Can an Undocumented Immigrant File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York?

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    Losing a loved one is a terrible tragedy.  If the death was potentially avoidable, and someone is responsible for the accident that killed your loved one, then you should be entitled to compensation for the loss.  But does your immigration status potentially get in the way of that?

    Undocumented immigrants have the same right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York that anyone else does.  Access to the courts is not limited based on your immigration status, and the grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit are based on what happened and where it happened, not whether an immigrant was involved.  However, there might be some limitations on who can sue based on their relationship to the deceased rather than their immigration status.

    For a free review of your potential case, call the New York wrongful death lawyers at The Carrion Law Firm today at (718) 841-0083.

    Rights of Undocumented Immigrants to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New York

    It is illegal for the government to discriminate on the basis of race or national origin.  Moreover, the courts are open to everyone, regardless of where they live or where they’re from.  In New York, injury and wrongful death cases can be filed in New York by anyone with standing to file.  The residency or immigration status of the person who died and the person who is filing is not usually a factor in whether or not you can file.

    In general, even people who do not live in New York (or even in the United States) can file wrongful death lawsuits in New York.  For example, if a visitor from another country tragically passes away in an accident while visiting New York, their family would have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York.  The same is true for residents and immigrants: as long as the wrongful death occurred in New York, the family has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in New York.

    Moreover, as an undocumented person, you might have additional fears and anxieties about going to court or walking into a government building.  Our Buffalo wrongful death attorneys can, for one, work to reduce the number of times you will have to actually go to court by handling as much of the process as we can without you in the courtroom if that’s something you would want.  We can also work to settle the case out of court, potentially preventing you from ever having to even enter a courtroom.  But even so, undocumented immigrants in New York have the right to use the courts.

    Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

    While your undocumented status should not prevent you from filing a lawsuit for a loved one’s wrongful death, your relation to the deceased might.  New York law only allows particular people to file and benefit from a wrongful death claim.  If you are not on the list authorized by law, then you might not be able to file your case.  However, someone else might be able to file instead.

    Who Can File?

    When someone dies and has a will, their will should appoint someone to be their “personal representative.”  If someone dies without a will, the court will usually appoint this person instead.  Under E.P.T. Law § 5-4.1, that personal representative is the person who files the wrongful death lawsuit.

    If the personal representative is reluctant to file the lawsuit or outright refuses, then the people set to benefit from the lawsuit – i.e., the surviving family – can appoint an administrator to file the lawsuit instead.  This means that it is important to understand who can benefit from this lawsuit as well.

    Who Can Benefit?

    The beneficiaries – called “distributees” under the relevant statutes – can get the case filed even if the personal representative refuses by appointing their own administrator to handle the case.  E.P.T. § 5-4.4 lays out which family members can benefit, and it does so by referencing § 4-1.1, which is the section of the law that says what family members inherit someone’s estate if they die without a will.

    Under the combined effects of these laws, the list of potential distributees is usually limited to the victim’s spouse, children, and parents.  While other parties might be able to benefit under some circumstances, they cannot usually file the case.

    What this means is that unmarried partners, siblings, and other family or close friends might not be able to file the lawsuit or get benefits, even if they are named as heirs in the victim’s will.  However, there might be other options to help take care of these individuals after a loved one’s death, so still speak with a lawyer about your options.

    Is it Hard for Undocumented Immigrants to File a Wrongful Death Case in New York?

    Sometimes undocumented immigrants have a tougher time accessing the courts and getting their wrongful death lawsuit filed after a loved one is killed.  However, our lawyers can help you take the steps needed to get people appointed to file your case, and we can work with you every step of the way as the case moves through the courts.

    A lot of undocumented people in the United States do not have wills.  Generally speaking, a will does not need to be registered with the government or anything; it just needs to be written and signed properly to take effect.  Regardless, the lack of a will makes it a bit more complicated to get a personal representative appointed to handle the victim’s estate in the first place.

    A second issue is that many people are hesitant to come forward and probate a will or get the victim’s estate issues handled through the courts after their death.  Before a personal representative can be appointed, the legal issues need to be worked out to distribute the victim’s estate – which is an additional step that undocumented immigrants might not know how to do or might be afraid they cannot afford.

    From there, the wrongful death lawsuit needs to be filed.  Many immigrants are afraid to come forward and file a case for fear of deportation, but the courts are supposed to be open to everyone.  One important way our lawyers can help with your ability to file a wrongful death case is that we often take cases on a contingency basis.  That means that you do not pay anything unless you win, and the legal fees come out of the winnings instead of being paid out of pocket.

    For a Free Case Review, Call Our New York Wrongful Death Lawyers

    If you lost a loved one in an accident, call (718) 841-0083 to speak with The Carrion Law Firm’s Albany wrongful death lawyers.