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California law now forbids evidence of immigration status in wrongful death and personal cases.

Recovering for Your Injuries as an Undocumented Immigrant

On January 1, 2017, the California legal system became more fair for undocumented immigrants who have been injured or killed through the negligence of another person. That is when a new law forbidding the introduction of evidence of immigration status went into effect.

Before this law, a case known as Rodriguez v. Kline was often used by defendants in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits to limit the recovery of immigrants. In that case, the plaintiff, Jesus Rodriguez, had been seriously injured in a car accident. The jury found in his favor, but the defendant appealed the award, arguing that since Mr. Rodriguez was in the country illegally, his lost wages should have been calculated based on what he would have earned in Mexico — not what he would have earned in the United States. The California Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant. The Court also set up a procedure for when the plaintiff’s immigration status was challenged, where the defendant had to provide evidence that the plaintiff was potentially deportable, and the plaintiff would then have to show that they had corrected the condition that could lead to deportation. The practical effect of this ruling was that many immigrants were unable to fully recover for their injuries because of their immigration status — regardless of the fault of the defendant in the case. This impacted both undocumented immigrants and immigrants with green cards and valid visas, as defendants simply had to show evidence that the plaintiff was potentially deportable. There are also many immigrants who decided to simply not file a lawsuit to avoid having their immigration status being the subject of a public court hearing.

In 2016, the California legislature took steps to address this injustice through A.B. 2159, which added a new section to the California Evidence Code. Now, a plaintiff’s immigration status is not admissible at trial in a personal injury or wrongful death case. A defendant cannot seek discovery (information) about the immigration status of the injured plaintiff in personal injury or wrongful death cases. Importantly, this law also means that lost income and other calculations (such as medical expenses) can no longer be based on what a person would have made if the plaintiff was still in his or her country of origin. Instead, because immigration status will not be at issue in the case, it will be based on what he or she would have made in the United States.

This new law guarantees equal treatment for plaintiffs in personal injury cases regardless of a person’s immigration status. If you have been injured in any type of accident — including a car, truck, or SUV crash, a bike accident, pedestrian accident, dog bite, slip and fall, or product liability claim — the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker can help. Our attorneys have more than 40 years of experience representing clients throughout California, with a 95% success rate. We offer free initial consultations, and we never charge a fee unless we recover money for us. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at 800-333-0000 or info@larryhparker.com.

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