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 is the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled?

    Man Holding a Disability Sign in His HandsAn individual must be considered disabled in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict set of requirements that must be met before disability benefits will be paid.

    Qualifications for SSA Disability Benefits

    The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine whether or not a claimant qualifies to receive Social Security disability benefits. These five steps are:

    1. Work Status. Social Security disability applicants cannot qualify for benefits if they are engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2019, any individual earning more than $1,220 a month is considered to be engaged in SGA. Most claimants have no difficulty complying with the work status requirement since they have already stopped working due to their disability.
    2. Severity Assessment. To qualify for disability payments, a claimant’s impairment must be severe enough to completely interfere with basic work-related activities. It also must last, or be expected to last, at least 12 months. Disabilities that only mildly interfere with an applicant’s ability to work for less than one year are unlikely to be considered severe.
    3. Disabling Conditions. The SSA has established an extensive list of medical conditions that may qualify claimants as disabled, known as the listing of impairments. If the claimant’s medical ailment is found in the listing of impairments, it will typically qualify for disability benefits. Even if the medical condition isn’t specifically listed, it may still qualify for benefits if it is of equal severity to an ailment that is on the list.
    4. Previous Relevant Employment. The next step in the sequential evaluation process involves determining the claimant’s ability to perform past relevant work, which relies upon their residual functional capacity (RFC). Determining RFC involves assessing the claimant’s medical records to discover which tasks may still be performed. If the applicant is found to be incapable of doing the lightest possible work they have performed previously, the claim will move on to the final step.
    5. Performing Other Work. In the final step of the assessment process, the SSA considers the applicant’s education, work experience, and age when determining the claimant’s ability to perform other work. This step may involve consulting a vocational expert to determine the jobs that a claimant may be capable of performing.
     

    Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

    As you can see, the SSA considers many factors when determining whether or not a claimant qualifies as disabled. If you are entitled to SSA benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • Do I have to go to court for my car accident case?

    Wrecked Front End of a Car After an Accident in New MexicoThe vast majority of vehicle accident cases are successfully settled out of court. However, a competent attorney will be prepared to go to trial if doing so is in a client’s best interest.

    Settling a Vehicle Collision Case Out of Court

    There are a few reasons why car accident cases typically settle out of court, including:

    • Insurance companies normally want to settle. Vehicle collision defendants rarely pay judgements out of their own pockets. Instead, their insurance company is typically responsible for resolving the claim, and they generally want to do so as soon as possible.
    • Both parties wish to avoid the unpredictability of a trial. The outcome of a trial is never certain. When a vehicle accident case goes to court, the plaintiff risks receiving nothing, and the defendant risks having to pay a huge judgement. While a settlement may mean that neither party gets everything they want, it also allows both the plaintiff and the defendant to control their risks.
    • The plaintiff wishes to receive compensation as soon as possible. Due to the time value of money, a payment received today is more valuable than the same payment received a year from now. Additionally, vehicle accident victims often have bills piling up due to extensive medical expenses and loss of income. Settling out of court allows a plaintiff to receive payment relatively quickly, so bills can get paid and life can return to normal.
    • Both parties wish to minimize the cost of litigation. Litigation is expensive, particularly when a case drags on for years. Both sides must endure the costs associated with procuring evidence, hiring expert witnesses, and taking depositions, but a settlement minimizes these expenses.

    An Attorney Can Help You Prepare for the Best Outcome

    While it is generally in a plaintiff’s best interest to settle a vehicle accident case out of court, the particular circumstances of your claim will determine the best course of action. We are always prepared to go to trial when necessary, in order to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What could cause the termination of my Social Security Disability Insurance benefits?

    Terminated Stamp With a CalendarWhile Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients typically continue to receive benefits for many years, some actions may cause these benefit payments to stop.

