Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability
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What are the differences between SSDI and SSI?
Since 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)
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)
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.
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.
Military 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 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!
Can I receive workers’ compensation if my injury was my fault?
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, so you’re entitled to benefits regardless of the cause of your accident.
New Mexico Workers’ Compensation
Under the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, if an employee is hurt due to a work-related accident, he is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault. This means that the employee doesn’t have to prove negligence on the part of his employer in order to receive benefits. Claims can also be processed faster, since there is no burden of proof that must be met, and no long disputes regarding who is to blame for the accident. Workers’ compensation benefits an employee may receive include:
● Lost salary or wages.
● Compensation for permanent disability.
● Rehabilitation expenses.
● Retraining costs.
Workers’ Compensation Benefit Exceptions
Even when a worker is clearly at fault for the accident that caused his injuries, he is still entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits, with a few exceptions. If the employer can successfully argue that any of these exceptions apply, the employee will be completely barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. These exceptions include:
● Injuries resulting from intoxication.
● Injuries sustained while performing an activity specifically forbidden by the employer.
● Injuries caused by horseplay.
● Intentional, self-inflicted injuries.
● Injuries sustained during a fight.
The Exclusive Remedy Provision
In New Mexico, injured employees are only entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits from their employer, and nothing else. This is known as the exclusive remedy provision, and it applies even when the employer or a coworker caused a worker’s injuries due to gross negligence. Employees are barred from suing their employer for additional compensation, even when the employer is clearly at fault.
Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation laws can be very complex, but an experienced attorney can help workplace injury victims receive the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you need professional legal representation. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.
How much does it cost to hire a car accident attorney?
Personal injury attorneys are typically compensated under a contingency fee arrangement. Some injury victims are hesitant to pursue litigation, since they can’t cover the cost of legal services upfront. Contingency fees allow injury victims to pursue justice, and receive the compensation they need and deserve.
Contingency Fee Arrangements
Contingency fees are a percentage of the settlement due to personal injury attorneys when they are successful in recovering compensation for accident victims. In other words, the lawyer is only paid when he wins the case. This provides a number of benefits for clients, including:
● Lower risks. When a client enters into an hourly rate agreement with his attorney, he may face substantial legal bills regardless of the outcome of his case. With contingency fees, clients only pay if and when their attorney succeeds in securing their compensation.
● A better attorney-client relationship. When attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, their compensation is tied directly to the outcome of the case. This can make for a great partnership between the client and his attorney, since the lawyer has a strong financial incentive to reach a favorable settlement in a timely manner.
● The attorney has confidence in his client’s case. Since their own compensation is tied directly to the outcome, contingency fee attorneys are unlikely to accept cases they don’t believe are winnable. If an attorney is willing to risk losing out on legal fees based upon the outcome of a case, that case probably has a lot of merit.
● Representation against companies with deep pockets. Due to contingency fees, injury victims don’t have to be wealthy in order to secure quality legal representation. Huge corporations and insurance companies can easily afford attorneys to represent them, but few individuals can pay an experienced attorney hundreds of dollars per hour to pursue litigation.
You Need Representation
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, you need experienced representation by a contingency fee attorney. Our consultations are confidential, free, and there is no obligation. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.
Do I need to visit the doctor after a car accident, even if I’m not hurt?
You should see a doctor as soon as possible after your collision, even if you feel fine. You could have internal injuries that have not yet surfaced, jeopardizing your health. Promptly seeking medical help will also strengthen your vehicle accident claim. Here is a short overview of some common car accident injuries:
- Internal Injuries. Internal injuries caused by a vehicle collision can worsen over time when left untreated.
- Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly thrust forward and then backward in a vehicle accident. The chronic pain caused by whiplash may take days, or even weeks, to develop.
- Concussion. Violent jolts to the body stemming from the impact of a vehicle collision may cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull with tremendous force. This can cause a concussion, leading to symptoms that include headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, lack of concentration, and memory lapses. While these symptoms can be very serious, they often do not surface immediately.
- Soft tissue injuries. Typical soft tissue injuries include strains, sprains, and tears to the tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the back, neck, and shoulders. Injury victims may not experience any pain or swelling until a week or more after the collision.
- Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a jolt to the head, and symptoms can take several weeks or more to emerge. These injuries may result in hearing problems, vision difficulties, and memory lapses.
Receiving a Medical Evaluation
If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident, you should obtain a medical evaluation even if you don’t believe that you’re injured. If injury symptoms surface in the future, you’ll need documentation showing that you sought prompt medical treatment. Otherwise, the insurance adjuster will likely argue that your injuries aren’t serious. Your health insurance should cover any necessary medical treatments, and your insurance company can be repaid out of any future vehicle accident settlements you may receive. To protect your right to compensation, consult an attorney as soon as possible. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.
What is the Compassionate Allowances program?
The process of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits can be extremely long and difficult. Compassionate Allowances are used to identify medical conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits, expediting the application process in order to provide benefits as quickly as possible.
How Compassionate Allowances Can Help
Social Security provides disability benefits for those individuals who have medical conditions that prevent them from working. These conditions primarily consist of some types of cancer, brain disorders, and rare childhood illnesses. The Compassionate Allowances program is designed to identify these types of claims, and help families in need by providing:
- Quick approval. Generally speaking, applying for Social Security disability payments is a lengthy process. The application itself is long and complicated, requiring numerous medical documents and testimonies regarding the victim’s condition. The decision process may then take as long as 6 to 12 months. Compassionate Allowances expedite this process dramatically, allowing families to receive the compensation they need while the remainder of the application is still being processed.
