Millions of individuals, about 7% of people, in the US are non-US citizens. That doesn’t account for the additional 100-plus million tourists visiting the US annually. In addition, many international visitors and non-residents rent cars while they visit the US. That means millions of non-citizens are on the roadways every day.
What’s more, even if a person is awaiting citizenship, the US is known for having a long wait time between immigration and citizenship. Additionally, resident aliens, green card holders, and permanent residents (non-citizens) are required to pay taxes but don’t have all the same rights as citizens. For example, to secure employment, they must commute to and from work on a daily basis.
So what happens when a non-citizen gets into an accident? According to the US Constitution, non-citizens have legal rights, including seeking due process. That includes legally admitted residents who don’t have citizenship and undocumented immigrants. This means that if you are here illegally, you can bring an injury claim.
You can pursue a personal injury claim if you are a non-citizen injured in a car accident caused by another person’s negligence. Meaning you are entitled to seek damage compensation from the other party.
You Dont Need Citizenship to File a Car Accident Claim
Discrimination is illegal in the US. State laws do not allow for discrimination against non-citizens who seek to recover damages after an accident.
Citizenship is not required for anyone wishing to file a personal injury claim. However, whether or not you have citizenship, you have the right to seek compensation for accident injuries.
Due to personal jurisdiction, as long as the accident occurred in Colorado, you can bring a personal injury claim to the state. Your country of origin is irrelevant if the accident which caused your injuries occurred in Colorado. As long as the court can satisfy the personal jurisdiction of the liable party, they can proceed with your case.
Personal Jurisdiction And Due Process
Personal jurisdiction is a court’s power to make a ruling or decision about a case. It’s the jurisdiction, or authority, over the defendant. This legal concept would be relevant if you get into an accident caused by a non-citizen. How can a court establish personal jurisdiction?
- Consent – if the other party was driving on the roads of Colorado, that is adequate grounds for consent to personal jurisdiction.
- Minimum contacts – this is the non-citizen’s connection with the forum state (or state where the action is brought, in this case, Colorado). Minimum contacts include conducting business in the state and visiting the state.
- Domicile or place of business – if the non-citizen defendant owns a business in Colorado, the court can establish personal jurisdiction.
- And presence – this jurisdiction is valid as long as the defendant is present in the state when they are served a copy of the complaint.
Liabilities of a Non-citizen Driver
Non-citizens who live or visit often rent cars from rental agencies. However, they are often surprised that rental cars are not insured.
That means tourists (and anyone renting a car, for that matter) need to purchase personal insurance or travel insurance. In addition, rental agencies often offer an option to purchase credit-card-backed insurance or deposit to cover damages to rental vehicles.
Vehicle renters also have the option to purchase damage waivers such as collision or loss damage waivers. This purchase will reduce their liabilities in the event of a collision. While a collision waiver is not technically considered insurance, it does protect both parties if an accident occurs. The insurance essentially promises to waive repair costs for damage or theft.
While damage waivers are helpful for some scenarios, they can also be waived if the renter is found to have been driving recklessly. However, if you were driving recklessly, you are still responsible for paying damages even if you purchased a collision damage waiver. Damages can be as much as the full value of the rental car.
In addition to damage waives, vehicle renters can purchase additional coverage like personal accident coverage and personal effects. Rental agencies usually try to keep liabilities as low as possible for themselves. As such, these types of insurance are often included in the cost of renting the car. For example, purchasing personal accident coverage would cover the renter for an accident that was not their fault and the victims’ liabilities if they were at fault.
Accidents With Non-citizens Without Insurance Coverage
While millions of people visit the US each year, not all of them drive. In fact, most non-citizen drivers in the US have green cards or resident alien status. That means they probably drive for work and personal reasons every day.
While non-citizen drivers have the same driving responsibilities as citizens, it is more complicated. Non-citizens in the US who have a license must apply for an “international driving permit.” This is usually something they must do in their origin country before they plan to drive in the US.
Non-citizens who plan to stay in the country for over one month must also purchase car insurance. They must purchase a policy that includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Third parties can seek compensation through their insurance after an accident.
Non-citizens should purchase uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Non-citizens are free to purchase insurance like any other driver. This will help reduce liability after an accident.
If you get into an accident caused by a non-citizen with no insurance, you will need to seek compensation from your UM/UIM. While we would like to assume that any person who gets behind the wheel has purchased adequate insurance coverage, that’s not always the case. Uninsured motorist coverage will ensure that all your expenses are covered after an accident, regardless of who is at fault or their citizenship status. It can be the difference between getting paid for the accident or ending up in financial turmoil if the other driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage.
You Cannot Be Detained or Deported for Bringing a Denver Personal Injury Claim
Our legal team has handled numerous claims representing clients who are here illegally. Law enforcement cannot just come and deport you for filing an injury claim. However, they might have grounds to deport or detain you if you committed a crime. Being here illegally is not a crime.
Moreover, if you are here with a green card and hoping for citizenship in the future, an injury claim will not affect your eligibility. It’s not a factor that the government considers when considering citizenship allowance. The bottom line is that even if you are here illegally, there is no risk in bringing a personal injury claim.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim as an Illegal Immigrant in Colorado?
Yes, even if you are undocumented or here illegally, you can still file a personal injury claim. Additionally, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries, including medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering. However, if you are working under the table somewhere, you may face challenges when trying to prove your lost wages.
Will the Defense Attorney Find Out That I’m in the US Without Authorization?
The reality is that if the other party has strong defense counsel, they will probe your citizenship or immigration status. It may be part of their defense strategy to use your illegal status or non-citizenship against you.
The good news is that there are ways around having to answer those questions in court, and your attorney will prepare you for every potential interrogation. That said, you should be explicit and upfront about all the facts with your attorney. It will help your attorney better prepare your case if they know the full extent of your situation.
Can I Still Claim for Lost Wages or Future Lost Income as an Illegal Immigrant?
Your attorney will be able to give you a tailored answer depending on your circumstances. However, regardless of your immigration status, you can claim damage recovery through a personal injury claim like anyone else in Colorado. And colorado courts have previously dismissed arguments that undocumented workers cannot seek recovery for lost wages.
However, a few challenges may arise when seeking lost income reimbursement. For example, if your case ends up going to trial, a jury might grant you damages based on the earning potential for a job in your home country. That might be substantially less than what you make here in the US. But, if you work here as an illegal immigrant, your employer might hesitate or refuse to provide proof of your employment. The good news is that a lawyer will help you sort this out.
Can I Seek Compensation for Future Medical Bills as an Illegal Immigrant in Colorado?
Yes. You can file a personal injury claim and win your case, regardless of your immigration or citizenship status. That means you can recover medical expenses if someone else’s careless actions injured you.
I’m an Illegal Immigrant With a Colorado Personal Injury Claim. What Should I Do Next?
You should not feel intimidated or discouraged from pursuing an injury claim because you’re an illegal immigrant. You still have rights under Colorado’s law, and an attorney can defend them on your behalf.
Get Help from An Experienced Denver Personal Injury Lawyer
We can help you navigate your personal injury claim regardless of your citizenship status. Our legal team has handled thousands of cases similar to yours and has the resources to build a winning strategy for you.
No accident victim should have to worry about being able to afford legal representation. As such, you won’t pay us until we reach a favorable outcome.
Call us today for your free initial case review.