In a landmark decision, the Indiana court system has ruled that illegal immigrants can sue their employer for injuries they sustained at work. The ruling was made after Noe Escamilla, an illegal immigrant, sued his contractor in a personal injury lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 for an injury Escamilla sustained back in 2010 while working as a contractor at Shiel Sexton Co. According to the lawsuit, Escamilla was lifting a heavy capstone when he fell and seriously hurt his back. The injury caused permanent damage that prevents him from lifting more than 20 pounds at a time, making it unlikely he’ll continue working in the labor field.
His employer, Shiel Sexton Co., argued that because Escamilla is not authorized to reside in America, he may be deported and Shiel Sexton Co. should not be held responsible for future lost wages. Escamilla’s lost earning potential was calculated to be up to $947,000.
While a superior court judge and the appeals court initially ruled in favor of Shiel Sexton, a high-level court eventually overturned those decisions. It was ruled that immigration status should not influence work injury lawsuits unless the employer can prove that the worker is in the process of being deported.
Can You Sue an Employer for a Workplace Injury?
Back in the industrial revolution, the only way employees could recover medical expenses after a workplace injury was to sue their employer. Because of this, workers comp law was created. The law protects employers from lawsuits in exchange for insuring workers against injury.
But this system isn’t perfect. In some cases, it may seem that workers comp insurers are more interested in protecting their own pockets than the employees. Unfortunately, the law makes it almost impossible to sue an employer for injury.
In general, one or more of the following must apply before you can file a lawsuit:
- Your injury was intentionally caused by the employer.
- Your employer does not have adequate workers comp insurance coverage.
You may also be able to file a lawsuit against a third party if you were injured by a toxic substance, a product, or if another individual was involved.
In Escamilla’s case, he could file an injury lawsuit because he was not considered an employee. Instead, Escamilla was a contractor. According to workers compensation law, contractors aren’t covered by worker’s comp which means they aren’t barred from suing their employer.
Despite the limited options available for a lawsuit, injured workers can still benefit from consulting with a workmens comp lawyer at the earliest stages of the claim process. Most workers choose to settle for far less than what they could have received if they worked with a lawyer instead.