Personal Injury Blog

Maryland Court Limits Use of Immigration Status in Auto Accident Cases

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.

Auto Accidents

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.