What is the Alien Tort Statute?

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global-team-1238048In 1789, a new piece of legislation was written that protected individuals making a life in America without proper citizenship. Like it or not, there are many people residing within the borders of the United States, even right here in St. Petersburg, who do not have the legal right to be doing so. Those individuals may not have certain rights of people carrying U.S. citizenship, but they do have the right to fair treatment, according to the Alien Tort Statute.

The earliest version of that legal document stipulated that non-U.S. citizens would be allowed to file tort lawsuits against liable parties, based on international law. Of course, at the time international law pertained to crimes like piracy. That has changed, and now international law accounts for basic human rights, thanks to the Declaration of Human Rights, which boosted the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), providing it a much wider scope and greater power.

Since then, the ATS has been used, successfully, to provide legal retribution for wrongdoings, including sexual violence and mistreatment during wartime. It is also a document that protects Americans harmed while outside the U.S. One such example is the case of Filartiga v. Peña-Irala. This case sided with the plaintiff, who claimed his son had been wrongfully tortured and killed in Paraguay. The father discovered that one of the men responsible for that poor treatment was residing in Manhattan afterward, so he filed the lawsuit and was provided financial compensation for the loss. The final decision was read in 1980.

While the Alien Tort Statute was written to help compensate those individuals misused and abused, it is also in place to stop such actions in the future. Very often these cases serve as a reminder to those who would attempt to take advantage of, or do harm to, others. The U.S. aims to guard basic human rights, regardless of an individual’s status.

In fact, that principle applies beyond the bounds of the ATS. More and more often, undocumented immigrants are filing personal injury cases and receiving compensation for damages done. While the ATS can serve as a backdrop for deporting undocumented immigrants who have been perpetrators of wrongful or evil treatment of others, the legal system does not consider the status of the Plaintiff when hearing cases of personal injury.

That said, there are differences in the leniency that will be handed out in such cases, but even undocumented immigrants have the right to bring a lawsuit against a negligent party and can receive compensation for losses. There are issues that may arise. For instance, loss of wages may be looked upon differently because the plaintiff is not a tax-payer, but these considerations should be discussed with an experienced personal injury attorney before the case is filed.

Many lawsuits have gone unfiled because undocumented individuals fear deportation or mistreatment for coming forward in the courts. However, it is the intent of the court to hear the case fairly and without threat of recrimination or retaliation. If you are undocumented, but have suffered because of a car accident, slip-and-fall injury, assault, or other form of personal injury, at the hands of a negligent party, then call a lawyer. You do have rights, and you may be entitled to compensation for the losses suffered – physical and financial. If you are a legalized Saint Petersburg citizen harmed by an undocumented individual, you have the right to seek financial compensation as well. Speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.