Can Non-Citizens Get Compensated for Being in a Car Accident in South Carolina?
Getting into a South Carolina car accident can be a traumatic experience. This is especially the case for non-citizens – both documented and undocumented – who may fear the repercussions of bringing a public lawsuit. Sadly, the fear of deportation or other immigration consequence prevents many non-citizen personal injury victims from pursuing the compensation that they may be entitled to. However, the United States Supreme Court stated very clearly that “the Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Thus, even undocumented non-citizens can pursue a claim for compensation following a South Carolina motor vehicle collision. Simply stated, a person’s immigration status has no effect on their ability to pursue a personal injury claim.
Of course, the fact that non-citizens can bring a claim for compensation does not necessarily address the practical concerns that an injury victim may have about bringing a lawsuit. Namely, whether the opposing side will be able to find out their immigration status and bring this up during the course of trial. However, dedicated South Carolina personal injury attorneys have several options to help clients get around this concern.
First, not all personal injury cases end up going to trial. In fact, the vast majority of South Carolina car accident claims settle before going to trial, through pre-trial negotiations. Once an accident victim retains an attorney, the attorney will investigate the claim and prepare a demand letter. A demand letter outlines the factual allegations giving rise to the claim, details the accident victim’s injuries, and explains what amount of compensation is necessary to make the accident victim whole again. Once the opposing party reviews a demand letter with their attorney, they may accept the offer in the demand letter, respond with a counteroffer or deny all liability. If the parties can work out a suitable result without the need for trial, the case will often remain confidential.
If the defendant refuses to negotiate, or the parties cannot reach a mutually acceptable settlement, then the plaintiff has the choice whether to proceed towards trial. While personal injury trials are public information, and the other side would likely find out a plaintiff’s immigration status through the pre-trial discovery process, a plaintiff’s immigration status is not likely relevant to the question at hand: whether the defendant was legally negligent in the operation of their vehicle. Thus, a skilled South Carolina car accident attorney may be able to exclude any mention of a plaintiff’s immigration status from trial through a motion in limine.
It is worth noting, however, that there are some situations in which a plaintiff’s immigration status is relevant. Typically, this comes up in the damages phase of the trial, after the defendant has been found legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Damages in a South Carolina personal injury case can include various types of compensation, including damages for future lost wages. For example, if someone is injured and unable to return to work, the defendant may be responsible for these future lost wages. However, whether a plaintiff is legally allowed to work may be a relevant factor in the calculation of future lost wages. Other types of damages, such as compensation for past and future medical expenses as well as pain and suffering are not likely to be impacted by a plaintiff’s immigration status.
It is undisputed that non-citizens enjoy the protections of the Due Process Clause and can pursue a South Carolina personal injury claim. However, there are other practical considerations that come into play. By working with an experienced personal injury law firm, injury victims can feel confident that they are fully informed of their rights and understand what their options are if they choose to pursue a claim against the at-fault party.
Contact a South Carolina Car Accident Law Firm for Immediate Assistance
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury after being involved in a Charleston car accident, our personal injury lawyers want to help you and your family get your lives back on track. Regardless of your immigration status, we can effectively advise you on your options and help you pursue a claim, should you choose to do so. At Steinberg Law Firm, we represent clients in all types of injury claims, including those involving serious motor vehicle accidents. Steinberg Law Firm attorneys are both skilled negotiators as well as aggressive litigators, and frequently settle client’s cases without the need for a formal trial. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you or your loved one has sustained, call 843-720-2800, or contact us through our online form. We represent clients in Charleston and throughout South Carolina. Calling is free, and because we offer a No Fee Promise, you do not pay unless we win. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you and your family through the recovery process.