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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  • What are Social Security disability work credits?

    Social Security Disability Claim Form on the InternetIn order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must be disabled and unable to work under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of a disability and must have worked long enough in a specific time period under their rules. When you are working, you earn work credits and must have a sufficient number of them to qualify for SSDI benefits.

    What Are Work Credits?

    Work credits are based on your annual income from a job or through self-employment. You can earn one credit per each quarter of the year and a maximum of four work credits yearly.

    The amount of earnings to earn a work credit changes each year. In 2019, you need $1,360 in work or self-employment income to earn one credit. The maximum amount of income you would need to earn your four credits for the year is $5,440.

    How Many Work Credits Do You Need to Qualify for SSDI?

    The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits depends on the age when you became disabled. If you are 62 years old or older, you need 40 work credits, and 20 of them must have been earned within 10 years of when you became disabled. However, if you are younger than 62 years old, you may qualify with fewer work credits. Here are some examples of what is required:

    • Before age 24. You need six work credits earned within a three-year period before the date of your disability to qualify.
    • Ages 24 to 31. You must have worked half of the time for the time period between when you turned 21 years old to the date of your disability to have enough work credits.
    • Ages 31 through 42. You need 20 work credits.
    • Ages 43 through 61. The number of work credits increases as you age. For example, you would need 21 credits at age 43, 28 credits at age 50, and 38 credits at age 60.

    How Can You Determine If You Have Enough Work Credits?

    You can determine an estimate of your Social Security disability benefit and whether you have enough work credits by reviewing your Social Security Statement. To learn how to do this, watch our video on this topic. Then call our Roswell office to schedule your free consultation with our experienced disability attorneys to learn more about your eligibility for SSDI and how we can assist you in obtaining the benefits you deserve.

     

  • Who pays for my physical therapy after a car crash?

    Physical Therapy Appointment After a Serious Car WreckIf you are hurt in a car accident in New Mexico, you could suffer serious injuries, such as back, shoulder, and neck injuries, broken bones, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. In many cases, physical therapy can be a vital part of your medical treatment. When you are off work recovering with no income, it can be a big worry to determine how to pay for your necessary—but costly—physical therapy.

    Who Is Responsible for Paying for Physical Therapy?

    When a negligent driver causes your auto collision, he is responsible for paying for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Physical therapy is a medical expense that you are entitled to be reimbursed for.

    If the negligent motorist has auto insurance as required under New Mexico law, you would file a claim for compensation with his insurance company and include your physical therapy bills as part of the amount that you are claiming. Here are some important considerations:

    • You can receive both your past and future physical therapy expenses from the negligent driver’s insurance company.
    • If you must travel to receive this or other medical treatment, you are entitled to be reimbursed for your travel, food, and lodging costs.
    • The insurance company will not pay your physical therapy or other medical bills on an ongoing basis. Instead, they will reimburse you for these expenses as part of your settlement.

    If you have health insurance of your own, it may initially pay your physical therapy bills. However, the insurance company may be entitled to reimbursement once you settle your claim.

    Documenting Your Physical Therapy Expenses

    It is crucial to document these medical costs because physical therapy is often needed several times a week for a number of weeks, months, or on a long-term basis, and the medical bills can be costly. The key to proving your right to compensation is to have the proper documentation. Here are some tips on how to build a successful claim:

    • Get a referral from your doctor for your physical therapy treatment and keep a copy of it for your records.
    • Keep detailed records of your appointments with your physical therapist.
    • Save a copy of all bills for your physical therapy sessions.
    • Attend all of your physical therapy sessions and follow through with your therapist’s advice. If you miss appointments or do not follow his medical recommendations, this gives the insurance company ammunition to argue the seriousness of your injuries and the need for this therapy.

    Contact Us for Help With Your Car Accident Claim

    Obtaining compensation for your physical therapy and other necessary medical treatments from the negligent driver and his insurance company can be complicated, and they may fight to deny or reduce your claim. We’re here to explain your legal options to you and negotiate your settlement so that you receive the compensation that you deserve. Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation to get started.

     

  • Can my Veterans disability claim be reopened?

    Veterans Benefits Claim Button on a KeyboardFiling for VA disability benefits can be a long and frustrating process. If you were denied benefits or have completed the appeals process unsuccessfully, you may have another option other than starting the process over again by reapplying. You may be able to request that the VA regional office reopen your claim.

    However, you do not have an automatic right to reopen your claim. You must provide the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) with new and material evidence, and your claim must be one that is eligible to be reopened.

    What VA Disability Claims Can Be Reopened?

    You may be eligible to reopen your claim for benefits if you have exhausted all of your appeals and they were denied, or you missed a deadline to appeal. There is no statute of limitations, or deadline, to file a request to reopen your claim.