    Termination of SSDI Benefits

    SSDI applicants and recipients should be aware of actions that may cause these benefit payments to cease. Conditions that may result in termination of SSDI benefits include:

    • Returning to work. The most common reason SSDI benefits end is because the recipient went back to work. Returning to work can cause SSDI benefits to stop if the recipient is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The primary determinant of whether or not employment qualifies as SGA is the amount of money the worker is being paid. For 2019, earnings in excess of $1,220 ($2,040 for blind individuals) per month qualify as SGA, even if the work is only part-time.
    • Reaching retirement age. Individuals are not permitted to receive Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits simultaneously. Upon reaching full retirement age, currently 66 years old, these benefits will stop. SSDI recipients instead begin receiving Social Security retirement payments when they reach full retirement age. Since full retirement benefits are typically equal to SSDI disbursements, the total benefit payment won’t change.
    • Incarceration. Confinement to a penal institution upon conviction for a crime results in the cessation of SSDI benefits. These benefits are suspended after 30 days of incarceration, and are subsequently reinstated during the month following release from confinement.
    • Medical improvement. The Social Security Administration (SSA) periodically reviews the case of each beneficiary, typically every three years. However, if the recipient is over the age of 50, or if the medical condition is unlikely to improve, a review may only be conducted every seven years. If a recipient’s disabling medical or psychiatric conditions improve, the SSA may determine that the recipient is no longer disabled.

    Receiving SSDI Benefits

    The rules governing the administration of SSDI benefits are extremely complicated. If you’re entitled to receive SSDI benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What is drugged driving in New Mexico?

    Medication With Car Keys and SunglassesEveryone knows that drunk driving is dangerous, but drugged driving accidents can be just as devastating. According to a study published by the Governors Highway Safety Administration, drugged driving collisions are also more common than drunk driving accidents. In fact, 43 percent of drivers with known drug test results tested positive in 2016, while 38 percent of motorists with known alcohol test results tested positive during that same year.

    Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

    Under New Mexico law, NM Stat. 66-8-102 makes it “illegal for a person who is under the influence of any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle to drive a vehicle in this state.” In addition, under common law, driving under the influence of drugs breaches a motorist’s duty of care to others on or near the roadway. Some of the most frequently used drugs by New Mexico motorists include:

    • Marijuana. While medical use of marijuana is legal in New Mexico, recreational use of the drug is not. Marijuana impairs driver judgment, limits coordination, and slows reaction times.
    • Sedatives. Opioids, medications for depression and anxiety, sleep aids, and seizure medications can cause sleepiness, dizziness, and lack of concentration when drivers are behind the wheel.
    • Stimulants. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illicit substances, as well as certain prescription medications such as ADHD treatments, can cause reckless and aggressive driving.

    You Need an Attorney

    There is no roadside testing for drugged driving in New Mexico, which can make the offense of driving under the influence of drugs difficult to prove. However, even in the absence of a positive drug test, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather and present evidence of the at-fault driver’s reckless behavior. If you’ve been injured in a collision with a drugged driver, you need professional legal representation to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What is Residual Functional Capacity?

    Social Security Disability Claim FormWhen an individual applies for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the agency must determine which tasks the applicant is still capable of performing. To do so, the SSA will complete an assessment of the applicant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).

    The Importance of Residual Functional Capacity

    When you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your RFC level will have a profound effect on your disability benefits. RFC forms must be completed for every disability case, and they are typically filled out by the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS). However, having your doctor complete this form instead will strengthen your case. This is because:

    • Your doctor knows you best. If your RFC form is filled out by a disability consultant at the DDS, it will be completed by someone who has never physically examined you. Instead, the consultant will reference your medical records to determine your functional abilities and restrictions. Obviously, an RFC form completed by your doctor is likely to provide a better picture of your overall condition than one completed by someone you’ve never met.
    • You need a detailed RFC record. To maximize your probability of receiving sufficient benefits, your file must properly reflect the physical limitations your injuries have caused. How much you can lift, how long you can walk and stand, your level of flexibility, and how long you can sit are all crucial factors in determining compensation. No one has a better sense of your capabilities and limitations than your treating physician.

    Receiving Help With Your Disability Insurance Claim

    Since your doctor understands how your condition is impacting you better than anyone, he can be an important partner in the pursuit of your disability claim. If you hire a disability lawyer, your attorney can send the necessary RFC forms to your physician to collect the required information regarding your medical condition. Social Security attorneys are experienced in working with physicians and may be able to help with the completion and filing of the RFC form. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • How do I file a VA disability claim?

    Veteran Benefits Key on a KeyboardThere are a few critical requirements when filing a claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Processing the initial claim for VA benefits may take as little as a few months or as long as several years, so there is no time to waste. To secure your compensation as early as possible, you should apply for benefits as soon as you determine that you are disabled.

    Ways to Apply for VA Benefits

    There are a few options when applying for benefits. You may apply for VA benefits by:

    ●     Calling 800-827-1000.

