In Maryland, undocumented immigrants, like anyone else, are permitted to file
personal injury lawsuits. But defendants may discover that they are in the country in illegally,
and their immigration status may have an effect on the amount of damages
that they can recover.
Relevance and Prejudice
Evidence of a personal injury plaintiff’s status as
undocumented immigrant is admissible in court, as long as it is relevant to the case and is not
unduly prejudicial. Such evidence may be relevant in damage calculations,
especially when determining the amount of the plaintiff’s lost future
wages and earning potential.
But even relevant evidence may be excluded if it is
unduly prejudicial, meaning that its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger
of unfair prejudice. Evidence is prejudicial if introducing it will make
the jury favor one side unfairly, for reasons not related to the merits
of the claim. For example, an immigrant’s status as an illegal alien
may be especially prejudicial to jurors in a town that has had a recent
spate of violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants. But the mere
fact of an immigrant’s undocumented status will not necessarily
be unduly prejudicial.
A personal injury plaintiff’s immigration status is especially relevant
when calculating lost future wages or loss of earning potential. Undocumented
immigrants may recover compensation for these types of harm, but they
may be reduced based on the plaintiff’s undocumented status.
Often, immigrants come to the United States to earn higher wages than they
would be able to make in their native countries. But the legal ability
to work and their status as undocumented immigrants affect the ability
to earn money.
Because of this, courts will generally limit undocumented immigrants’
recovery for lost future wages recovery to the amounts that they would
have been able to make in the countries from which they came. These amounts
can be vastly different, and it may be difficult to find evidence documenting
how much the immigrants would have been able to make in their home countries.
Factors that courts consider when calculating damages for undocumented
- Whether there is an imminent risk of deportation;
- How long the plaintiff has lived in the United States;
- The plaintiff’s work history in the United States;
- Whether the plaintiff has a family in the United States; and
- The relevant pay rates in the United States and in the home country.
Immigration status cannot be used to
impeach a witness in Maryland. This means that immigration status may not be used as evidence
to show that the witness is generally dishonest, and thus that his or
her other testimony should possibly be disbelieved. This is because a
person’s immigration status alone does not reflect on his or her
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
If you have been injured and believe that it is someone else’s fault,
an experienced personal injury attorney can help you make sure you are
compensated for your injuries. Please
contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro for a free initial consultation.