Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability
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Should I hire an advocate or Social Security disability lawyer?
When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you have the right to be represented by a Social Security disability attorney or an advocate.
Reasons an Attorney May Be a Better Choice Than an Advocate
The cost to hire a lawyer is the same as for an advocate. In addition, both are only paid if your application is approved, and their fees are taken out of your award. Because of this, it makes more sense to retain an attorney. Here are other compelling reasons you should choose an attorney rather than an advocate.
Reason #1: An Attorney Is More Experienced
A lawyer has more training and experience than an advocate. He is required to have these qualifications to represent clients:
- Bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of college
- Juris Doctorate (JD) degree, which requires three additional years of study in law school
- Admission to the state bar association, which requires passing a state bar exam and meeting other requirements.
In contrast, an advocate is a non-lawyer representative that is permitted to represent you by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In order to qualify, he would only need to have these qualifications:
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualifications from work experience and training
- Criminal background check
- Professional liability insurance
- Passage of an exam administered by the SSA
- Continuing education course
Reason #2: You Have Attorney-Client Privilege With Your Lawyer
When you hire a disability attorney, you have the benefit of the attorney-client privilege. Your lawyer is bound to keep anything you tell him and your information confidential. This is not true if you work with an advocate.
Reason #3: A Lawyer Must Follow Strict Ethical Guidelines
Attorneys are required to follow strict ethical guidelines that advocates do not have to abide by. For example, your lawyer would have a duty to zealously represent you.
Reason #4: An Attorney Can File Your Appeal
If your application for SSDI benefits is denied, a lawyer can file an appeal of the decision for you in federal court. An advocate cannot do this because only licensed attorneys are permitted to represent clients in court hearings.
Contact Us for the Legal Representation You Need
Are you applying for SSDI benefits? Our New Mexico Social Security disability lawyers are here to file your application, collect the evidence you need, and fight for the benefits you are entitled to. Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.
What evidence do I need when I file my VA disability claim?
When you file an application for VA disability benefits, you must establish that you are eligible for benefits. How do you do this? You provide the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the evidence they need when making a decision on your application.
Evidence You Should Include When Filing Your VA Disability Application
In order to receive disability benefits, you must prove that you suffered a disability that is connected to your service in the Armed Forces. Here is the evidence that the VA requires you to submit to establish this:
- Service records. You must prove that you were in the military service and were not dishonorably discharged. You do this by providing the VA with your DD214, which is the separation document you would have received when you were discharged from military service, or another separation document.
- Medical records. You will need to provide your medical history, VA hospital records, private physician medical records, diagnostic tests, and any other medical documentation to prove that you suffered a disability and that it is connected to your time in the Armed Forces.
- Family records. Supporting statements from family, friends, people you served with while in the military, or other individuals who have information about your disability can be helpful. They can share information on how your disability occurred, how it got worse, and how it affects your life.
You can provide your evidence directly to the VA or give them permission to obtain this documentation when reviewing your application. If you suffer from certain disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, you may be required to submit additional types of documentation.
Contact Us for Assistance in Filing Your VA Disability Application
If you are applying for VA disability benefits, providing the correct evidence is crucial to being approved for benefits. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you collect the documentation you need and complete your application so that you receive the disability benefits you deserve. Call our Roswell office or fill out the online form on this page to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.
My disability has gotten worse. Can I get an increase in my VA disability rating?
When the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved your application for VA disability benefits, they gave your physical or mental impairment a disability ranking of between 0 and 100 percent. This rating directly affects the amount of disability benefits you receive. If your medical condition has gotten worse over time, which is common, you have the right to ask for an increase in your disability rating.
How to Obtain an Increase in Your VA Disability Rating
If you are thinking about asking for an increase in your disability rating, it is important to understand how to do this properly and the possibles outcomes of your request. Here are the steps you need to follow:
#1: Consider the Possible Consequences
When you ask the VA to increase your disability rating, they will review your entire file. They could decrease your benefits if they determine that your condition has gotten better or that a mistake was made in the initial determination of your disability benefits. Before deciding whether to request an increase, you should consult with your physician and an experienced VA disability lawyer.
#2: Make the Correct Request
The way that you request an increase in your disability rating will be based on how long it has been since your claim was approved. If it has been less than a year since the VA awarded you disability benefits, you cannot file a motion for reconsideration. You will need to file an appeal, which can require you to attend hearings and court proceedings.
If your request for disability benefits was granted more than a year ago, you can request a reconsideration of your rating. You do this by filing Form 21-526b.
#3: Provide Medical Documentation
You will need to provide the VA with medical records showing that your condition has worsened. If you are being treated by a private doctor, you will need to complete Form 21-4142 so that he is authorized to speak with the VA and to release your medical records to them. If your doctor is a VA physician, you will need to provide the name and address of the VA medical facility where you are being treated.
Contact a Roswell VA Disability Attorney for Assistance With Your Claim
Do you need to ask for an increase in your disability rating? Call our Roswell office or fill out the online form on this page to schedule your free consultation to discuss your situation and whether filing this request is in your best interests.
