Under California law, which was passed in February 2016, courts cannot inquire about a plaintiff’s immigration status in a personal injury case. Unfortunately, undocumented injury victims were not always granted this right. Prior to this law, defendants were permitted to raise the immigration status of an injured plaintiff as a defense to the determination of loss of wages.
Rodriguez v. Kline: The Old Law
For over 30 years, undocumented injured victims in California had to calculate their future earnings according to how much they would have made in their countries of origin. For most people, this amount would be significantly lower than if the calculation was based on wages earned in the United States. This rule was based on the case of Rodriguez v. Kline, which was decided on appeal in 1986.
In the Rodriguez case, plaintiff Jesus Rodriguez suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident. The jury returned a verdict in Rodriguez’s favor, awarding him $99,000. Defendant Kline appealed the amount the jury awarded based on the argument that Rodriguez was undocumented and his future expected income should have been calculated according to the wages he would have earned in his home country of Mexico. The Court of Appeals of California ruled for the defendant.
Effect of the Court of Appeals Ruling
The Court of Appeals in the Rodriguez v. Klein case set a precedent for personal injury cases involving undocumented plaintiffs. The courts were required to hold a pretrial hearing when a defendant challenged the immigration status of a plaintiff. The defendant would have the burden of showing evidence that the plaintiff could potentially be deported. The plaintiff would then have the burden of proving that he or she could take steps to avoid deportation.
AB 2159 to Disregard Immigration Status
In 2016, Governor Brown signed AB 2159, which went into effect in February 2017, rendering the immigration status essentially meaningless in personal injury or wrongful death cases. The new law prohibits a defendant seeking discovery of the immigration status of an injured plaintiff in a personal injury claim. In other words, this law allows inured victims to calculate loss of earnings claims based what he or she might have earned in the U.S.
Call a Stockton Personal Injury Attorney Today!
The legal team at the Srai Law Office is dedicated to helping our injured accident clients reach the best monetary settlement when they are involved in any type of accidents.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and seriously injured, our experienced Stockton personal injury attorneys are available to personally review your case. Call the Srai Law Offices today at (209) 323-5558 to schedule a free, complimentary consultation with our legal team today.