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Naturalized Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, Non-Immigrants, Undocumented Immigrants, and Foreign Citizens Can File Personal Injury Lawsuits in New York

February 11, 2022
Undocumented Immigrants, and Foreign Citizens Can File Personal Injury Lawsuits in New York

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Built on the strength and culture of immigrants, New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. As such, it is home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers who provide much-needed services throughout the city.

Unfortunately, when injured, they often are afraid to come forward to seek medical treatment, much less to file a claim for damages against a negligent or reckless person. But state and federal laws actually support an accident victim’s right to file a claim, whether or not they are here legally.

A personal injury lawsuit seeks to hold another person, company, or entity responsible for your injury. The area of law governing personal injury claims is known as tort law. Plaintiffs are the injured parties and their loved ones. A plaintiff seeking tort damages for an injury caused by someone else's negligence can bring a claim for lost earnings, medical bills, and pain and suffering damages. 

Personal injury claims are typically based on the allegation that the other person was negligent. To be negligent means a person failed to uphold their duty to act as a reasonable and prudent person. Their failure to act carefully then caused an accident, which resulted in another person getting hurt.

But what if the plaintiff is not a United States Citizen? Can he or she still file a personal injury lawsuit? The answer is: Yes. In the United States, there are four immigration statuses, often known as citizens, residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants. All of these individuals are eligible to bring a personal injury lawsuit in New York State. 

By way of brief background, a citizen is someone who pledges allegiance to the United States and who is given certain inalienable rights as granted by the United States Constitution. The first type of citizen is someone who was born in the United States and by their birthright, they are deemed to be an American citizen. The second type of citizen is someone who becomes a citizen through the naturalization process.

A resident, also known as a lawful permanent resident, is someone who has been granted the right to indefinitely live within the United States. Lawful permanent residents are also referred to as “Green Card Holders” because they are granted a green card to prove their lawful status in the United States.

Non-immigrants are individuals who have a nationality other than American and who have been granted temporary permission to be in the United States for a specific purpose.

While there are about 185 different types of U.S. visas, there are two main categories: Nonimmigrant visa, for temporary stays such as for tourism, business, family visits, study, work or transit; and Immigrant visa: for permanent residence in the United States. Some of the most popular types of visas are: B-1, J, A, H-1B, O, L F, M, E, P, H-2B, B-2, IR1, K-3, K-1, E1, E2, S, E3, and SB. 

The term ‘undocumented immigrant’ refers to anyone residing in any given country without legal documentation. It includes people who entered the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the government, and those who entered with a legal visa that is no longer valid.

Since filing a personal injury claim means dealing with large and powerful insurance companies, most immigrants worry that they will be deported if they speak up about their injuries. Some choose to avoid filing a claim altogether and simply deal with their medical expenses on their own. In addition, many believe that they cannot file a claim because they are not legal citizens.

However, this is false. 

Just as state and federal laws regarding crimes apply to everyone in the United States, so too do civil laws. In fact, the United States Constitution actually protects an immigrant’s right to file a personal injury claim. This is contained in the 14th Amendment, which allows illegal and legal immigrants to share the same rights as United States citizens, as the state or federal government cannot deny “…any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” including the right to file a claim. 

In addition, this right has been upheld in several cases in New York City. One of the most important recent cases occurred in 2006. In the case of Gorgonio Balbuena v. IDR Realty LLC, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 does not limit a plaintiff’s right to file a claim based on their status as a citizen.

If you are seeking a lawyer for medical malpractice, personal injury, civil rights, or employment issues, contact the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm today. We dedicate ourselves to each person’s case with creativity and persistence to achieve justice for clients faced with emotional, physical, and mental harm. 

We believe that your story deserves to be heard, and fought for. With offices in Manhattan, we work with clients in New York City and throughout the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Consultations are free and confidential. We are always here to help.