    ●     In person by visiting your local VA office.

    ●     Online by using the eBenefits website.

    ●     Completing and submitting Form 21-526EZ.

    Specify Your Illnesses and Injuries

    When you complete the application, list the specific illnesses and injuries for which you are requesting disability benefits, along with the date your symptoms appeared. You should only claim disabilities or illnesses you had in service if you are still suffering from the condition, or if you suspect that you may develop complications in the future.

    Gather Documentation of Your Illnesses and Injuries

    You’ll need documentation of your injuries to support your claim. Documents you should submit with your application may include:

    ●     Medical clinic and hospital records related to your injury or illness. While your benefits application allows you to sign a medical records release, many private medical providers ignore VA requests for these records. Submitting medical records with your application eliminates this problem.

    ●     Supporting statements from friends, family, clergy, law enforcement, or other veterans regarding your injury or illness.

    ●     VA medical and hospital records related to your injury or illness.

    Help With Your VA Disability Claim

    If you need assistance with your disability claim, you can visit your local VA office. You may also get help from a disability lawyer. An experienced disability benefits attorney can review your claim, gather vital evidence, and prepare the necessary paperwork to help you receive the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been injured in service to your country, we can assist you with your VA benefits claim. Call us today or complete the contact form on this page.

     

  • How are damages calculated for pain and suffering?

    Injured Victim Sitting on the Couch With CrutchesInjury victims frequently cope with high medical bills, loss of income, and long recovery periods. In addition, they sometimes endure pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a legal term that encompasses the physical and emotional pain stemming from accidental injuries.

    Special Damages Versus General Damages

    A personal injury claim has two primary types of possible compensation, special damages and general damages. Special damages include economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and loss of income, while general damages include pain and suffering. Special damages are typically relatively easy to value, since they are based on bills for vehicle repairs and medical expenses. However, calculating general damages, such as pain and suffering, is far more challenging.

    Pain and Suffering Calculation Methods

    While there are a number of approaches that insurance companies may take when calculating pain and suffering, the two most common are the multiplier method and the per diem method. The following is a brief overview:

    • Multiplier method. The multiplier method is the most frequently used approach for calculating pain and suffering. An insurance company totals all of an accident victim’s special damages and multiplies them by a number of the insurer’s choosing. This number, called a multiplier, depends on many factors that may include: the extent of a victim’s injuries, the prospects for a full recovery, the impact of a victim’s injuries on his life, and the degree of the other party’s fault for the accident.
    • Per diem method. The per diem method requires payment of a fixed dollar amount, or daily rate, for every day an injury victim must live with the pain caused by an accident. While this daily rate may be calculated using a variety of methods, the victim’s actual, daily earnings are frequently used.

    An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve

    If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, or any other type of accident that was someone else’s fault, you deserve compensation for the physical and emotional pain you’ve suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney can prove the extent of your injuries and demand that you receive fair compensation. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • What are the differences between SSDI and SSI?

    The differences between Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security IncomeSince the acronyms for Social Security Disability Insurance and (SSDI) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are so similar, many people confuse these two programs. However, they are distinct from one another, with different objectives. If you’re entitled to disability compensation, it’s important that you apply for the correct program to avoid wasting time in pursuit of a benefit you aren’t qualified to receive.

    Social Security Disability Insurance

    SSDI provides benefits to individuals who have paid into Social Security via payroll deductions on their previously earned income. Program participants must have a disability that is anticipated to last for at least a year or result in death. Key characteristics of this program include:

    • Benefits are provided to eligible individuals regardless of their assets or unearned income—interest, investments, or a spouse’s income. However, income from work is strictly limited for those receiving Social Security disability payments.
    • Disability benefits are subject to a five-month waiting period, starting from the date of disability.
    • Medicare coverage for health benefits is subject to a two-year waiting period from the date of entitlement (the month a disabled individual became entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits).
    • The monthly Social Security disability payment amount is based upon covered earnings—the earnings on which a disabled worker paid Social Security taxes. These covered earnings are averaged, and a complicated formula is applied to calculate the monthly benefit.

