This is a guest blog post by a colleague of mine, James A. Welcome.
It is surprising how often this question comes up. Connecticut, like New York and Massachusetts, has a very diverse population. Residents of our states come from all parts of the globe. There are countless undergraduate and graduate colleges in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and we are fortunate to have international students attend schools here. States in the Tri-State area have dense populations and accidents of course do happen.
Laws and regulations at the state level do not allow discrimination against noncitizens or undocumented workers when they seek compensation for their injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Generally, the laws require that a driver in Connecticut and New York have a driver’s license, a registered vehicle, and car insurance. Permanent Residents are treated the same as Citizens of the United States when it comes to seeking compensation for injuries through negligence in a car accident. Undocumented workers are usually not entitled to state driver’s licenses. Recent changes to immigration laws by the Obama Administration allowing deferred action for students and young adults (known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) will allow students and young adults who qualify for this new program to also obtain state drivers’ licenses.
There are scenarios where undocumented people would also need to bring an insurance claim for injuries. Passengers in vehicles who sustain injuries in a car accident have every right to bring a claim for compensation for the injuries they receive. It does not matter if an injured person is undocumented or in lawful immigration status in the United States. The same principle also applies to an injury sustained on private property—such as an unsafe condition on a sidewalk or parking lot. It just does not matter what a person’s current immigration status is when it comes to seeking compensation for injuries sustained in these situations.
I have also been asked a related question regarding whether undocumented workers who do not have their own health insurance can obtain medical treatment when they are injured in car accidents. This also should not matter so long as the other driver who caused the injury(s) had his or her own car, or liability insurance. Again, whether or not you have insurance should not matter. You are entitled to bring an insurance claim to seek money, or compensation, for injuries that were caused by someone else’s negligence. This means in plain language that if you are a driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle and if you are injured in Connecticut or New York in a motor vehicle accident you should not have to pay out of your own pocket for medical treatment for those injuries.
You should not have to pay your own insurance co-pays or deductible. You may be required to pay co-pays at first while your insurance claim is open and pending. So, be sure to keep your co-pay receipts and include these as part of your insurance claim. These payments will be included in the amount of compensation that you ultimately receive.
You should be aware of some tricks that insurance companies will try to use once it is clear that you need to bring an insurance claim against the company of the driver who caused the car accident. You may be asked for your Social Security number. There is no need for an insurance company to have your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is issued by the federal government. It is not issued by the State of Connecticut, and not the insurance company. Therefore it is not the insurance company’s business. It has no relevance as to whether you are entitled to receive payment for your injuries and pain and suffering in Connecticut. The insurance company, or insurance company’s attorney, may claim that the company is now “required” to ask this question for Medicare reporting requirements. This is not entirely true. If a person is receiving assistance from the federal government, or if he or she is receiving Medicaid, then the insurance company is entitled to this information. However, they must merely ask whether a claimant is receiving federal assistance. Once the answer is no, then the inquiry should end. Whether or not you have a Social Security number means nothing with respect to your insurance claim and do not let yourself be intimidated into answering this question if you do not want to.
There are many other scenarios and likely more questions that I have not answered here regarding one’s legal resident status in Connecticut and the right to receive compensation for personal injury. You do not have to fight for your compensation on your own. Consider contacting an experienced attorney who will assist you through this process. Whether you are a citizen or noncitizen if you have questions regarding injuries that you sustained in a motor vehicle accident you should contact a skilled personal injury attorney to make sure you are treated fairly and that your rights are protected.
Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney James A. Welcome represents individuals injured in car accidents and in work-related accidents. Attorney James A. Welcome also represents individuals and families in federal immigration court and with family visa and green card applications.