Can I receive Social Security disability benefits for hearing loss?
You may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are deaf or suffer significant hearing loss. However, these claims are complicated, and you need the assistance of an experienced disability attorney if you want your application to be approved.
When You May Automatically Qualify for SSDI Benefits for Loss of Hearing
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an impairment listing which states when you can be automatically considered disabled and eligible for SSDI benefits for hearing loss if you do not have cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a medically inserted device that can provide a person with a sense of sound. You may qualify based on the results of one of these two tests:
- Audiometry. In your better ear, your average hearing threshold sensitivity for air conduction must be 90 decibels or less. In addition, you must have a bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or less in your good ear.
- Word recognition test. If you can repeat 40 percent or less of a list of standardized words, you can automatically qualify for benefits.
Your Right to SSDI Benefits If You Have Cochlear Implants
You are automatically eligible for SSDI benefits if you have cochlear implants in one or both ears for one year after they were implanted. This is true whether or not your hearing improves. After 12 months, your word recognition on a “Hearing in Noise Test” (TNT) must be 60 percent or less for you to continue to receive benefits.
What Happens If Your Hearing Loss Does Not Meet the Automatic Impairment Requirements?
Even if your hearing loss does not satisfy the requirements of the tests listed above, you may still be eligible for SSDI benefits. You would need to show that there are no jobs that you can perform with your hearing loss. In deciding your application, the SSA will consider your ability to communicate, follow instructions, and do various job tasks.
Do you have questions about whether you suffer from sufficient hearing loss to qualify for SSDI benefits? Call our office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to learn about your eligibility for benefits and how we can assist you.
My child was hurt in a New Mexico car crash. What should I do?
An auto accident can be even more terrifying if your baby or child is in the back seat. Because he may not be able to communicate with you or understand what has happened, it can be hard to determine if he is crying because he is frightened or hurt. Here are four important steps you want to take to protect your child’s health and legal rights.
Your first step should be to call 911 and to wait for the police and the emergency medical technicians (EMT) to arrive at the accident scene. Do not move your child out of his car seat until the first responders arrive to avoid making his injuries worse. While you are waiting, put on your emergency lights to help avoid being in another collision.
Seek Medical Care for Your Child
If your child is not transported to the hospital, you should contact your pediatrician and have him examined as soon as possible. It is important to follow his physician’s advice and continue with all necessary medical treatment.
You also need to know the warning signs of more serious injuries to watch for at home. If your child is crying excessively, sleeping more than normal, not eating, or has lost interest in his toys, this may be a sign that he is experiencing symptoms of additional injuries. Even if he was already examined by his doctor, you should obtain prompt medical care for him.
Replace the Car Seat
You should replace your child’s car seat unless you were involved in a very minor car accident with little damage to your vehicle and no injuries. It may be structurally damaged and may offer insufficient protection if you are involved in an accident in the future.
Retain an Attorney
You should hire an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the collision. He can file your child’s claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company and negotiate his settlement so that he receives the compensation he deserves for his injuries. Your attorney can also help you comply with any additional procedures that may be necessary before settling your child’s claim due to the fact that he is a minor.
Call our Roswell law office to schedule a free consultation to learn about your child’s legal options and how we can assist you in protecting his legal rights.
Should I file a Notice of Disagreement with the VA if my application for disability benefits is denied?
If you received a letter from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) denying your application for VA disability benefits before February 19, 2019, you must file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to appeal their decision. You would also file a NOD if the VA approved your application, but their rating of your disability was wrong. If you received a denial on or after February 19, 2019, you must follow a new process to file an appeal.
What Is a Notice of Disagreement?
A Notice of Disagreement is a VA form that must be completed to begin the appeal process. This Notice should be provided to you by the VA when they send you a decision on your application.
The deadline to file the NOD is one year from the date of the VA’s notification letter to you.
Tips on Filing Your NOD
If you want to receive a favorable decision, you need to complete the NOD properly. Here are seven tips you should follow:
- Use the correct VA form. This form is VA 21-0958 “Notice of Disagreement.”
- Do not miss the one-year deadline to file the NOD.
- Select whether you want a Decision Review Officer Review (DRO) or a Traditional Appellate Review. An experienced VA disability lawyer can advise you which option is best for you.
- Be specific on what decisions of the VA you disagree with and why.
- Include any additional supporting evidence that supports your right to VA disability benefits and refutes the VA’s decision denying your application.
- Retain a skilled attorney as soon as possible to help you file your NOD and collect all the evidence you need to be successful.
- Keep a copy of your NOD and any supporting documents for your records.
Are you considering filing an appeal of the VA’s decision to deny your application for disability benefits? Call our Roswell office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to get your questions answered and learn how we can assist you.
What are Social Security disability work credits?
In 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?
If 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?
Filing 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:
- Service-connected disability benefits
- Burial benefits
- Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
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.
Are punitive damages possible after a New Mexico car crash?
If 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.