    Supplemental Security Income

    SSI helps disabled individuals who cannot qualify for SSDI benefits, either because they have never been employed or because they haven’t worked for a long time. This is a need-based program, typically for individuals 65 years of age and older with very little income. Key characteristics of this program include:

    • SSI is a means-tested benefit program, requiring participants to meet a strict set of financial requirements.
    • Claimants may start receiving benefits the same month they file—there is no waiting period.
    • Medicaid health coverage begins as soon as SSI benefits are approved.
    • The monthly payment amount is determined by subtracting countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), which is the maximum federal monthly SSI payment amount. Those with countable income over the FBR are not eligible for benefits.

    Help With Your SSDI or SSI Benefits

    If you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, an experienced disability benefits attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

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  • Am I eligible to receive VA disability benefits?

    Disability benefits are available to Veterans with a history of active service and specific service-connected disabilities.

    Eligibility for Veterans Disability BenefitsMilitary Service Requirement for VA Disability Benefits

    The most basic Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits requirement that must be met is a history of active service. To be considered active, a Veteran must have served either:

    • Full-time in the United States Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard
    • As a cadet at a United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard academy or as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy
    • In the Reserve or Air or Army National Guard, when service is activated by the federal government

    The active service requirement may also be satisfied in some cases by having a history of:

    • Service in certain national organizations affiliated with the Armed Forces
    • Engaging in training for the Armed Forces
    • Enrollment at a preparatory school at the Military, Coast Guard, or Air Force academies

    There are a couple of conditions which may prevent Veterans from qualifying for benefits. These include:

    • Dishonorable discharge. A Veteran who has met the active service requirement still won’t be eligible for benefits if he or she has received a dishonorable discharge. However, Veterans with other types of discharges, including honorable discharges, discharges under honorable conditions, and general discharges will still qualify.
    • Willful misconduct. Willful misconduct is behavior that involves conscious wrongdoing or a known prohibited action. Veterans seeking VA benefits due to a disability created by their own willful misconduct will be ineligible to qualify for those benefits. However, the burden of proof is on the VA to show that the Veteran’s willful misconduct led to the disability.

    Military Service-Connected Illness or Injury Requirement

    To be compensable, a Veteran’s disabilities must stem from a disease or injury sustained or aggravated in the course of active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected, and they are rated from zero percent to 100 percent. A Veteran must be at least 10 percent disabled by a service-connected injury or illness in order to receive compensation, and pay rates increase as this percentage rises.

    Help Obtaining VA Disability Benefits

    The process of qualifying for and receiving disability benefits can be confusing, but an experienced Veterans disability attorney can provide the assistance you need to get the maximum allowable compensation for your service-connected injury or illness. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

  • Do I need an attorney to represent me in my car accident claim?

    If you weren’t hurt in your vehicle accident, you likely don’t need to hire an attorney. Even if you were hurt, if your doctor has confirmed that your injuries are minimal, you can probably handle the claim on your own. However, if you’ve suffered any serious injuries or lost a significant amount of income due to missed work, you should discuss your situation with a car accident lawyer.

    When to hire a car accident attorneyWhen to Consider Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

    Common circumstances that may warrant hiring an attorney include:

    • Serious injuries. Car accident injury victims often don’t realize that the at-fault driver’s insurance company has already started building a defense immediately following the crash. Pursuing a claim for serious injuries requires extensive experience and resources that only an attorney can provide.
    • Lost wages. Employed individuals who have missed out on income due to their vehicle accident injuries are entitled to recover their lost wages. An experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather evidence of these lost wages and arrange expert witness testimony regarding future income loss.
    • Disputed fault. If fault for the collision is unclear, an attorney can gather evidence and expert testimony in order to establish liability. New Mexico is a comparative negligence state, meaning that an injured party may be held partially liable for his or her injuries. An attorney can argue against claims that the injured client should be held partly responsible and fight to minimize any reduction of the claim.
    • Insurance company denials. If the insurance carrier can find any excuse to deny a claim, they will. They have teams of accident investigators busily collecting information that may be used to reject claims, so vehicle accident victims need representation by an experienced personal injury attorney.
    • Accident with a drunk driver. An accident victim injured by a drunk driver needs representation by an attorney experienced in DUI accident cases. The attorney can gather any necessary evidence, including police accident reports, medical records, and sobriety test results.

    Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

    If you have been hurt in a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering if you need a car accident attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. At the Injury & Disability Law Center, we can help you make the right decision for your specific situation. Contact our office today to speak with one of our bilingual case managers and schedule a free case consultation. We will review the details of your case, help you to understand your legal options, and answer all of your questions. There is no obligation, so give us a call today or contact us using the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!