- No extra work. The Social Security disability application requires extensive documentation of the applicant’s medical condition. However, applying for a Compassionate Allowance doesn’t require any extra effort. When the Social Security office reviews the disability claim, they will refer to a list of Compassionate Allowances to determine if the applicant has a qualifying disorder. If so, the applicant will start receiving payments as soon as possible. These payments typically begin anywhere from just a few weeks to a couple of months after the application is filed.
- Retroactive payments. Qualifying applicants are entitled to receive retroactive pay for the period between the genesis of their disability and the approval of their application.
Qualifying for Compassionate Allowances
Speaking with an experienced disability attorney is the best way to determine eligibility for a Compassionate Allowance. He can help you complete applications, keep paperwork organized, and guide you through the appeals process, if needed. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Which types of lost-wage benefits are available for a work injury in New Mexico?
Lost wage payments intended to compensate injured New Mexico workers for wage loss are known as indemnity benefits.
Types of Indemnity Benefits
There are four types of indemnity benefits available through workers’ compensation in New Mexico:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD). As you might guess from the name, these benefits are provided to workers who are temporarily unable to work due to an injury. TTD payments will be made until the employee returns to work, or until his doctor determines that his condition will no longer improve with further medical treatment. This is known as maximum medical improvement.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD). These benefits are available to injured workers who continue to work, but at a reduced wage or with reduced hours. TPD benefits will continue to be paid until the worker’s wages return to the normal rate or until maximum medical improvement has been reached.
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD). These are lifetime benefits that are paid to employees who have suffered debilitating injuries, and who are therefore unable to do any work. Workers who have completely lost the use of both of their hands, arms, legs, feet, or eyes (or any combination of two of these body parts) are entitled to receive PTD compensation. Employees who have suffered a severe brain injury may also qualify for permanent total disability benefits.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD). Workers who have permanent limitations, but who are still able to return to work, may be eligible for PPD benefits. These benefits are paid to employees for both scheduled losses and whole body impairments once maximum medical improvement has been reached. A scheduled loss involves an amputation or loss of use of a body part, for which an employee will receive two-thirds of his average weekly wage. All other permanent partial disabilities, such as back, head, neck, and lung injuries, are compensated as whole body impairments.
A Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help
As you can see, the rules applicable to indemnity benefits in New Mexico are complicated. You need the guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you receive all of the benefits you’re entitled to. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.
What is the most dangerous type of distracted driving?
There really is no such thing as a most dangerous form of distracted driving, since anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road is dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents during 2016 alone.
Types of Driving Distractions
Unfortunately, our modern, always-connected lives provide plenty of opportunities for driver distraction. There are three primary types of driving distractions:
- Visual. Any person, object, or event that causes a driver to take his eyes off the road constitutes a visual distraction. It only takes a matter of seconds for a driver to miss spotting an obstacle in the road, drift out of his lane, or fail to notice that traffic is slowing ahead of him. Watching kids in the backseat, studying a map, or looking at the navigation system display are common visual distractions.
- Manual. If a driver takes one or both hands off the wheel, his vehicle can quickly drift into another lane. He also loses the ability to respond quickly to road hazards or other emergencies. A manual distraction is anything that causes a driver to remove his hands from the wheel, such as using an electronic gadget or reaching for items in the vehicle. Typical examples of manual distractions include texting, smoking, eating, and personal grooming.
- Cognitive. Even when a driver’s eyes are on the road and his hands are on the wheel—his mind may be elsewhere. He may be daydreaming, thinking about his plans for the evening, or reliving an argument he got into at work. Anything that causes a vehicle operator to think intently about something other than driving is a cognitive distraction, which can affect both judgment and reaction time. Talking with a passenger, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and driving while fatigued are common cognitive distractions.
Receiving Compensation for Your Injuries
If you’ve been injured in a collision with a distracted driver, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can investigate to establish proof of the driver’s negligence and 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.
I used my personal health insurance for treatment following an accident caused by another driver. I settled with that driver's insurance, and now my health insurer is demanding to be reimbursed. Do I have to pay them?
When your health insurer pays for your medical expenses for treatment caused by someone else’s negligence, and you ultimately recover monetary damages from that negligent person, your health insurer has a right to be reimbursed (these are called rights of subrogation) from you out of the accident money you received.
Here is the reasoning - Your settlement money from the negligent driver’s insurance included payment to you for medical bills resulting from your treatment. But your health insurer also paid you (by paying the health care provider) for those same medical bills.
To allow you to be paid for the medical bills, while also having your own health insurance pay for those same bills, is the legal equivalent of “double dipping”. Instead, your health insurer has a legal right of subrogation (i.e. right of reimbursement) that requires you to reimburse them in the amount they paid on your behalf for treatment resulting from the accident.
Keep in mind, if you do not ultimately make a recovery from the responsible driver, either because they didn’t carry insurance, or for any other reason, you would not be required to reimburse your health insurer anything. Your health insurance company’s subrogation rights are triggered only upon your receipt of monetary damages from the negligent party.
This answer provides a simple explanation, but there are often more complex factors involving subrogation rights, including the amount that must be reimbursed. For this reason, we recommend seeking legal counsel to help ensure all of your legal rights and remedies are considered when dealing with issues of reimbursement.
Call us for a free consultation to see how we can help you.