has a legal obligation to compensate the victim for all their losses. That is why the victim must prove that the defendant was at fault for causing the accident. The defendant could be a negligent driver. It could be an employer that did not adequately train or supervise employees. It could be a car manufacturer that sold a car with defective brakes. There are many potential defendants in a personal injury claim. An experienced accident attorney can help you identify who has a legal obligation to compensate you for your injuries.
It is essential to understand that more than one party may be responsible for an accident. In a car accident, for example, two drivers could be at fault for not seeing each other. In a workplace accident, an employee can be found partly at fault for not wearing the safety equipment provided by the employer.
If, for example, two drivers were fifty percent at fault for a car accident, one driver could only recover half of their total damages from the other driver. Partial liability can drastically reduce the amount of compensation available to an injury victim. In some cases, it is so low that the victim chooses not to spend the time or money filing a personal injury claim. Consult with an experienced accident attorney about your particular situation.
Recovering damages for your injuries
The amount of your personal injury compensation will be determined by the value of your losses. If your injuries were minor, you may not have to miss work or make a painful recovery. This will result in a small personal injury settlement. For some personal injury victims, a small settlement is not worth the time and hassle of a lawsuit to recover. However, many injuries can quickly amount to thousands of dollars in damages.
These are just a few of the many losses that entitle you to compensation:
1. Medical bills: An injury can require years of medical treatment and rehabilitation. This is expensive. You are entitled to compensation for all medical bills you have incurred as a result of the accident. You are also entitled to compensation for all medical bills that you may incur in the future as a result of the accident. It can be difficult to estimate future medical expenses.
Often times, expert accountants and economists must project these calculations. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to find the right expert witnesses and present their testimony persuasively to the insurance company or jury.
2. Lost wages: Lost wages can also be difficult to calculate. In simple cases, lost wages are found simply by multiplying the employee’s hourly wage by the number of hours he lost due to the accident. (Wages are prorated to a forty-hour workweek). But in many cases, lost wages are much more complex. Employees are also entitled to compensation for bonuses or benefits that they would have received had it not been for the accident. Insurance companies will likely fight these claims and demand proof that you were indeed entitled to the bonus.
Injured employees are also entitled to any future income they lose due to their injuries. This covers the hours they will miss for future medical appointments. It also includes a decrease in their future earning capacity.
If your injuries forced you to work fewer hours or put you in a position that is less physically demanding, you will likely be paid less. A negligent defendant must pay you the difference between your new (lower) income and what you would have earned had it not been for you injuries.
For injury victims who are unable to work permanently, this figure covers all wages that the victim could have earned for the rest of their life. It also includes the value of benefits paid by an employer, such as health insurance or retirement contributions. These numbers add up quickly. That is why it is so important that injury victims are represented by an experienced accident attorney who knows how to fight for the full value of their future lost income.
3. Loss of quality of life: Injuries can have a dramatic impact on a victim’s daily life. Many victims are unable to exercise or participate in sports activities. Some must give up hobbies that meant a lot to them. Some miss important family events, such as weddings or graduation ceremonies. Some must suffer the anguish of not being able to support their children. Insurance companies may ignore these losses completely. Their settlement offers almost never cover the loss of enjoyment of life, yet these are often the most devastating losses a victim must bear.
In recent years, personal injury attorneys have made significant progress in helping juries understand the value of these intangible losses. Jurors recognize the impact injuries have on a victim’s daily life, and their awards reflect this. This has encouraged claims adjusters to factor in the loss of enjoyment of life when making settlement offers. An experienced accident attorney can help the insurance company or jury accurately understand how your injuries have affected your daily life.
4. Scars and disfigurement: Another intangible loss is the physical evidence of an accident. Scars and disfigurement can remain with a victim for the rest of their life. Smaller scars may not affect the victim’s daily activities but are still a compensable loss. A more dramatic disfigurement (such as an amputated arm or leg) can change a victim’s life forever.
