When you have had the unfortunate experience of being in a car accident that left you with injuries or property damage, many questions about the role of the other driver and their legal responsibility arise. These questions become more complex when the other driver is an undocumented immigrant living in the country illegally and without a driver’s license. In this circumstance, it may seem like you have an easy, straight-forward car crash case against the person who caused your injuries: after all, that person did something clearly illegal, so it seems like they should be held responsible without you having to prove all of the circumstances normally required in negligence cases. While that may seem like the fair outcome, the answer is not so simple, and the law makes a clear distinction between the driver’s immigration status and their actions behind the wheel of a car.
In a car accident case, it is the driver’s actions while driving the car that matter, and not their immigration status. To understand the distinction between the two issues, it is helpful to think of the other driver as having made two bad decisions:
- (1) they decided to drive without a license while in the country illegally; and
- (2) they decided to act irresponsibly while they were driving—perhaps running a stop sign, sending a text message on their cell phone, or trying to read a map.
The question you need to think about is which of these two decisions actually caused their car to hit yours? The answer is the second one: What led to your accident were the poor judgments that the other driver made while driving in the time immediately before the accident.
At the end of the day, and despite the sometimes confusing language of negligence, one of the key issues comes down to identifying the direct cause of your injuries. A decision to enter the country illegally or to drive without a license may be illegal, but it only matters in a court of law or at the trial of an auto negligence case if it caused your accident.