    Only certain types of VA disability claims can be reopened. These types of claims are eligible:

    Other types of claims, such as for an increased disability rating, must be started over by filing a new application.

    What Is Considered New and Material Evidence?

    If your claim is eligible to be reopened, you must provide the VA with new and material evidence for this to happen. New and material evidence is evidence that you did not submit before that is substantial to your claim. It has to address the specific reasons for the last denial of your claim by the VA. The information must be so substantial that it would be unfair for the VA to refuse to reopen your claim.

    Let Us Help You With Your VA Disability Claim

    Filing a VA disability claim, appeal, or request to reopen your claim is complicated. Let our VA disability lawyers help you file your claim and provide the VA with the documentation that they need for your application to be approved. Call our Roswell office today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What is a cumulative medical exam?

    Stethoscope With an Appointment CalendarWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may be asked to go to a cumulative medical exam (CME). This is a medical examination that is scheduled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a physician that they choose. A CME can include a physical examination, diagnostic tests, and lab work.

    Why You May Be Asked to Attend a Cumulative Medical Exam

    The SSA frequently requests that SSDI applicants attend a cumulative medical exam and will use it to determine the existence and severity of an individual’s disability. Some of the reasons that the disability examiner may request that you attend a CME include:

    • The examiner needs a key piece of medical evidence to make a decision on your application.
    • You have not received medical treatment for 60 days or longer.
    • The medical evidence that you provided is not sufficient.

    What to Do If the SSA Requests a CME

    A cumulative medical exam can be a quick procedure, but it can have a big impact on your SSDI application. You should not be charged for the exam. It is important to remember that the doctor performing it does not work for the SSA, but is being paid by them. Here are important tips on how to handle your exam:

    • Be polite and respectful during your exam.
    • Expect to be asked about your symptoms by the examining doctor. You want to give him short answers and include concrete examples.
    • You should be truthful when discussing your illness or medical condition. Do not exaggerate or downplay the symptoms that you are experiencing.

    Importance of Attending Your Cumulative Medical Exam

    You must attend your CME if the SSA requests that you attend one. If you fail to attend your exam, the disability examiner could determine that you are not being cooperative and deny your application.

    Retain an Attorney Immediately If You Receive a Notice of a CME

    One of the most important first steps you should take if the SSA notifies you of a CME is to retain an experienced disability attorney. Your attorney can give you advice on how to best handle your exam and ensure that you receive the SSDI that you deserve. Call the Injury & Disability Law Center today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our skilled lawyers can help you with your SSDI claim.

     

  • Are punitive damages possible after a New Mexico car crash?

    Car Accident That Resulted in Injuries and Punitive DamagesIf you are injured in a car accident in New Mexico, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain suffering from the negligent driver who caused your collision. Depending on his actions when causing the crash, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.

    What You Must Prove to Be Entitled to Punitive Damages

    Punitive damages are not designed to compensate car accident victims. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a negligent driver for especially egregious conduct and to deter him and others from engaging in that type of wrongful behavior.

    It is not easy to establish that punitive damages should be awarded in a car accident claim. In New Mexico, it must be proven that the other driver engaged in one of these types of egregious conduct:

    • Malicious conduct. Conduct can be malicious if it is an intentional wrongful act done, knowing that it is wrong.
    • Willful conduct. A negligent driver can engage in willful conduct if he intentionally engages in an action that he knows could harm others.
    • Reckless conduct. A motorist’s conduct may be considered reckless if he intentionally takes an action with utter indifference to the consequences.
    • Wanton conduct. Conduct may be wanton if it is done with total indifference to or with a conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.

    It is up to the jury to decide whether punitive damages should be awarded. The jury is permitted to consider the property and wealth of the negligent driving in making an award. The amount of punitive damages must be in proportion to the driver’s conduct and wrongdoing.

    When Can You Sue for Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases?

    Punitive damages are not available in all auto collision claims. They are most commonly awarded in cases where a driver was driving while intoxicated (DWI) either due to alcohol or drug use. Other types of accidents where punitive damages may be justified are when the motorist was driving at an excessive speed above the speed limit or was engaged in road rage behaviors that caused a crash.

    How Our Experienced Attorneys Can Assist You

    Were you injured in a car accident? Was a family member killed? Let our experienced car accident lawyers help you hold the negligent driver and his insurance company accountable for fully compensating you for your injuries. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis so you only owe us attorney fees when we settle your claim. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • Why will a nexus letter from my doctor help my VA claim?

    Doctor Handing a Veteran a Nexus LetterWhen you file an application for VA disability benefits, you must establish that you qualify for these benefits. One of the most difficult elements to prove is the nexus, or link, between your illness or disability and the in-service event that caused it. One of the best ways to establish this is to submit a strong nexus letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

    What Is a Nexus Letter?

