An undocumented immigrant who obtains work through backdoor means or using false documents may get injured at work. If that happens, does the employee qualify for workers' compensation benefits, just like any other U.S. citizen or an immigrant with the proper papers?
Similarly, can an undocumented immigrant who is injured by the negligence of another person or business, perhaps by slipping and falling as a customer on the other party's premises, file a personal injury lawsuit? In general, can those who live here without the proper authorization file lawsuits?
If you're an undocumented immigrant or a lawful permanent resident with a Green Card and you run into difficulties with a workers' compensation claim in or around Naperville, Illinois, contact our workers' compensation and personal injury attorneys at Marker & Crannell.
We will meet with you to assess the situation, advise you of your rights and best options going forward, and help you resolve the situation. We can also help if you need to file a personal injury lawsuit for something that occurred outside of work.
Marker & Crannell proudly serves clients in Naperville, and neighboring areas of Bollingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Lisle, Wheaton, and Woodridge, Illinois.
The Right to Sue for Non-Citizens
If you've been injured in any type of accident while in the U.S. as a non-citizen, without papers, you can sue for damages resulting from the accident. In Illinois, your immigration status does not affect your right to recover for injuries you suffered as a result of someone else's negligence. In fact, a study by the University of Illinois found that courts in the state routinely ignore the immigration status of workers when they sue for compensation for their injuries.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also guarantees the rights of anyone residing in the U.S. to seek redress for any harm done to them, which includes injuries due to the negligence of others.
Can You Be Deported for Filing a Lawsuit?
This brings up the question of whether you can be deported for filing a lawsuit. The answer is historically no. In fact, Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) has never deported an immigrant whose only act was to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
The INS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not allowed to deport an immigrant if the only reason is that they filed an injury claim or lawsuit.
As an immigrant, the damages (compensation) you can recover from a personal injury lawsuit are the same as for a citizen or Green Card holder, which includes:
Reimbursement for medical expenses and treatment.
Wages lost from being unable to work.
Compensation for pain and suffering.
Emotional trauma as a result of the accident.
Workers' Compensation and Immigration Status
The Illinois Appellate Court in 2008 reviewed a case of a non-citizen woman who was injured at work and ended up partially disabled but was denied workers' compensation coverage. The court ruled that:
“Based on the foregoing analysis, we find that the IRCA [Immigration Reform and Control Act] does not preempt, either expressly or implicitly, an award of PTD (partial total disability) benefits to an undocumented alien. In so concluding, we note that courts in other jurisdictions have almost uniformly held that the IRCA does not preclude undocumented aliens from receiving workers' compensation benefits.”
IRCA had been cited as the reason for the denial since the woman had presented false documents to obtain employment, a violation of the law. The court rejected this reasoning, making workers' compensation claims available even to workers who are technically unauthorized to hold their jobs.
So, the answer to whether a non-citizen can receive workers' compensation benefits is yes, but that doesn't mean that the employer or insurer will not try to cite other reasons to reject the claim. If that happens, you need to contact us at Marker & Crannell immediately. We can help you file an appeal or take other necessary legal action.
Personal Injury Claims, Immigration Status, and Possible Deportation
As discussed earlier, the INS, USCIS, and ICE are not allowed to deport someone just because they file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Your workers' compensation claim does not become part of the public record as a lawsuit would, so the relevant immigration agencies will probably never know of your claim or lawsuit unless they do a lot of digging – or someone alerts them. Historically, no one has ever been deported solely for the act of filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Other factors would have to trigger the removal process.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
If you're facing any problem with workers' compensation claims, or you've been injured outside of the work environment, as a non-citizen you should enlist the help of experienced personal injury/workers' compensation attorneys.
As soon as the injury occurs, contact us at Marker & Crannell, and we will assess the options and help you navigate the system to obtain the just compensation due you. Our team proudly serves clients in Naperville, Bollingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Lisle, Wheaton, and Woodridge, Illinois.