What Happens If an Undocumented Immigrant Hits Your Car?

what happens if an illegal immigrant hits your car

Being involved in a car accident is always stressful. But when the other driver is an undocumented immigrant, it can lead to even more confusion about your options for recovering compensation.

What are your rights? Can you still file a claim? Will their immigration status affect the legal process?

The fact is that immigration status does not negate a person’s legal rights and responsibilities on the road. Whether you’re a U.S. citizen or undocumented, the same rules apply after an accident.

Steps to Take Immediately After the Accident

In those first few moments, your priority is ensuring everyone’s safety and properly documenting the incident. Call emergency services right away if anyone is injured or if the vehicles sustained significant damage.

Then, regardless of the other driver’s immigration status, you’ll want to exchange basic insurance information just as you would in any other accident scenario. Get their:

  • Full name
  • Name of their insurance provider
  • Insurance policy number
  • Contact details (phone number, address, email, etc.)

However, it’s crucial to understand that you cannot directly ask about their immigration status. Doing so could potentially open up legal issues for you down the line.

If they’re unwilling to provide details or attempt to flee the scene, do your best to record any identifying information, like their license plate number. Photos and videos of the accident scene can serve as valuable evidence when pursuing a car accident claim.

What If the Other Driver Leaves the Scene?

If the other driver takes off without exchanging information, you’re dealing with a hit-and-run accident. While more complicated, a hit-and-run is not an impossible situation – especially if you were able to get their license plate number or a clear description of their vehicle.

Your options for pursuing compensation may also depend on the insurance coverages you have in place, which we’ll explore in an upcoming section. The key is ensuring you file an official police report with all the details you were able to document.

The Role of Insurance Companies in Accidents Involving Undocumented Immigrants

In the eyes of insurance companies, it makes no difference whether you or the other driver are undocumented immigrants or U.S. citizens. The procedures for filing a claim, reporting the accident, and negotiating a settlement are exactly the same.

And just to be crystal clear – insurance companies are legally prohibited from even asking about immigration status when handling these cases. Their sole focus must be on the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident itself.

Dealing With Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

What if the other driver is uninsured or carries minimal coverage that doesn’t fully compensate for the damages? This is where your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage potentially comes into play.

If you opted for UM/UIM as part of your policy, you may be able to file a claim directly with your own car insurance provider to recoup costs for repairs, medical bills, or other losses. The process works just as it would in any other UM/UIM claim, regardless of the other driver’s immigration status.

When to Consider Filing a Personal Injury Claim

In many cases, the insurance companies will compensate for most damages after a car accident. But what if you or your passengers suffered injuries? What if the insurance coverage limits aren’t adequate?

This is when working with an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you recover the full compensation you deserve.

Potential Damages in a Personal Injury Case

By filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you may be able to pursue compensation for economic and non-economic damages such as:

  • Property Damage: This covers the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle, as well as any rental car expenses incurred while your vehicle was being repaired.
  • Medical Expenses: You may be able to recover the cost of medical treatment, including emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, and ongoing therapy or medical equipment.
  • Lost Wages and Future Earning Capacity: If your injuries prevent you from working, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages and any potential impact on your future earning capacity.
  • Pain and Suffering: Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may also be able to seek compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured as a result of the accident.

At Held, Held & Held, our experienced personal injury attorneys will ensure that you receive the full compensation you deserve, whether we’re dealing with insurance companies or pursuing legal action against the responsible parties.

Advantages of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

While you have the right to negotiate with insurance companies yourself, having an attorney advocate on your behalf offers several key advantages:

  • In-Depth Legal Knowledge: Personal injury law is highly complex, with many nuances surrounding negligence, liability, and damage valuations. An experienced lawyer will ensure no avenues for compensation are missed.
  • Proven Negotiation Skills: Insurers are notorious for making low-ball settlement offers, hoping you’ll accept out of desperation. Your attorney will forcefully negotiate for the full amount you deserve.
  • Protecting Your Rights: If the other party attempts to improperly bring your immigration status into the proceedings, your lawyer will shut that down based on established legal precedents.

At Held, Held & Held, we have extensive experience representing clients in car accident cases involving undocumented immigrants. We understand New York’s personal injury laws inside and out and can advise you on the strongest path forward for your specific situation.

Addressing Concerns About Deportation for Undocumented Immigrants

For those without legal residency, one of the biggest concerns is whether pursuing an accident claim could lead to potential deportation. Let us put those fears to rest.

Law enforcement is prohibited from inquiring about immigration status when responding to calls involving undocumented immigrants as victims or witnesses of a crime. Their sole focus is on investigating and resolving the incident itself.

The same principle extends to the legal proceedings surrounding a car accident case. Immigration status is irrelevant to establishing fault or negotiating a fair settlement. The courts will not share any information that could be used for deportation purposes.

Held, Held & Held has successfully represented many clients who were initially hesitant due to their immigration status. Ultimately, they felt empowered to fight for the compensation they deserved and without fear of deportation.

Key Takeaways on Accidents Involving Undocumented Immigrants

Let’s recap the key points every driver needs to understand, regardless of their immigration status:

  • All parties involved have the same legal rights and responsibilities under New York law after a car accident
  • Follow standard procedures – exchange information, file police reports, and seek medical attention
  • Immigration status cannot be used to deny insurance claims or devalue your case
  • Work with an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your interests
  • Do not let fear or misinformation prevent you from pursuing proper legal recourse

At the end of the day, the most important factor is ensuring your rights and well-being are fully protected after any accident. Immigration status should not be a barrier.

Injured In a Car Accident With an Undocumented Immigrant?

At Held, Held & Held, our personal injury attorneys are here to advocate for your rights and ensure that justice is served, regardless of anyone’s immigration status.

Don’t let fear or misconceptions prevent you from pursuing the justice you deserve. Schedule a consultation and case review today. Remember, you have legal rights, and we’re here to protect them.

Author Bio

Edward Held is the founding member of Held, Held & Held, a family-owned multi-practice law firm in Brooklyn, NY. With more than 40 years of experience, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including personal injury, real estate, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and estate law.

Edward received his Juris Doctor from New York Law School and is a former President of the New York Law School Alumni Association Board of Directors. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has been admitted into the Supreme Court of the United States and the New York State Courts.

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