Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability

It is natural to have many concerns and questions as you recover from an accident or injury. Here, the lawyers at the Injury and Disability Law Center, LLC, share their perspective on many of the most common worries. Find out what to expect from the legal system, what compensation may be available, how to protect your claim, and much more.
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  • How are grid rules used to determine Social Security disability eligibility?

    Magnifying Glass Examining the RulesIf you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, it can be easier to get your application approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are 50 years old or older. The SSA considers it harder for older applicants to learn new job skills or move to a different type of work. If the SSA decides that you can no longer perform your former job duties, they will use grid rules to determine if you are eligible for benefits.

    How the Grid Rules Work

    The SSA refers to the additional difficulty an older worker has switching to a new type of job as a vocational adjustment and uses grid rules to determine these applicants’ claims. The SSA considers a number of factors that are applied to grids the SSA developed in deciding whether someone qualifies for benefits. The following factors are considered.

    Applicant’s Age

    The SSA divides applicants into the following age groups: younger individuals (aged 18 through 49 years old), individuals approaching old age (50 through 54 years old), advanced age (55 years old or older), and approaching retirement (60 years old or older). It is easier for an older individual to get approved by the SSA under the grid rules.

    Education Level

    Individuals who have a lower educational level are more likely to have their application for SSDI approved. The SSA divides educational abilities into the following levels:

    • High school graduation or higher with additional training for skilled work
    • High school graduation or higher with no additional training for skilled work
    • Limited education, which is generally completing l1th grade or lower
    • Inability to read and write

    Past Work Experience

    The SSA considers an individual’s prior work experience under the grid rules. Jobs are grouped into these classifications: unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled. It is easiest for unskilled workers to qualify for SSDI using the grids.

    Transferable Work Skills

    The SSA will take into account whether semi-skilled or skilled workers have job skills that would transfer to other types of employment. Applicants who have more transferable job skills will have a harder time getting their application approved.

    Residential Functional Capacity

    A person’s residential functional capacity (RFC) is their ability to do work on a full-time basis. In determining what a person’s RFC is, the Social Security Administration will use medical evidence, such as from the applicant’s doctor, as to their ability to stand, walk, lift, push, and carry. RFC is divided into these categories:

    • Sedentary work
    • Light work
    • Heavy work
    • Very heavy work

    Individuals classified as heavy work or very heavy work will be more likely to qualify for SSDI under the grid rules.

    Do you have questions about your eligibility for SSDI under the grid rules? Do you need help appealing a denial of your application? Start a live chat or call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Social Security disability lawyers.

     

  • Am I entitled to Medicare if I am getting SSDI benefits?

    Desk Calendar With a ClockIf you are approved for SSDI benefits, you also qualify for Medicare. However, you are not are eligible for Medicare right away. Here, you can learn how this complicated waiting period for benefits works.

    How Long Is the Waiting Period for Medicare?

    There is a two-year waiting period after the first month you are eligible for your monthly SSDI payments before you can receive Medicare. However, not everyone who applies for SSDI has to wait two years before being entitled to Medicare. Here is how the waiting period rules work:

    • The two-year waiting period for Medicare starts running from the date you start receiving your monthly SSDI benefits. The date when you are eligible for SSDI payments is the date of your disability plus a five-month waiting period.
    • If it takes you a long time to get your SSDI application approved, which is common, you may have already gone through much or all of the two-year waiting period for Medicare during the application and appeal process.
    • Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) only pays 12 months of retroactive SSDI benefits, the earliest date that you can qualify for Medicare is one year after you apply for SSDI.

    Exceptions to the Two-Year Waiting Period for Medicare Eligibility

    Currently, there are two exceptions to the rule that you must wait two years before receiving Medicare. You may be entitled to Medicare immediately in these situations:

    • End-stage renal disease with kidney failure. If you need ongoing dialysis or a kidney transplant due to end-stage renal disease, you can obtain Medicare coverage the third month after you begin dialysis.
    • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). You are eligible for Medicare as soon as you are eligible for SSDI if you suffer from ALS.

