How is an undocumented alien’s case different from someone who is here legally?
The cases are the same, except for the wage claim component. I will talk about it in a moment.
Does a jury get to hear that an injured person has an illegal status?
In Florida, a jury won’t get to hear about an illegal alien’s status if an injured person is only making a claim for:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Replacement value of lost personal property (e.g. damage to your watch, glasses, etc.)
- Funeral expenses
- Reimbursement for mileage to and from medical appointments
- Past Pain and suffering
- Future Pain and Suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life
- Punitive Damages (in rare cases)
Illegal Aliens Can Get PIP Benefits in Auto Accident Cases
In Maldonado v. Allstate Ins. Co., 789 So.2d 464 (Fla.Ct.App.2001), Mr. Maldonado was struck while riding a bicycle in Manatee County on August 19, 1993.
He sustained significant injuries and was treated at Manatee Memorial Hospital. He didn’t own an automobile. Mr. Maldonado applied for PIP benefits under the Allstate policy covering the car that struck him.
If Maldonado wasn’t considered a resident of Florida, the PIP benefits under the Allstate policy would not cover him.
The appeals court said that the jury would need to determine if at the time of the accident, Mr. Maldonado was physically present in Florida with no intention of leaving.
If the he was a resident of Florida, than he would get PIP benefits from the car that struck him. This is because he was on a bike, and he didn’t own a car.
The appeals court said that the test is not whether Mr. Maldonado had established a home here or was a legal citizen or resident alien. Basically, the fact that Maldonado was an illegal alien had no effect on his PIP claim.
Court Said jury Can Hear about Illegal Immigrant Status if Making Claim for Lost Future Earnings
Juana Martinez was the owner and operator of the vehicle that collided with a vehicle in which Villasenor was a passenger in June 2001.
According to an affidavit filed by Villasenor, she was a seat-belted front seat passenger in a vehicle traveling north on State Road 535.
She subsequently moved from the front seat to the back seat to retrieve her baby’s bottle. While Villasenor was in the back seat and not wearing a seat belt, Martinez ran a red light and broadsided the vehicle. (Broadsided means T-boned.)
The collision resulted in Villasenor’s ejection from the vehicle.
In September 2004, Villasenor sued for damages she claimed to have resulted from injuries she incurred in the accident.
Martinez admitted that she negligently operated her vehicle, and preserved all other defenses. Martinez specifically denied that the admitted negligence was the cause of Villasenor’s alleged injuries.
Villasenor was from Mexico. The trial court said that the defendant could not talk about any potential deportation consequences.
The Florida appeals court said that if the claimant is making a claim for lost future earnings, then the jury can hear about his or her illegal immigrant status.
The appeals court said that her status as an illegal alien is indeed relevant to her ability to obtain lawful employment in the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a), Immigration Reform and Control Act; § 448.09(1), Fla. Stat.
Illegal Alien Claim for Future Earnings Is Based on Rate of Pay in Home Country
Therefore her status is relevant to the calculation of the wage rate on which projected future earnings should be based, in the event she prevails on her claim Villasenor v. Martinez, 991 So.2d 433, 436 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008).
This seems to imply that if an undocumented alien made a claim for future loss of earnings, the court would only allow to the illegal immigrant to use the rate that he would be paid in his home country.
For most illegal aliens, this rate is small. If the undocumented alien doesn’t make a claim for loss of future earnings, the jury won’t get to hear about his illegal status.
In general, some juries may award an illegal alien less money for their personal injury case.
The court didn’t say whether her illegal alien status in relevant for past lost wages. I think the court believed it wasn’t.
Also, Villasenor received treatment for left ankle complaints in both Mexico and United States before the accident. The trial court ruled that Villasenor committed fraud on the court by engaging in an effort to hide her left ankle complaints.
It seems like Villasenor claimed that her ankle pain was caused by the current accident.
The trial court initially dismissed the case for fraud on the court. The appeals court said that the case shouldn’t have been dismissed for fraud on the court.
Court Says No Claim for Lost Wages for Undocumented Alien in Wrongful Death Case
Another court wasn’t as nice as the Villasenor court to the injured person. In Veliz v Rental Serv. Corp. USA, Inc.(313 F Supp 2d 1317 ), Mr. Ignacio was an undocumented alien in the United States. He worked for a Staff Leasing company as a laborer.
Upon removing roofing materials from a lift, Mr. Ignacio stepped off the roof and onto a pallet on the forks of the Handler.
While Mr. Ignacio was being lowered to the ground, the Handler tipped over. Mr. Ignacio died as a result.
Mr. Ignacio’s Personal Representative sued.
The court said that since Mr. Ignacio was not eligible for employment in the United States at the time of the accident, any claim based on lost wages must be dismissed as violating the United States’ immigration laws.
The court dismissed the lost wages claim. The court dismissed the rest of the case also, but for reasons unrelated to the decedent’s illegal alien status.
Federal Appeals Court Says Undocumented Alien Gets Back Pay Under FLSA
In Galdames v. N & D Investment Corp., Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2011, a federal appeals court said that undocumented workers are “employees” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Thus, they are covered under the FLSA.
However, Galdames is not personal injury case. It dealt with getting paid back for unpaid minimum wages and overtime for work that was already done.
If an illegal alien uses Galdames as grounds to make a wage claim in a personal injury case, the insurance adjuster may respond with the case of Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 147 (2002).
Hoffman was also not a personal injury case. However, Hoffman was a United States Supreme Court case.
The Hoffman court ruled that National Labor Relations Board (Board) cannot award backpay to an undocumented alien who has never been legally authorized to work in the United States.
However, the Hoffman case involved a claim for back pay for being unlawfully deprived a job. In the Galdames case, the worker simply tried to recover unpaid minimum wages and overtime for work already performed.
In Hoffman, the court ruled that backpay is not allowed because of federal immigration policy, as expressed by Congress in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).
The Galdames court said that Hoffman didn’t overrule the law that illegal aliens are entitled to backpay for work that was already performed.
Do undocumented aliens get workers compensation benefits in Florida?
Yes, Florida law has been clear on this for over 30 years. See Safeharbor Employer Servs. I, Inc. v. Velazquez, 860 So.2d 984 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003); Cenvill Dev. Corp. v. Candelo, 478 So.2d 1168, 1170 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985); see also Gene’s Harvesting v. Rodriguez, 421 So.2d 701 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982).
In fact, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act defines the term employee as “any person who receives remuneration from an employer for the performance of any work or service … whether lawfully or unlawfully employed” including, but not limited to, “aliens…” Fla. Stat. § 440.02(15)(a) (emphasis added).
In fact, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act defines the term employee as “any person who receives remuneration from an employer for the performance of any work or service … whether lawfully or unlawfully employed” including, but not limited to, “aliens…” Fla. Stat. § 440.02(15)(a)
However, workers compensation benefits are very different than a personal injury case.
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