Ana Maria Pina is fighting a two-front battle against some big opponents. She has filed a lawsuit against Chrysler after she said the Jeep she was driving was hit and then burst into flames. She’s also fighting the federal government trying to stay in the country with her children.
Pina came to the United States from Venezuela 15 years ago and spent most of her time in Florida. Pina went on to take a job in the Midwest. Then, two years ago she said her life changed forever. Her 2000 Jeep Cherokee was rear-ended and burst into flames.
“I lose my ears. They cut seven fingers off my hands. I can’t bend the fingers like, you know, like you do it,” Pina said. “All my skin, I feel on fire."
The federal lawsuit filed by Pina’s attorney said, “immediately following (the) rear-end collision, all of Ana’s Jeep XJ doors jammed shut, trapping Ana and her children in the burning vehicle as the flames quickly engulfed it.”
Ana’s daughter, now eight-years-old, was also burned in the fire. The police report from the accident said the SUV’s rear compartment instantly caught on fire.
Chrysler has denied any wrongdoing in the accident saying, “Chrysler Group’s longstanding position – supported in the public record by real-world data – is that the vehicles in question are not defective. They are among the safest in their peer groups and met or exceeded the standards in effect at the time they were first sold.”
Chrysler continued, “This tragic crash involved energy levels that were substantially higher than the applicable federal requirement…Our deepest sympathies remain with Ms. Pina and her family."
“This is my life forever. This event changed my life forever,” Pina said while crying. “It changed all my plans. That’s not fair.”
Complicating matters, according to Pina, is that she could be deported at any moment and taken from her two children that were born in the United States. Pina said her son has epilepsy and her daughter needs skin grafting due to the accident. Pina and her attorney both said her clock was ticking on her immigration status while she was in a coma for months following the accident.
“I don’t want to lose my kids,” Pina said. “I don’t want to be in that painful – I just want to continue my life.”
Immigration attorney Mayra Joli has taken up Pina’s case and is applying for one of ten thousand special green cards given out every fall. Jolie said Pina lost more than a year in her immigration fight due to the accident.
“This case is so compelling,” Joli said. “It’s so humanitarian just to know that if someone deserves to have one of those visas – my client is one.”
Pina has returned to South Florida to try to get the green card. She and her attorney will make her claims to an immigration court in the hopes they will take it all into consideration when determining her fate.
“That’s really, really important,” Pina said. “I can’t go back to my country, you know?”