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Can an undocumented immigrant file a personal injury claim?

Personal injury claims allow injured people to receive compensation for someone else’s negligence. Understandably, many undocumented immigrants in the United States do not file personal injury claims out of fear that they will face deportation. However, California law allows undocumented immigrants to file personal injury lawsuits and receive compensation despite their immigration status.

In the past, California relied on the case of Rodriguez v. Kline in determining personal injury lawsuits involving undocumented immigrants. While the case allowed undocumented immigrants to bring personal injury lawsuits to court, it generally prevented them from receiving large monetary awards. However, this case was recently overruled. 

Rodriguez v. Kline required courts to determine compensation for lost earnings based on the income the person would have received in their home country. For example, while an undocumented Mexican immigrant could have brought a personal injury claim and received compensation, the court would have calculated past and future earnings based on what the person would have earned in Mexico.

In 2017, California overruled Rodriguez v. Kline. The governor of California signed AB 2159 into law, which states the following:

  • In a civil action for personal injury or wrongful death, evidence of a person’s immigration status shall not be admitted into evidence, nor shall discovery into a person’s immigration status be permitted.

This means that a person’s immigration status in California has no effect on a personal injury award. Undocumented immigrants who bring person injury claims in California can receive United States wages for past and future earnings, as well as medical expenses.

According to the Pew Research center, there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Around 2.5 million of the undocumented immigrants live in California, which makes up over 5 percent of the total population in the state. If you are an undocumented immigrant in California who wants to file a personal injury claim, you no longer have to be afraid.

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