    Do you need help figuring out when you qualify for Medicare? Are you filing your SSDI application? Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today with our experienced Social Security disability legal team to get your questions answered and learn how we can help you.

     

  • How much does it cost to hire a Social Security disability attorney?

    Social Security Disability Lawyer Meeting With a Potential ClientWhen you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you are more likely to get your application approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are represented by an attorney. However, you may be concerned that you cannot afford to pay a lawyer when you are not working because of your disabilities. Here’s why you do not need to be worried about this.

    How Lawyers Charge Their Fees in Social Security Cases

    Social Security disability attorneys charge their attorney fees on a contingency fee basis. Under this type of agreement, you would not owe any up-front attorney fees. Here’s how payment of the fees works:

    • You would only owe attorney fees if you win your case. If you do not receive SSDI benefits, you would owe no attorney fees.
    • Your lawyer cannot charge you more than 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is less.
    • Your attorney will be paid their attorney fees out of your back pay award before you receive your payment.

    Retainer Agreements in SSDI Cases

    Your lawyer must enter into a written retainer agreement with you, stating how much you will be charged. They must also file a petition with the SSA to obtain approval of the fee agreement. Once the SSA approves it, they will pay the attorney fees directly out of the backpay award.

    How Costs Are Charged in Social Security Disability Insurance Cases

    In addition to the attorney fees you will owe, you must also pay the costs associated with your case. These costs can include copying costs for your medical records and reports from your physicians.

    Some lawyers will require you to pay these extra costs as they are incurred while others will pay them and get reimbursed when they are paid their attorney fees. Your retainer agreement should spell out how you must pay these costs.

    Experience Matters When Selecting Your Attorney

    While the attorney fees you will owe is a consideration when hiring a lawyer, it should not be the only factor you consider. You need an experienced Social Security disability lawyer who has a track record of success if you want to win your case.

    Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Do you need to file an appeal? Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

     

  • What should I do to prepare for my Social Security disability hearing?

    Wooden Gavel Used at a Social Security HearingIf your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to file an appeal and attend a hearing. Providing a good testimony at your hearing will be crucial to getting your SSDI application approved. Here are five tips on how to prepare for it.

    What You Will Testify to at Your Hearing

    Understanding what you will need to testify about can help you as you prepare for your hearing. You will need to answer questions about the following:

    • Your medical conditions that have caused you to become disabled and the symptoms you experience
    • Limitations in your physical and mental conditions caused by your disability
    • Your medical treatments and medications for your medical condition
    • Your education and training
    • Your work history
    • Your day-to-day activities and how your disabilities have affected your ability to do them

    Five Tips to Prepare for Your Hearing

    Being prepared for your hearing is essential if you want to win your appeal. Here are five ways you can get ready for it:

    • Review your file. You need to review your application, your medical records, and any correspondence with the SSA. This will help you to remember what you have told them about your disability and issues in your case that you will need to address at your hearing.
    • Prepare a cheat sheet. You can bring documents to your hearing that will help you remember all the important details about your disability. Collect these documents, such as your application, medical records, and notes to yourself regarding common questions you can expect to be asked.
    • Provide recent medical records. It is important that the administrative law judge has all your current medical records when deciding your case. Submit any up-to-date medical documents with the SSA before your hearing so that they are in your file and can be reviewed by the judge at your hearing.
    • Obtain a written doctor’s statement. One crucial type of evidence you will need is your doctor’s statement about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Even if you filed this statement when you applied for SSDI, you should obtain a more recent one from your physician once you receive the notice of your hearing from the SSA.
    • Retain an attorney. The best way that you can ensure that you are fully prepared for your hearing is to retain an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. They can help you file your application correctly, provide the SSA with all the medical records and other evidence they need, prepare you for your hearing, and attend it with you.

    Do you need assistance preparing for your Social Security disability hearing? Call our Roswell office to learn how our skilled Social Security disability legal team can help.

