What to Know if You’re in a Car Accident as a Non-U.S. Citizen


Whether you have legal status or not, you should take certain steps to increase your odds for financial recovery, obtaining a visa and/or protecting your legal status. Accidents involving immigrants can be complex because your situation may involve multiple areas of law.

Additionally, non-U.S. Citizens, even visa and green card holders, can be vulnerable because of language barriers and bias. Thus, knowledge of immigration, personal injury and criminal defense law is critical to protect your rights when in a car wreck.

I am a victim in a car accident, what should I know?

As a victim you may be able to receive financial relief through a personal injury claim, or immigration relief by qualifying for a U visa under certain circumstances.

Financial Relief

Regardless of immigration status, victims of car accidents may be able to obtain financial relief to cover the costs of medical expenses, wrongful death, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages and rehabilitation.

However, getting lost wages for missing work is more complicated in claims involving immigrants who do not have work authorization prior to the accident. Obtaining lost wages for future lost income is possible.

Unfortunately, some undocumented immigrants fail to file a claim because of fear of deportation. Your legal status does not prevent you from filing or collecting on an insurance claim after an accident.

In addition, it is unethical and very unlikely that an insurance company or opposing party will use your legal status to threaten immigration action against you. In any event, Jackson White has a team of attorneys experienced in immigration laws, personal injury, and criminal defense to protect your rights.

Immigration Relief

Most car accidents are just that, an accident. In other words, there is no crime and the crash falls under civil law.

However, if you are undocumented and a victim of a car accident where there is a police criminal investigation against the other driver(s), you may be able to apply for a U nonimmigrant visa.

A criminal investigation against the other driver may begin if any of the following occur; he/she was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI/DUI), hit and run, criminal speeding, fleeing/avoiding arrest of the police, or causing serious injury or a fatality.

Reporting an Accident to the Police

Regardless of your legal status, you should remember the following if you are involved in an accident:

  • The first thing you should do after a car accident is stay at the scene of the accident and call the police.
  • You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police.
  • Don’t make any statements to the other driver about who was at fault after the collision
  • Don’t use false names/aliases, fake documents or make false statements to the police
  • The police report from your accident can help support your case for recovering financial compensation, and if needed support deportation defense, hardship waivers, and U visas.
  • Even if you do not feel like you have been hurt, you should see a doctor after an accident, and you should hold onto your medical records.
  • Working with an attorney who understands personal injury and immigration laws is essential if you have been in a car accident and wish to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, visa case, or green card application.

Can I still get compensation or a visa if I am detained or deported?

If you do not have a license, proof of insurance, or registration, a police officer may detain you, even if you are the victim. If the police or ICE detain you, this does not prevent you from filing an injury claim.

Likewise, police arrests, ICE holds and immigration detention does not prevent you from filing a U visa or seeking deportation defense. Even if detained in an ICE detention facility like Eloy, La Palma, or Florence, you can file an accident claim or seek a U visa if eligible.

Furthermore, you may be able to file an accident claim, a U visa, or an immigrant visa even if deported to your home country. JacksonWhite’s immigration and accident lawyers work together to achieve the best possible outcome for their injured clients, regardless of their country of birth.

I am accused of being at fault for a car accident, what should I know?

If you are accused for being at fault in a car accident, it is important to know your rights. If the car accident happened because of negligent conduct or mistake, a criminal investigation is unlikely. However, any driver is at risk of arrest if driving without a license, proof of insurance or registration.

This is especially true if you are undocumented. If charged with a crime, remember you have the right to remain silent and the right to a criminal defense attorney, and it is always in your best interest to exercise both these rights immediately.

When Should I Contact a JacksonWhite Attorney?

Please contact us now! Do not wait! Generally, personal injury cases have a two-year time limit to file an accident claim (statute of limitations). In addition, most police departments have rules on destroying their reports after a certain number of years making evidence gathering for visas, waivers, deportation defense and green card cases more difficult.

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.

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