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Illegal? Can you still sue for injuries?
If you have been injured in an accident, can you sue for damages for injuries if you are not in the U.S. legally? Andres answers that question.
Andres Mejer is an immigration attorney who is an immigrant himself. He knows what you’re going through.
His goal is to provide the type of service that he wishes his family had (but didn’t) when they were immigrating to the US.
This transcript is modified for readability and flow. It will not have everything that is in the video.
Mr. Mejer has a weekly LIVE show where he shares information that he knows his clients want to know about. If you can attend the show, he may be able to answer your question.
Spanish is at 6:00pm and English is at 6:30pm every Monday night.
Today we have Gustavo and Elizabeth joining us from the personal injury law firm of Jacoby and Meyers. We are here to talk about accidents of any kind. Is it at home? Is it on the road? Is it at work? What do you do? How do you do it? How do you protect your rights? Who struggle?
[00:01:39] Gustavo explains why he went into personal injury law.
Gustavo: Having grown up in a Spanish speaking household I saw firsthand what it was like not only for my family, but other members of my family and Spanish-speaking community to not really understand or know what their rights were. If something happened to them, how to go about getting help.
I saw a lot of things happen to people. Bad things, they basically fell through the cracks. So from an early age, I made it my goal and my mission to help particularly those that were Spanish-speaking, to make sure that they were protected when something went wrong.
[00:03:20] We don’t call them accidents. We call them crashes and collisions. Accidents are what happened to, you know, little kids who dropped their bottles.
These collisions in crashes are unsafe choices that people make.
[00:03:37] So we cover situations from automobile crashes, tractor trailer crashes, cases involving trip and falls, whether it’s on sidewalks or defective conditions, either in the public or private homes and buildings all the way through work related accidents at construction sites.
[00:04:19] Andres discusses whether they think there will be lawsuits against nursing homes where people died due to neglect during covid19.
[00:06:46] Elizabeth talks about the worker’s compensation arm of their firm. She explains that they make sure that people who are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease or work-related injury can get the benefits that they are entitled to through the worker’s compensation system.
Andres: Is there any time limitation for a worker’s compensation claim?
Elizabeth: Yes. You should report your injury to your employer within the first 30 days that it happened. And then you have a two-year statute of limitations to file your worker’s compensation claim.
Andres: And if I didn’t report it?
Elizabeth: It can be problematic. But I would tell you to still call us and we’ll see if we can help.
Andres: Is there a time limit for filing a claim in the type of scenarios you typically see here in New Jersey?
Gustavo: You have a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the incident to the filing of the papers with the court commencing the lawsuit.
[00:08:25] If you go above and beyond the two years, you have to show “just cause” to a court as to why you missed the deadline. But it is a time sensitive bar, so you want to do it within two years. Now, if your case involves a governmental entity, there are different timeframes.
But generally speaking, it’s two years for motor vehicle crashes.
Andres: How do you decide if you have a case?
Gustavo: If based on the police report and the evidence that we’re looking at, it appears as though you may have been more than fifty one percent at fault, then in the state of New Jersey, you don’t have a case.
[00:10:52] Andres: For a worker’s compensation injury do you have to prove that the employer did something wrong?
[00:10:56] Elizabeth: Fault does not matter if you can prove that you were injured in the scope of your employment.
Andres: And what about if I’m not a U.S. citizen or if I am, say illegal? Can I file a claim?
Elizabeth: You certainly can. You’re still entitled to compensation.
[00:11:21] Andres: What about if I was in a car wreck or car collision?
Gustavo: Absolutely. That’s unfortunately one of the misconceptions or the myths that many non-English speakers fear when they are involved in a crash.
[00:11:45] It wasn’t their fault. They’re hurt, but they don’t want to file a lawsuit because now they’re worried that because of all these very restrictive immigration laws that now all of a sudden I’m going to put myself out there to possibly being deported.
Your immigration status has absolutely nothing to do with us filing a lawsuit for personal injuries. It’s negligence that governs the case, not your legal status.
[00:12:26] Whether that’s in a domestic violence scenario whether it’s an accident, injury at work, etc. I can tell you that I’ve been practicing for 20 years and I have never either experienced or even heard of a case where someone brought a civil action for personal injuries and they were deported as a result.
[00:13:05] Andres: Criminal case are something different
[00:13:34] Gustavo: As far as a civil lawsuit in New Jersey, if you’re driving while intoxicated and it’s proven you have no case, whether you were sitting in a light and were rear ended, you have no case.
[00:14:05] Andres: Even if I was not at fault?
[00:14:08] Gustavo: correct. Correct. In the city of New Jersey, they’re very strict about it. If you’re at a red light and you’re completely intoxicated and you fall asleep and someone comes in and rear ends you. You do not have a case.
[00:14:43] Andres: so what happens if you gave the example of a DUI? But what happens some guy hits me in the back, but it just so happens I don’t have a license because I’m not in the country legally.
