According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, in 2012, an estimated 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States illegally, up from 11.3 million in 2009. The report estimates that approximately 1.75 million of these unauthorized immigrants live in Texas, accounting for 15% of the unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Moreover, Pew stated that among the six states with the largest numbers of immigrants here illegally, only Texas had a consistent increase in illegal immigration from 2007 to 2011, due in part to its stronger economy. Since many of these immigrants are employed in high-risk occupations, they are at an increased risk to become involved in industrial accidents resulting in personal injury.
Notably, in the U.S., the court system is available to all, and undocumented immigrants have the right to sue those who injure them as a result of negligence. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees due process and equal protection of the law to both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. In fact, the term “person” under the 14th Amendment includes U.S. citizens, lawfully admitted residents, and undocumented immigrants. In addition, the Civil Rights Act ensures that all persons within the borders of the U.S. are guaranteed the right to bring lawsuits against those that cause them injury without regard to whether they are in the country legally or not. This means that a person’s immigration status should not preclude his or her right to file a lawsuit in a U.S. or Texas court to recover damages for personal injuries.
Types of Damages Available to Undocumented Immigrants
In a personal injury case the following types of damages may be available: compensation for medical expenses, lost wages or income, and mental pain and suffering. In some jurisdictions, courts have found that allowing the award of back pay and lost wages to undocumented immigrants in personal injury cases circumvents the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“ICRA”). However, courts in Texas have repeatedly reaffirmed the proposition that Texas law does not require citizenship or the possession of immigration work authorization permits as a prerequisite to recovering damages for lost earning capacity.