By: Matthew Tievsky
In the case of Ayala v. Lee, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has
recently ruled that when an undocumented immigrant is hurt by another
person's negligence in an auto accident, his or her
immigration status may only be introduced at trial under limited circumstances.
The Court ruled that, generally speaking, the mere fact that a person is
an undocumented immigrant has no bearing on who was at fault, or the damages
and injuries suffered by the plaintiff immigrant. Furthermore, the Court
noted that introducing the fact that the hurt person (the plaintiff) is
not legally in the country, tends to unfairly prejudice the jury against
the plaintiff. However, the Court did note at least two circumstances
under which immigration status evidence may come in.
- First if the plaintiff is claiming his or her injuries will cause lost
wages in the future, the defense can introduce evidence that the plaintiff
is likely to be deported in the future. This is relevant because if the
plaintiff is going to be deported to a country with a lower wage rate,
then the lost wage claim should be reduced.
- Second, if the plaintiff committed an act of deception to remain in the
country (e.g., forging documents), then the defense can use this evidence
to argue that the plaintiff is not a credible person.
Even under the above circumstances, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to
whether immigration status evidence will be admitted at trial. It will
be decided on a case-by-case basis by trial judges. If you are concerned
about whether your immigration status will affect your auto accident claim,
you should contact a Maryland personal injury attorney at Chaikin, Sherman,
Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.