Can I Sue Someone if I'm Undocumented?
If you or someone you know is "undocumented" in the U.S., you still have the right to sue in a court of law. There are parts of the U.S. Constitution that protect you even if you don't have the right immigration papers.
The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a person can't have their life, liberty or property taken away from them without a fair trial. It also guarantees the same protection of the laws that everyone has. You are a "person" even if you're undocumented. That means you have legal rights in this country.
In the case of TXI Transp. Co. v. Hughes, 306 S.W.3d 230 (Tex. 2010), the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that a person's "immigration status is not admissible" for the purpose of accusing them of not telling the truth in court. They went on to say, "Appeals to racial and ethnic prejudices...cannot be tolerated because they undermine the very basis of the judicial process."
You have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court even if you're undocumented. There are also some states that allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit if you have been hurt without having to prove your immigration status. Texas is one of these states.
In the case of Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, three brothers sued Grocers Supply and the driver of one of their trucks after being hurt in an accident with the Grocers Supply truck. The brothers did not have immigration papers, which means they were living in the U.S. illegally. The Cabello brothers were able to recover lost wages and medical expenses even though they were undocumented workers.
The court ruled that the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was not created to get in the way of personal injury claims. This means that you can sue for lost wages even if you are not documented.
A few other examples include Tyson Foods Inc. v Guzman. In this case the court ruled a worker can receive lost wages and future wages even if they are undocumented. In the case of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Cordova, the court ruled Ms. Cordova was entitled to recover damages after she was injured while shopping in the store. Commercial Standard Fire and Marine Company v. Galindo showed undocumented workers are still entitled to workers' compensation if they get hurt on the job.
If you are an undocumented person and file a personal injury case, you may be able to receive money for your medical costs, pain and suffering and money you’ve lost from being out of work.
Even though some courts in other states have ruled that giving money for lost wages goes against IRCA, courts in Texas have continued to rule that citizenship or proper immigration papers are not required when a person is seeking money damages for lost pay or future earnings. In Dallas, the Fifth District Court of Appeals said IRCA doesn't prevent undocumented workers from receiving damages if they file a personal injury lawsuit.