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Car Accidents Involving Undocumented Immigrants

If you have been injured in a car accident, and the at-fault driver is an undocumented immigrant, you may be concerned about how you will recover compensation for your injuries. Many states prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining drivers’ licenses; these laws, however, do not prevent undocumented immigrants from driving. Undocumented and uninsured immigrants are disproportionately involved in hit-and-run accidents and other types of fatal car accidents. Undocumented immigrants may be more likely to flee the scene of a car accident out of fear of deportation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving an undocumented immigrant, it is important that you speak with a personal injury attorney, as soon as possible, to make sure you are protected.

Fatal Car Accidents Involving Undocumented Immigrants

In 2010, an undocumented immigrant was driving in Charlotte, North Carolina, without a driver's license. She was involved in a head-on collision that resulted in the death of a 14-month-old girl. Prosecutors charged her with manslaughter as a result of the child's death. She was also served warrants for felony child abuse and driving without a license. Federal law enforcement investigators stated that she was a Honduran National and had been in the country illegally. Some have criticized the city of Charlotte because they do not allow city police officers to ask about a suspect’s citizenship status. Thus, undocumented immigrants may receive tickets, but may not be arrested.

In this case, the driver swerved into traffic to avoid hitting the back of a dump truck that stopped in front of her. When she swerved, her vehicle collided with a Toyota Camry driven by a 43-year-old man. Emergency medical technicians took both of the drivers and the young child to the hospital, but the child was later pronounced dead. The child was in an infant carrier but was not properly restrained. In cases like these, when the at-fault driver is an undocumented immigrant without car insurance, how can the victim recover compensation for the damages they sustained from the accident?

Determining Liability

The first step in pursuing compensation after a car accident, is to determine who was at fault. North Carolina follows the doctrine of contributory negligence when determining personal injury lawsuits. Contributory negligence requires that the plaintiff prove the defendant was 100% responsible for the accident in order to recover damages. Even if the defendant can only prove that the plaintiff was 10% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff may not be able to recover any compensation.

It is also important to be aware that the sooner the investigation process is completed after the accident, the easier it is to discover evidence such as witness testimony, CCTV footage, and any other information that will allow an expert to reconstruct the scene of the accident. Defendants may try to argue that the plaintiff caused the accident, or that the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for the accident, so they do not have to pay compensation. Evidence gathered after the accident can help build your case against the other driver.

Making A Claim With Insurance

In many cases, undocumented immigrants are not solvent; meaning that they do not have enough assets to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries, even if the plaintiff wins their personal injury suit. In some cases, your only option for seeking compensation may be to file a claim through your own insurance company. Many North Carolina residents have uninsured motorist coverage through their own car insurance provider. If you have uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, you may be able to pursue a claim with your own insurance company.

It is important to remember, however, that insurance companies are for-profit businesses that may put their bottom line above the need to provide fair coverage for injured individuals. Many assume that their own insurance company will always provide coverage in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, insurance companies may try to argue that the uninsured or underinsured driver was not the at-fault driver, allowing them to deny your claim outright. The insurance company may also try to deny that the car accident caused your injuries. The complexity of the insurance claim process is one of many reasons it is important to consult an attorney after you are involved in a car accident.

We are Here to Help

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we understand how overwhelming the aftermath of an accident can be, especially if you do not know who is going to be responsible for paying for medical bills and property damage. One of our personal injury attorneys can help you through this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn how we can help. For your convenience and safety, we offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach offices in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe and Mooresville.

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