    A nexus letter is a document prepared by a physician or other medical professional that explains how a Veteran’s medical illness or condition is directly related to his military service. While a nexus letter is not required when applying for VA disability benefits, it can make the difference between an application being approved or denied. A nexus letter can be submitted with an initial application, while the VA is evaluating whether the Veteran is eligible for benefits, or after an adverse C&P exam.

    A nexus letter is especially crucial if no medical records were provided in support of the application and the C&P examiner does not find a link between the Veteran’s illness or disability and his military service. In this situation, the application will be denied unless a nexus letter is submitted.

    How to Make a Nexus Letter Stronger

    It is best to choose a doctor that is currently treating you to write a nexus letter on your behalf. You should select a doctor that is board-certified in the area of health that is at issue in your case. 

    The physician must use specific language, certain phrases, and the correct medical standard when writing the letter. Here are some tips on how he can ensure that the nexus letter strongly supports your claim:

    • The letter should be brief, but thorough. It should focus on the facts and the doctor’s conclusions.
    • The doctor should mention in the letter that he has reviewed your entire VA file and medical records. If he fails to do so, the VA may disregard his letter.
    • The letter should mention that the doctor has recently examined you. The VA may find the physician’s conclusions more persuasive if this is true.
    • The physician does not need to draw an absolute conclusion as to the nexus between your disability and your military service. It is sufficient if “it is at least as likely as not.”

    Ask a VA Disability Lawyer If You Have Questions

    If you are a Veteran applying for VA disability benefits, the experienced VA disability attorneys at The Injury & Disability Law Center can help you file your application and work with your doctor so that he understands what information should be included in your nexus letter. Start a live chat to schedule for your free consultation to learn more about your rights to benefits.

     

  • What can I do to stay afloat financially while I wait for my Social Security Disability benefits application to be approved?

    Numerous People in a Waiting Room Looking for Public AssistanceIt can be very stressful to be too disabled to work and have no income coming in while waiting for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application to be approved. It can take at least three months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision on your application and months or longer to get your application approved if you must file an appeal. If you are like most people, you may not have the financial resources to pay your basic monthly bills while you are waiting to receive disability benefits.

    Places to Go for Financial Help

    You may need to seek financial assistance from outside sources while your application is pending. Fortunately, the SSA generally will not consider these funds in deciding whether you qualify for SSDI. Here are possible sources of help that you should explore:

    • Public assistance. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for public assistance through the New Mexico Human Services Department. One of your first steps should be to apply for any benefits that you may be eligible for.
    • Family and friends. It may not be pleasant to ask family and friends to help you out, but they may be a good source of financial assistance. They may be sympathetic to your temporary financial challenges and have the resources to assist you.
    • Churches and religious organizations. If you are a member of a church or other religious group, you should contact them to see if they have any resources for members struggling financially. There may be other religious organizations in your community, such as the Salvation Army, that provides people in need with help for basic needs, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and clothes.
    • Food bank. Many communities have food banks for residents going through challenging financial times. Going to a food bank for food can help you feed your family and free up some of your money to pay your other monthly expenses.

    How to Speed Up the SSDI Application Process

    One of the best ways that you can make the SSDI application process go faster is to retain an experienced disability attorney to help you complete your application properly and provide the SSA with the information they need to make a decision. A lawyer can also file a prompt appeal on your behalf if this is necessary. To find out how The Injury & Disability Law Center can assist you, start a live chat to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • Can I file a lawsuit if my loved one died in a New Mexico car crash?

    Wrongful Death Button With a GavelIt is never easy to lose a family member, but having a loved one killed in an auto accident can make the grief even more painful. Fortunately, you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent driver in a wrongful death action. While this will not lessen your pain, it can give you justice and help you move forward in your life.

    Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico?

    Under New Mexico law, a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file a wrongful death action again the at-fault motorist. If the deceased had an estate plan, such as a will, he would have appointed a personal representative or executor in this document. The personal representative is frequently a surviving spouse, adult child of the deceased, or adult sibling. The court can appoint a personal representative if the accident victim did not have an estate plan.

    While the personal representative represents the deceased person in the car accident lawsuit, he does not decide how the settlement proceeds are distributed. The beneficiaries of the victim’s estate would be entitled to these funds.

    Time Period to File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico

    The statute of limitations is the deadline a person has to file a lawsuit and can be different depending on the type of legal claim being pursued. Under New Mexico law, the time period to file a wrongful death action is three years from the date of the deceased’s death. If a lawsuit is filed after this deadline has expired, the judge will most likely dismiss the complaint.

