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What Should Undocumented Immigrants Do If They’ve Been in a Car Accident?

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If you are an undocumented immigrant, then being in a car accident can be a scary situation. Not knowing what to do can make it hard to take action, especially if you don’t know about your immigrant injury rights. 

It is important to remember that undocumented immigrants have rights under the U.S. legal system and you should contact legal representation to help protect your rights. Read on to learn more about what you should do after a car accident if you are an undocumented immigrant.

Immediate Steps Undocumented Immigrants Should Take Following a Car Accident

It is important to act immediately when you are in a car accident. The next steps that you take can largely determine the outcome of your case. Follow these steps right after an accident to improve your chances of a better outcome: 

Ensure Safety

Start by ensuring the safety of everyone involved. Make sure that you and your passengers are safe, then check on the other party. Take action accordingly to ensure that everyone stays safe, including moving to a safer area nearby if your car accident took place on a highway or other high-traffic area, and staying with the vehicle would pose further danger to you.

Exchange Information

Exchange information with the other party, regardless of who you think is responsible for the accident. This is how you will be able to identify their insurance agency and help the insurance agent file claims effectively. For undocumented immigrants injured by government vehicles, it is a good idea to get the contact information of the agency responsible for the vehicle.

In some states, the exchange of information is mandatory. Failing to do so could lead to other legal issues. It can also affect your personal injury claims later in the process. 

Document the Scene

Next, you want to document the accident scene as best as you can. Take pictures of the area and the accident. That way, you have evidence of the situation aside from the police report. Your lawyer can also use the pictures later when negotiating with insurance or filing claims. 

Contact Law Enforcement

If you have not already done so, contact law enforcement. The police will come and assess the situation to make sure that everyone is okay. They also document the situation in a report that your lawyer and insurance company will use later. 

Seek Medical Attention

After the police are done at the scene, seek medical attention for yourself and your party. Do this even if you don’t feel like you need it. There are injuries that can take hours or days to develop after an accident, and a medical exam may reveal injuries that you didn’t even know you had. 

This is also important for creating medical records for your personal injury claims. The medical reports created by first responders, doctors, and specialists that you see can be used in court to prove damages. 

Do Not Admit Fault

While you are doing all of this, it is important that you do not admit fault. Do not indicate that you caused the accident in any way to anyone as much as you possibly can. 

A lawyer can use your statements against you in court, so avoid saying anything that puts you at fault for the accident. In fact, it may be best not to discuss the accident with anyone at the scene unless you are talking to a police officer to give your statement. 

When you talk to the police, keep your statement short and to the point, giving factual information about the accident from your point of view. Avoid placing blame or discussing who you think is responsible for the accident. 

Consult a Car Accident Lawyer

When all of this is done, contact a car accident law firm to discuss your case. Personal injury attorneys work with accident victims regardless of their immigration status. Having the right lawyer on your side can change the outcome of your case in several ways. 

From negotiating with your own insurance company to filing claims in court, having a lawyer on your side makes the legal process easier to navigate. If your loved one died in a car accident, you can also file a wrongful death claim as an undocumented immigrant. 

Accidents involving undocumented immigrants can be complex from a legal perspective since there are other considerations in the case related to being an undocumented driver. Laws surrounding immigration services, for example, can complicate what would be an otherwise straightforward process.  

Many undocumented immigrants are hesitant to involve law enforcement in any part of their lives because there is a real fear that they will be deported for filing a personal injury lawsuit. They may also be unsure of the effect of their immigration status on car accident claims.

However, you do have rights under the law regardless of your immigrant status. You are entitled to fair compensation for injuries and damages. 

Filing personal injury claims is just one of the rights that you have. You can file a personal injury claim and pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages. There is nothing prohibiting you from doing so. It just might be a bit more difficult in certain ways, which is why contacting a personal injury attorney may be in your best interest. 

You also have the right to fair compensation. Insurance companies have been known to offer low settlements or deny claims in car accidents involving undocumented immigrants. Working with personal injury attorneys can help you with this since they can negotiate with insurance companies and fight for fair compensation. 

Compensation You’re Legally Entitled To

Under the law, you’re entitled to collect compensation for any personal injury claim, the same as anyone else. That means that if you can prove damages, you can seek compensation in line with the cost of those damages. 

For example, medical bills are among the most common damages when people file personal injury claims. You can recover the entire cost of a medical bill if you win your case. In other instances, you may be able to collect compensation for damages, such as emotional distress, that don’t have a specific cost associated with them.

Each state has different limitations on how much you can collect in compensation for different types of damages. States like Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, and several others have caps on how much a claim or category of claims can be awarded. 

Illinois does not limit an undocumented person’s ability to recover damages in personal injury cases. This means that you can seek financial compensation for the full amount of your losses.

Finding the Right Lawyer

An undocumented immigrant car accident is handled by a personal injury lawyer. However, you may want to look for one with experience representing undocumented immigrants. The specific circumstances of your case can lead to issues related to your immigration status, and a lawyer with the right experience can mitigate these issues as much as possible. 

At-Fault vs No-Fault States

One particular issue that may appear in your car accident case is the difference between at-fault and no-fault states. Each state determines if it is an at-fault or no-fault state, which can change the outcome of your case. 

In no-fault states, each party in a car accident is responsible for their damages. There is no one at fault for the accident and each party files claims with their car insurance provider. In at-fault states like Illinois, you can file a claim with your insurance and they seek reimbursement from the driver that caused the accident. 

Alternatively, you can hire a car accident attorney and file a claim directly against the at-fault driver if your insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of your damages. 

The Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

Whatever the circumstances of your accident and legal status, it is in your best interest to take legal action as soon as possible. There is a time limit on how long you have to file your case or you lose the ability to do so entirely. 

This is called the statute of limitations, and it varies from state to state. For example, Louisiana has the shortest statute of limitations at one year from the date of the accident, while Maine has the longest at six years. 

Since these time limits can significantly impact your case, it’s crucial for undocumented immigrants to contact a car accident attorney to discuss the specifics for their state as soon as possible.

The Bottom Line

Undocumented immigrants are in a difficult position when it comes to car accidents. There are risks and fears in play that other people don’t have to worry about. However, that does not mean that you don’t have options. You can take legal action despite being an undocumented immigrant if you have the right legal team on your side.

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