Immigrants suffer significantly higher rates of on the job injuries and death. There are a number of reasons for this which will discussed below. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not know their legal rights when a work injury or death occurs.
Immigrants Work in Dangerous Industries
Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, tend to gravitate toward dangerous jobs. This is because the jobs are hard to fill and these immigrants are the only workers willing to take the positions. Immigrant workers are heavily represented in construction, manufacturing, restaurants and day labor, all of which have higher than average accident rates.
Little Safety Training and Equipment Provided to Immigrants
Immigrants often receive little if any safety training. Far too often the training is conducted in English only so that the immigrants understand very little of what training is provided. Worse still, employers of immigrants often refuse or otherwise fail to provide immigrants with proper safety equipment and apparel. The lack of safety equipment and apparel can turn an otherwise innocuous accident into a very serious accident.
The lack of effective training, equipment and apparel coupled with the dangerousness of the jobs worked by immigrants result if a disproportionate number of injuries and deaths to immigrant workers.
Immigrant Workers’ Lack of Knowledge of Legal Rights
On top of all of the above, immigrant workers typically lack knowledge of their rights in the case of a work injury or death. This is in part due to limited English skills. However, much of it is by design. Employers of immigrants, especially undocumented workers, are too often not inclined to inform immigrant workers of their rights following an accident. There are some employers that prey on immigrants, again especially undocumented workers. As a consequence, many immigrant workers do not think they have any rights at all. This is not true.
Immigrant Worker Rights Following Work Accidents
Immigrant workers have all the same rights as any other worker. They have the right to workers compensation. They also have the same rights as others under law of torts (i.e. accident, injury and wrongful death laws). Most immigrant workers would be very surprised to hear this.
Immigrant Workers’ Fear of Pursuing Legal Rights for Work Injuries or Death
Immigrant fears of pursuing legal rights has always been a problem. This is true both in civil matters as well as criminal matters. It is common knowledge that many immigrants will not report crimes against them due to the fear of deportation or other immigration consequences. This is also true of the pursuit of legal rights in cases of personal injury and wrongful death, including those suffered at work.
It’s easy as a lawyer to say that your immigration rights should not be affected by your immigration status. Legally that is true. In practice however, particularly in today’s political climate, there are far too many law enforcement officials of all stripes that could care less about the law protecting immigrants. This is also true of employers, and even some insurance adjusters.
In the case of law enforcement indifference to legal rights, there is very little consolation that I can provide right now. These are long legal battles lasting years which matters little to the affected immigrant. To a certain degree, the same can be said of employers and insurance adjusters. On the other hand, consequences to an employer or insurance adjuster playing the undocumented immigrant card against an injured worker can be quite severe for both the employer and the insurance adjuster. This is particularly so for insurance companies who can face very serious and costly bad faith claims for such behavior.
Balancing of Immigration Status with Legal Rights Following a Work Accident
It is no doubt an extremely difficult decision for an immigrant to decide to pursue legal action in today’s climate. In cases of minor injuries, it is perfectly understandable that an immigrant would choose not to pursue his or her rights. In cases involving catastrophic injury or death, the decision to move forward may be easier particularly when there is no other option due to the magnitude of injuries and damages suffered by the immigrant and the immigrant’s family.
These are hard decisions and should not be made alone. They should not be made without the advice of an experienced attorney. If you or a loved one has suffered a grave injury or death while at work, give Collins & Collins, P.C. a call at 505.242.5958. The consultation is free and you will not pay any fees or costs unless we win your case.
There are many questions that workers may have regarding legal claims for work injuries. We have addressed a few on our FAQ Work Injuries page.