     

  • When does a Veteran qualify for Special Monthly Compensation?

    Lawyer With Special Monthly Compensation Paperwork at a DeskYou may qualify for VA disability benefits if you suffer from a disability that was caused while you were in the Armed Forces. The Veterans Administration considers some medical condition more serious and may award you Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), which can result in you receiving a significantly higher monthly disability payment.

    When Are Veterans Eligible for Special Monthly Compensation?

    Special Monthly Compensation is a benefit that certain Veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents may qualify for. It is paid to Veterans who have special circumstances, such as the need for personal care at home, due to the nature of their disability. Here are situations when a Veteran may qualify for these benefits:

    • Aid and attendance. A Veteran who needs daily supervision by a family member, home nurse, or home personal aide because his disability is so serious may qualify for these benefits.
    • Loss of use. If a Veteran has the loss of use of a body part and it is severe enough, he may be entitled to SMC. The use of the body part must be no better than if it was amputated and the Veteran used a prosthesis.
    • Permanently bedridden. A Veteran who cannot get out of his bed due to his service-connected disability can qualify for SMC benefits.
    • Blindness. If the Veteran suffers from vision loss, and it meets the VA’s definition of blindness, the VA may consider their condition debilitating enough to pay them Special Monthly Compensation.
    • Homebound. Veterans qualify for these payments if their disability is so severe that they cannot leave their homes and will not be able to for the rest of their lives. An individual may also be considered homebound if they cannot leave a hospital or other care facility.

     Some disabilities that can qualify a person for SMC include:

    • Loss of a foot or hand or use of this body part
    • Paralysis or immobility of a joint
    • Blindness in one or both eyes
    • Deafness in both ears
    • Loss or loss of the use of a reproductive organ
    • Inability to communicate with others through the use of speech
    • Loss of or loss of use of the buttocks
    • Loss of tissue in one or both breasts because of radiation treatment or a mastectomy

    If you qualify for SMC benefits, the VA is supposed to automatically pay you the additional monthly payment you are entitled to. However, this does not always happen..

    Let our experienced VA disability legal team help you file your application and ensure that you and your family receive all the disability payments you deserve. Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation today to learn more about how we can help you.

     

  • What should I do if my SSDI check is late?

    Man Checking Mailbox for an SSDI CheckIf you are eligible for SSDI benefits, you will receive a monthly disability payment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer mails out checks and instead will directly deposit your payment into your bank account. While payments are usually paid on time each month, on occasion, your payment could be late. Here’s what you need to do to report a late payment so you get paid.

    When You Should Expect to Receive Your Check Every Month

    When your initial application is approved, it could take a few months for you to receive your first payment, especially if you are also receiving back pay. The SSA sends out monthly payments on a schedule based on your date of birth. Here is their current schedule of payments:

    • Your payment will be on the second Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 1st through the 10th.
    • Your payment will be on the third Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 11th through the 20th.
    • Your payment will be on the fourth Wednesday of the month if you were born on the 21st through the 31st.

    There are exceptions to these rules. If you started receiving disability payments before 1997, you should receive your payment on the 3rd of the month. If your payment date falls on a holiday, your payment would be made the day before the holiday.

    Why Your Payment Could Arrive Late

    Your payment might be late for a number of reasons, such as:

    • You changed your bank or had a change of address and did not notify the SSA.
    • The bank account used by the SSA to make your payment changed.
    • If the SSA office that is responsible for processing your payment has a slower process, it may take longer for you to receive your check.

    What to Do If Your SSDI Payment Is Late

    If you are worried that your payment was stolen, you should contact the SSA immediately. Otherwise, they request that you wait at least three business days after the date you should have received your check to contact your local office or call them at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) on Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

    You should receive your first payment within 90 days of being approved for benefits. If you do not get it within this time period, contact your attorney if you have one or the SSA.

    Do you need help getting late payments paid by the SSA? Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Our dedicated Social Security disability lawyer is here to help you. Start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • Should I accept a quick settlement of my car accident case?

