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Undocumented Immigrants & Personal Injury Claims

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.

Lost Wages

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 immigrants include:

  • 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.

Impeaching Witnesses

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 character.

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.

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