An amputation could result in a career change, giving up hobbies, expensive medical care, and many other compensable losses. Whether large or small, disfigurement is a loss caused by the accident, and the defendant has a legal obligation to compensate it.
What happens if you do not file a claim?
The decision to file a personal injury claim is yours. An attorney can provide you with information and advice, but ultimately, the decision is yours. Some undocumented immigrants choose not to get involved with the legal system at all. While this is certainly understandable, it is important to understand the consequences of not filing a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations.
Like all states, Texas has laws that limit the amount of time you have to file a personal injury claim. Lawsuits filed after that point can be immediately dismissed. The insurance company has no incentive to make a settlement offer because they know you cannot sue. If you choose to ignore your complaint now, you may not have the option to change your mind later. After the statute of limitations expires, your claim will be lost.
You will be responsible for all future medical expenses: As discussed, an injury victim is entitled to compensation for all future medical expenses that they may incur. These bills can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. No one, not even your doctors, can predict with certainty what medical care you will need in the future. If you do not file a personal injury claim, you will have to pay for any medical care you may need at any time in the future. This is not fair. Negligent defendants are legally required to compensate injury victims for their medical expenses.
You will not be compensated for your lost wages: Many victims lose at least part of their job as a result of their injuries, and defendants must compensate them for these lost wages. You do not know how much time you will lose from work as a result of an accident. You also don’t know if your injuries will permanently affect your income. As we have discussed, your earning capacity can be drastically reduced as a result of your injuries. This can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income throughout your life. Without a lawsuit, the defendant avoids his legal obligation to pay you for these lost wages.
The unknowns: As you can see, medical bills and lost wages can lead to many unknown costs. There are also many other unknown costs that you may experience as a result of your accident. What if you need physical therapy or chiropractic services after the accident? What if you need assistive devices, such as crutches or a wheelchair? What about property damage to your car or other belongings?
An experienced personal injury attorney will help you explore all of your losses so that you can receive fair compensation. Without the help of an attorney, medical professionals, and financial experts, it is almost impossible to know what losses you have actually suffered.
Workplace injuries and undocumented workers
Injured Workers Have Legal Rights! Texas law clearly states that an injured worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether they are legally authorized to work in the country. This is an important law that prevents employers from taking advantage of undocumented workers.
Texas law also protects undocumented workers from being denied overtime, back wages, or disability payments. Texas law has consistently protected the rights of undocumented workers. While federal policy has recently become hostile toward all immigrants, it is good to know that our state chooses to protect immigrants and migrant workers, regardless of their legal status.
Again, each injury victim must make their own decision about filing a personal injury claim. An immigration attorney can help you answer questions you may have about the effect a lawsuit could have on your immigration status. But don’t be put off by the process. Understand your rights and how Texas law has been consistently applied to protect them. Let a skilled personal injury attorney protect your legal right to be compensated for all the losses you have suffered.
Injury victims suffer many different types of losses, and they have a legal right to receive full compensation for all these losses, regardless of their immigration status. At PMR Law, we fight to secure compensation for all injury victims regardless of their immigration status. Don’t let an employer, insurance company, or defense attorney intimidate you into losing your legal rights.
Unsure about filing a claim due to your immigration status?
Contact our auto accident lawyers at 832-667-7700. Get in touch with us immediately so we can evaluate your case for free. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fill out a form by clicking here.
PMR Law is considered one of the Best Law Firms of America, by Rue Ratings. Several of our attorneys have been given the honor of being named Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters. The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys has named our attorneys 10 Best in Client Satisfaction. Speaking of personal injury, Attorney and Practice Magazine awarded our attorneys with Top 10 Personal Injury Attorney distinctions. The National Trial Lawyers have named three of our attorneys as Top 100 attorneys. The Academy of Attorneys has named two of our attorneys as Top 40 Under 40. Our attorneys have been recognized as Best Attorneys of America, by Rue Ratings. PMR Law is a proud member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocate Forum.