    Lawyer Looking at Settlement Paperwork With a ClientIf you were injured in a car accident caused by another driver, you are probably worried about how to pay your medical bills and your living expenses while you are off work recovering from your injuries. You may be tempted to accept the insurance company’s offer of a quick settlement to get your money and get on with your life. However, here are three reasons this could be one of the biggest mistakes you could make in your case.

    Reason #1: A Quick Settlement Is in the Insurance Company’s Interest

    If the insurance company offers you a settlement soon after you file your claim, it is important to understand why they are doing this, which is to save money. They will most likely start negotiations by making a low-ball offer of far less than you deserve in hopes that you will accept a quick settlement.

    Reason #2: You Will Have to Sign a Release

    When you settle your claim with the insurance company, you will have to sign a release before receiving your payment. By signing this legal document, you acknowledge that this is a full settlement of your case, and you waive your right to any further compensation for your injuries. If you later discover that your injuries are more serious than you originally thought, you would not be able to reopen your claim and obtain more money.

    Reason #3: You Do Not Know the Seriousness of Your Injuries

    Under New Mexico law, you are entitled to both past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the negligent driver. You cannot know how much your claim is worth until you reach your maximum medical recovery. This is the stage in your medical treatment where you have fully recovered or recovered as much as you can, and your doctor can give you a final prognosis.

    It could take you months or longer to reach this stage in your recovery. It is important to wait until you reach your maximum medical recovery to settle your claim because you cannot know what future medical treatments you will need and whether you can return to work until you reach this point in your treatment.

    What You Should Do If the Insurance Company Offers You a Quick Settlement

    If you receive a settlement offer from the insurance adjuster, you should not make any decision on accepting it until you have retained an experienced car accident attorney. You should never agree to settle your case or sign any documents without first consulting with a lawyer to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

    The legal team at The Injury & Disability Law Center is here to advise you of your options and fight for all the compensation you deserve. Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • How does an applicant’s death affect a pending SSDI application?

    Social Security Disability Insurance PaperworkIt can take a few years for an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an applicant to die while his application is being considered by the SSA or he is going through the appeal process. However, this does not necessarily mean that he no longer has a right to disability benefits.

    Who May Be Able to Pursue an Applicant’s SSDI Claim After His Death

    An SSDI claim can be continued after an applicant’s death to collect the payments he should have received before his death. The SSA refers to this as “an underpayment.” Only certain family members are entitled to collect these benefits. Family members can pursue the applicant’s right to benefits in the following order of preference:

    • Surviving spouse. A surviving spouse who was entitled to SSDI benefits or living with the applicant in the month of his death has the highest priority to collect the underpayment.
    • Children. Children of the applicant who were entitled to SSDI benefits in the month of his death have second priority to collect the benefits he was entitled to.
    • Parents. Parents who were entitled to SSDI benefits in the month of the applicant’s death can collect his benefits if he did not have a spouse or children.

    If no family member qualified for the underpayment, the estate of the applicant may be able to recover the benefits.

    When Do SSDI Payments Start and Stop?

    There is a five-month waiting period after the date of the onset of the disability before an applicant would be entitled to SSDI benefits. The payment of SSDI benefits would not start until this time period expires in an underpayment case. The payments could continue until the date of the applicant’s death. In some cases, a spouse and dependent children may also be entitled to survivor benefits.

    How to Proceed With a Family Member’s Application After His Death

    If your loved one died while his SSDI application was pending, you need to notify the SSA by filing his death certificate and other required SSA forms. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you file the required legal documents and fight for the benefits your family member deserved. He can also advise you on your right to survivor benefits. To find out how we can help, start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • Who is responsible for compensating me for my truck accident injuries and other damages?

    Truck and Car Collision on a Rolling RoadYou could suffer more catastrophic injuries in a truck accident than a car accident due to the greater size and weight of a commercial truck. If you want to receive all the compensation you deserve for your injuries, it is crucial that you identify the correct liable parties and file claims with their insurance companies.