    Damages Awarded in NM Wrongful Death Cases

    If the other driver’s negligence in causing your loved one’s death is proven, the personal representative can seek damages on behalf of you and any other beneficiaries. The types of compensation that you may be awarded include:

    • Medical expenses caused by the car accident
    • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
    • Loss of the deceased’s companionship
    • Mental anguish
    • Any pain and suffering your family member suffered due to his injuries before his death
    • Your loved one’s financial contribution to your household
    • Loss of inheritance
    • Punitive damages to punish the driver if his actions were grossly negligent

    Our Experienced Attorneys Are Here to Help

    If you have lost a loved one in an auto collision, our skilled and compassionate car accident lawyers are here to explain your legal options to you and take over the burden of filing your wrongful death claim so that you can focus on your grief. To schedule your free consultation, start a live chat or fill out our convenient online form.

     

  • How will the VA rate my disability?

    Disability Percentages Assigned by the VA in a WheelchairAfter the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines that you are a Veteran who suffers from a disability and are eligible for benefits, it will assign a disability rating to your disability. This rating will be crucial to the determination of the amount in monthly disability benefits you will receive. If your rating is set too low, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in monthly benefits.

    What Is a Disability Rating?

    A disability rating is an average detriment to your earning capacity resulting from your service-related illness or disability. The VA uses a Schedule for Rating Disabilities that contains over 500 diagnostic codes for physical and mental disabilities as part of its assessment. Once your disability is assigned a diagnostic code, the VA uses a rating scale of 0 to 100% in 10% increments to set your disability rating. Your disability may be rated at anywhere between 10 to 100%. The greater the percentage, the more severe your disability is considered, and you would receive a larger monthly disability payment.

    If you are like many Veterans, you may suffer from more than one disability. The VA will not just add the percentages for each disability to establish your rating. Instead, they will use a different rating table and complicated formula to set it.

    How Your Disability Rating Will Determine Your Monthly Benefits

    The VA sets the disability rate of payment every year to take into account Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA). In 2019, as a single person, you could receive these monthly payments based on your disability rating:

    • 10%: $140.05
    • 20%: $276.84
    • 30%: $428.83
    • 40%: $617.73
    • 50%: $839.76
    • 60%: $1,113.86
    • 70%: $1,403.71
    • 80%: $1,631.69
    • 90%: $1,833.62
    • 100%: $3,057.13

    If you are married or have dependent children or parents, you would receive additional monthly benefits based on your disability rating. For example, if you are married with one child, here is what you may receive depending on your percentage of disability:

    • 30%: $516.83
    • 40%: $735.73
    • 50%: $1026.36
    • 60%: $1,290.86
    • 70%: $1,609.71
    • 80%: $1,867.69
    • 90%: $2,098.62
    • 100%: $3,352.41

    Discuss Your Disability Rating With a Roswell VA Disability Lawyer

    As these examples show, it is crucial that your disability rating is set at the correct rate so that you receive the disability benefits that you are entitled to. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you ensure that the VA rates your disability properly. To learn more about your entitlement to benefits and how we can help, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • How is my disability onset date determined?

    Calendar With a Date Circled in Red MarkerWhen you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must establish the date that you were unable to work due to a medical condition or disability. This is known as your disability onset date. The date you pick is an important one and can have a significant impact on the amount of back benefits you will receive.

    How Your Disability Onset Date May Be Determined

    It can be easy to establish your disability onset date if you become disabled due to an accident. However, if your disability has been caused by a medical condition or illness, you may have become disabled over time. Determining your onset date can be complicated in this situation. Here are some of the factors that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider when determining this date:

    • The date you list on your SSDI application
    • The date that you stopped working, or only worked in a limited capacity, and did not earn substantial income
    • Your physician’s determination of the date you became disabled
    • Your medical records

    Why Your Disability Onset Date Is Important

    Your disability onset date determines the amount of back disability payments you will receive. When you apply for SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period before you are eligible for benefits. In addition, you are only entitled to a maximum of 12 months in back disability benefits from the date that you apply for benefits.

    Here is an example of how your disability onset date will affect the amount of your back benefits if your application was approved by SSA on 12/1/2018 and you claimed your disability onset date was 9/1/2017:

    • If the SSA agreed with your onset date of 9/1/2017, you would be entitled to back benefits from 2/1/2018, which is five months after your onset date, to 12/1/2018.
    • If the SSA does not agree with your onset date and instead claims your disability began on 2/1/2018, you would only receive back benefits from 7/1/2018, which would be five months after 2/1/2018, until your approval date of 12/1/2018.

    Get the Legal Assistance You Need When Applying for SSDI Benefits

    Do you have questions about your disability onset date? Was your application for benefits denied? Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to explain your right to SSDI and ensure that you receive all the disability benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call our Roswell office today.