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Legal Blog

Can Undocumented Workers Sue for Lost Wages?

Workplace accidents happen regularly. Some industries are particularly risky and accident prone; however, in any occupation, people can be careless, reckless, or intentional harmful and cause serious incidents. When a work-related incident injuries a lawful employee who is entitled to work in the U.S., either because of citizenship or having a documented immigration status, the right to recovery is unquestioned. This employee will likely pursue medical treatment and lost wages through the workers’ compensation system or a personal injury claim. However, what about other types of workers? Can undocumented immigrants and workers benefit from workers’ comp or sue for lost wages?

Undocumented Immigrants Can Benefit From Workers’ Compensation

While Texas does not require all employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for its workers, many do. If you are on a business’s payroll, become injured at work, and the business has workers’ compensation coverage, then you have a right to seek workers’ comp benefits. Texas law specifically states your immigration status does not bar you from benefits if you have workers’ compensation coverage.

However, if your employer opts out of workers’ compensation coverage and you get hurt at work, then you only option to recover compensation is to sue.

Undocumented Immigrants Can Seek Lost Earning Capacity

If you are an undocumented immigrant and injured in a work-related incident, you have the right to pursue your lost and reduced earning capacity in Texas. Your immigration status does not prohibit you from seeking compensation for the income you lost while you recovered from your injuries. You do not have to prove you have a visa or work authorization to have the chance to prove your employer or another party is responsible for compensating you for your injuries.

Additionally, when you take your claim to court, the other side cannot submit evidence about your immigration or citizenship status at all. Your employer is not allowed to try and bias the judge or jury against you for not having a visa, permanent residency, or citizenship.

Financial Recovery is a Common Law Right

One of the reasons you can move forward with a lawsuit for compensation after a workplace accident as an undocumented immigration is because your claim is based on a common law right, not a statutory protection. You are entitled to a financial recovery because Texas law has developed through decades of court cases to recognize that in personal injury claims, people are entitled to compensation when they are injured due to other individuals’ negligence. This right has nothing to do with citizenship or immigration status.

Federal Law Does Not Prohibit Your Recovery

Employers often try to use the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in their favor. They argue that because it is illegal to hire undocumented immigrants, these workers are unauthorized to work in the U.S. and do not have a right to work-related compensation. Texas courts have repeatedly found this argument untrue. The common law right to personal injury damages is not pre-empted by federal immigration laws. Texas law surrounding personal injuries is separate from immigration law. Additionally, Texas courts have found nothing in IRCA’s provisions or the intent behind its enactment that would support making undocumented workers ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits or personal injury compensation.

Contact Our Houston Workplace Accident Lawyers for Help

If you are lawfully working as an undocumented immigrant or were working under the table when you got hurt at work, contact our Houston workplace accident lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. as soon as you can. We understand how complicated this situation can be and how intimidated you may be to seek legal advice or challenge your employer. You may feel like you have no choice but to try and get through the situation yourself, no matter the financial damage to your family. However, you do not have to do this alone. We are here to review your rights, guide you through your legal options, and fight for the compensation you are entitled to under the law.

Contact us online or call us at (281) 283-8500 to schedule a free consultation.