[00:15:09 Gustavo: In New York and in New Jersey, not having a license would not bar you from having a personal injury action.
[00:15:19] The fact of the matter is, is that if you’re following the law, whether you have a license or not and someone else is negligent in the way they were operating the vehicle and they hurt you as a result, you do have a cause of action.
16:21 Andres: Elizabeth, for a moment, the fact that I’m undocumented or not, whether I have a license or not. Is that all relevant to if I have an injury on the job?
[00:16:36] Elizabeth: No, It does not matter if you are not a citizen, you are still entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. If you’re collecting cash instead of a formal paycheck, you’ll be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits.
[00:16:53] It’s a matter of being able to prove your relationship with your employer and what your income and wages were.
Even if your employer is not carrying worker’s comp insurance or worker’s compensation insurance coverage. They can be punished. But you can still collect from the Uninsured Employers Fund, which is set up to protect workers whose employers are breaking the law.
[00:17:35] Andres: But you mentioned if I was paid cash. What are some ways that I could show that I’m employed if I got paid cash?
[00:17:47] Elizabeth: If you don’t have pay stubs because you receive cash, the next best thing is going to be referring back to your tax returns, which means filing and claiming the income. If you didn’t do this, you’re going to have a very hard time collecting worker’s compensation. If you were not declaring that income, that’s a bridge that can be crossed if it needs to be crossed.
[00:18:12] Andres: Can I get my treatment paid even if I don’t get monetary compensation, even if I can’t prove the exact amount?
[00:18:24] Elizabeth: If you can’t prove your income for the lost wages, you are still entitled to the medical benefits.
[00:18:55] Andres: What about if you go to the hospital and don’t say you were injured at work because you don’t want to hurt your employer?
Elizabeth: If you don’t tell the truth that your initial medical appointment about exactly how you were injured, you are going to ruin your claim. It’s very hard to go backwards and try to recreate what happened. So being honest is key and realize that that’s about protecting you. And you have to protect yourself when you are hurt at work because no one else will.
[00:19:27] Andres: So if I make a claim and my employer fires me, then what do I do?
[00:19:32] Elizabeth: If your employer fires you for making a claim, you need to contact an attorney right away. They cannot discriminate against you for filing a claim, make your job harder, nor can they fire you.
[00:19:50] Andres: If I am an essential employee and I get sick, can I make a claim?
[00:20:05] Elizabeth: The core of the workers comp system is that if you can prove through medical documentation that you contracted the virus through your activities at work, then you should be able to collect worker’s compensation insurance. Here we’re recommending people take notes, keep up a log.
[00:20:35] If you know you’ve been exposed write down the dates, the times, that will help us to prove the claim when the time comes. Communicate with your supervisory staff, let them know and your colleagues know so that at least there’s some kind of a paper trail.
[00:22:55] Andres: Let’s change it to back to the accidents. You were talking about motor vehicle collisions. If I don’t have health insurance, can I still get treatment, so I am injured pretty, pretty badly. What do I do?
[00:23:04] Gustavo: well, the vehicle that you’re in, whether you’re a driver and you own it or you’re a passenger and you’re in the vehicle, your health, then your medical benefits and any loss wage claims that you might have are going to be covered by that vehicle’s policy.
So what the hope is, is that when people go and get their auto insurance, that you don’t choose the cheapest plans because those are the ones that are going to offer you the least amount of protection.
[00:24:10] And the interesting thing is that the insurance brokers get incentives from the insurance carriers to not offer the bigger policies.
[00:24:17] That might only be a couple extra bucks because the more minimal policies that they sell, the more that they get incentivized.
[00:25:43] So for non-English speaking clients, you have to go into a broker and they push the cheapest policy on you. And they say you don’t need more than that. And you’re thinking, hey, I saved money, but they don’t realize that the minute that they get on the road, they’ve just basically shot themselves in the foot, so to speak.
[00:26:04] Because if, God forbid, there’s a crash, they now have the lowest amount of coverage. It’s an educational type of thing that clients need to know.
[00:26:57] Gustavo: what sets us apart at Jacoby and Meyers is the caring and communication that we have with our clients during this pandemic. Our phones have never closed. I’ve never been turned off. We communicate with our clients constantly. They know what’s going on. Each client is working with a team of at least two attorneys and other professionals on their files.
[00:27:32] Each client gets a password so they can check their case status at 2:00 in the morning if they want to know what’s going on with their case. They can just log on and they can see everything
I’ve been here for fifteen years. My clients have my cell phone number. They call me and I tell them.
[00:28:11] That’s a victory for us where we want to make sure that our clients are happy.
[00:29:15] Elizabeth: One of the reasons I really enjoy working here is the relationships that I form with my clients. Again, all based on providing you as the client with the information you need to make a decision in a circumstance that you may not understand.
I want you to understand and I want you to make the best decision for yourself.