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The Effect of Immigration Status on Car Accident Claims

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Jonathan Rosenfeld

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The U.S. legal system clearly states that certain privileges citizens have access to do not apply to undocumented immigrants and people who have yet to complete the immigration process. However, immigration status does not play a role in what happens after a car accident with a negligent driver. 

Everyone has access to certain legal rights in the United States, regardless of their immigration status. Non-citizens have the right to seek compensation for their injuries in a court of law. 

If you are an undocumented immigrant who has been in an accident, you may be able to take legal action to hold the other party liable. Read on to learn more from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers about the effect of immigration status on car accident compensation.  

How Immigration Status Affects Insurance Claims

Immigration status does not affect your ability to take legal action against a person or company that causes your injuries. It also does not stop you from filing insurance claims if you are the victim of an accident. Immigration status and car insurance claims are entirely separate under the law, so one does not affect the other. 

This makes sense when you consider that anyone around the world can file a legal claim in the United States. The system is not only available for American citizens, ensuring that people cannot act irresponsibly without recourse. 

While filing personal injury claims is possible, filing an insurance claim can be difficult because of restrictions imposed by insurance companies. 

Depending on the specific insurance policy in place, it can be difficult for an undocumented immigrant to pursue an auto insurance claim for compensation after an injury. Opting to file a personal injury claim against the other person involved might be the only way to seek fair compensation after a car accident. 

Insurance Access and Coverage

In many states, you have to have insurance coverage to drive a car legally. However, undocumented immigrants may not be able to find coverage because they lack the documentation needed for insurance companies to approve them. 

One of the most basic pieces of documentation anyone needs to get car insurance is a driver’s license. If you are undocumented, it is impossible to get a valid license, which makes it more difficult to get insurance. 

Fault and No-Fault States

Personal injury law involving car insurance becomes more complicated based on which state you are in. In an at-fault state, the driver responsible for the accident covers both drivers through their insurance. In a no-fault state, your own insurance pays your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages, regardless of fault.

An undocumented driver who is found to be at fault can face a personal injury lawsuit if they don’t have car insurance. 

If the other driver is documented but at fault, getting an insurance company to pay out compensation to an undocumented driver can be more difficult. Some insurance companies may reduce or refuse to pay a claim outright for undocumented immigrants. 

Throughout the injury claim process, it is important not to falsify information, such as making up a social security number, to fill out a form for insurance companies. This can make the situation much worse and could be grounds for immigration authorities to get involved, as it is considered fraud.

Challenges Undocumented Drivers Face After an Accident

Getting into a car accident always comes with potential problems beyond the usual car repair and medical bill costs. For undocumented drivers, there is much more to worry about, whether you plan to file an insurance or personal injury claim through the court. Here are a few potential challenges that undocumented drivers face after a car accident:  

Fear of Deportation

Being undocumented often means that undocumented immigrants have a fear of deportation that a U.S. citizen doesn’t have when trying to seek justice. Immigration law allows for undocumented immigrants to be detained and deported if they are found and identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

This is especially true if they end up in a legal situation, which is why many people who are undocumented go to extreme lengths to avoid problems or the police. It is common to fear deportation risks associated with filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Insurance Denials or Low Settlements

Unfortunately, discrimination from insurance companies can also cause issues. Some insurance companies may offer very low settlements or outright deny claims from undocumented immigrants.

Insurance companies may find that because of their legal status, these victims don’t have the means to fight back without creating a situation where they may be found and deported by immigration services. Without an experienced attorney, people have limited options that they can choose. 

Limited Access to Compensation

Another potential issue is actually having the insurance company pay out. Having the insurance company pay a claim to someone who does not have access to a bank account may not be possible. It may also limit their ability to gather evidence that they can turn over to prove damages in a lawsuit. 

The U.S. government has taken steps to offer some legal protection for undocumented immigrants. While every state around the country varies, the government has made it easier for undocumented immigrants to take legal action if injured by a government vehicle. 

In some cases, a victim can pursue a claim for compensation with their attorney through other avenues, without filing personal injury claims through the court system.

State Laws Protecting Undocumented Drivers

While immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government, every state has the option to take part in enforcing those regulations. Each state decides if or how it will enforce government regulations and make laws of its own. Every state has different rules on how it interacts with undocumented drivers.  

One notable change in the law concerns driver’s licenses. 

Many states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, offer drivers’ licenses to undocumented drivers [1]. This can also make it easier to get insurance. 

Some states, like Virginia, offer an alternative to a traditional license called a driver’s privileges card [2]. Alternatively, states like Florida are doing the opposite where licenses issued to undocumented immigrants are not valid and they cannot get one in Florida [3].

For any undocumented driver involved in an accident, obtaining the services of a skilled car accident attorney is an important step in protecting their rights. Just because they do not have United States citizenship does not mean that they do not have access to legal resources. 

The key is finding the right attorney for the situation who can guide you through the key steps for undocumented immigrants to follow after a car accident. A compassionate car accident attorney can advocate to protect undocumented driver’s rights and make sure that they are treated fairly.  

Filing Claims

One of the first things that needs to be done after a car accident is to report the incident to the insurance company of the negligent party. Don’t hesitate to start this process as it can impact the rest of the case. 

Accidents should be reported promptly so that they can be investigated and you don’t risk creating a problem with the insurance provider over it. Then, you can get legal assistance from an experienced lawyer.

The Bottom Line

Remember that a person’s immigration status does not affect their legal right to file a personal injury claim or insurance claim, or when filing a wrongful death lawsuit as an undocumented immigrant. Being injured by someone else’s negligence entitles you to take legal action to protect yourself, even if you are an undocumented immigrant.

Resources: [1] NCSL, [2] Virginia DMV, [3] United We Dream

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



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