    Parties Who Could Be at Fault and Liable to Compensate You in a New Mexico Truck Accident

    There are many causes of truck accidents, and some of them involve the negligence of parties other than the truck driver. An experienced truck accident lawyer can conduct an extensive investigation into the cause of your crash and identify the parties who are responsible for compensating you. Here are common parties who could face liability:

    • Truck driver. A truck driver’s negligence is the most common cause of truck crashes. Distracted driving, speeding, intoxication, and violations of the federal hours of service regulations limiting the hours they can work without a break are some of the ways at-fault truckers cause tragic wrecks.
    • Trucking company. A trucking company can be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its truck driver. In addition, you may have a separate claim against them for hiring an unqualified truck driver or failing to train him, not inspecting and maintaining the truck, or violating the federal hours of service or other federal regulations.
    • Shipper. The shipper is responsible for properly loading and securing the load that is being transported. If the load was not loaded properly or was not secured, this could have caused or contributed to your truck accident, and the loading company would be responsible for compensating you.
    • Maintenance company. Trucking companies frequently contract with third-party maintenance companies to perform the inspections and maintenance on their commercial fleet required under federal regulations. If the maintenance company failed to properly inspect or repair the truck, a tire blowout, brake failure, or other repair problem could have been the cause of your accident.
    • Manufacturer. If a truck part was not designed or manufactured properly, this could have caused the trucker to lose control of his truck in your collision. If this was why your accident happened, you may have a product liability claim against the parts and truck manufacturer.

    Were you injured in a truck accident in Roswell? Our skilled truck accident lawyers are here to determine the cause of your crash and pursue claims against all potentially responsible parties so that you receive the maximum recovery you deserve. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our extensive experience in these cases and how we can assist you.

     

  • What should I do if the VA claims that they overpaid my disability benefits?

    If the Veterans Administration (VA) claims that they overpaid your VA disability benefits, they will send you a letter advising you of this and that they will deduct a portion of the overpayments from your monthly benefit check. Fortunately, you have options. You can dispute the overpayment, ask for a waiver of the requirement that you repay it, and make an offer of compromise.

    How to Dispute That You Were Overpaid

    You have the right to dispute that you were overpaid or that the amount they want you to pay back is accurate. If you plan to dispute the overpayment, you need to send the VA Veterans Benefits Button on a Keyboardwritten notice of your dispute and request that they send you written documentation of how they calculated your overpayment. Once the VA receives your notice, they must conduct a review of their determination.

    If you dispute the overpayment within 30 days of receiving the VA’s letter, they cannot collect any money from you until your dispute is resolved. Once they complete their review, they will prepare a Statement of the Case, which is an explanation of their decision and a notice of your right to appeal their decision.

    How to Request a Waiver of the Overpayment

    You can request a waiver of the overpayment at the same time that you dispute it and should take both actions simultaneously. Here’s how to request a waiver:

    • You have 180 days from the date of the notice of overpayment to file a request for a waiver. However, it is best to file it within 30 days so that the overpayment is not deducted from your benefits while the VA considers your request.
    • You have the right to request a hearing and should file it in writing within 30 days of the letter advising you of the overpayment to avoid the VA from deducting the overpayment from your benefits.
    • You should submit your request in writing on the Statement in Support of Claim form. In your request, you should explain how the overpayment would be a hardship for you and how it would prevent you from paying your housing, food, or other essential costs.
    • The VA will consider a number of factors, such as whether the overpayment was your fault and whether the overpayment would cause you to suffer undue hardship in making its decision.

    Making an Offer of Compromise

    Another option is to make an offer of compromise where you agree to pay less than the full overpayment in a lump sum payment. If the overpayment is less than $100,000, the VA has the authority to settle for less than what is owed.

    Did you receive a letter from VA advising you that they overpaid you? Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule a free consultation with a member of our skilled legal team to discuss your legal rights and the options that are best for you.