Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability
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What is a service-connected disability?
If you are applying for disability benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a member of the armed forces, you must be eligible for these benefits. One of the first things that you will need to show is that your disability or illness is connected to your military service. This is also called showing that you have a service-connected disability.
Ways of Establishing a Service-Connected Disability
There are five basic ways to show that you have a service-related disability that entitles you to benefits. They include the following:
- Direct Service Connection. A direct service connection can be shown if there is a specific incident that is linked to an illness or disability. For example, if a Veteran becomes paralyzed as a result of gun shot or a helicopter crash while in combat, he can show the direct service connection between his disability and service in the military. Hearing loss due to repetitive exposure to extremely loud noises would fall under this category as well (see Tinnitus).
- Presumed service connection. Some illnesses and disabilities are presumed to be service-connected by the VA. The VA has a list of these conditions and the length of time a Veteran would be presumed to be disabled. Examples of presumed medical conditions include chronic illnesses, tropical illnesses, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis as long as the disability rating is 10 percent or more.
- Pre-existing injury. A pre-existing injury can be used to establish a service-connected disability if the Veteran had the medical condition prior to his service in the military and it was made worse by an event while he was serving. In most cases, the pre-existing injury or disability must be noted on the serviceman’s initial medical exam.
- Secondary service condition. A secondary service condition is one where one service-related disability causes another one. The second disability may not be connected to the veteran’s service, but would not have occurred if he did not have the first service-connected illness or disability. For example, if a serviceman contracted tuberculosis, which is presumed to be service-connected, and suffered hearing loss due to taking medication with this as a possible side effect, his hearing loss would be considered caused by the first service-related illness.
- Treatment by VA. If a Veteran suffers an injury due to his medical treatment by the VA, this would automatically be considered a service-related disability.
If you are a member of the armed forces and are disabled due to your service, our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you file your application and gather the evidence you need to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our convenient online form.
How can I pay a Social Security disability attorney if I am not working?
If you are unable to work due a medical condition or disability, the process of filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and fighting with the Social Security Administration (SSA) about your right to benefits can be complicated and lengthy. You may know that you need the assistance of an experienced Social Security disability attorney but fear that you will not be able to pay his attorney fees when you have no paycheck anymore. Fortunately, you can afford to retain a lawyer even if you have limited funds.
How Social Security Disability Attorneys Are Paid
Lawyers who represent clients filing for SSDI are paid on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not charge any attorney fees up front. In addition, the SSA has set limits on how much an attorney can charge for his services. Here is how a contingency fee agreement works:
- You only owe attorney fees if you win your case.
- If your claim is denied, you would not be charged any fees by your lawyer.
- Your lawyer will receive a percentage of your disability benefits as his attorney fees. Under SSA rules, an attorney can only receive 25 percent, but no more than $6,000, of your back disability benefits at the time your application is approved.
How Legal Fees Are Paid in SSDI Cases
When you hire your attorney, you will sign a contingency fee agreement. It gives the SSA permission to pay your lawyer for his services when your claim for benefits is approved. Your lawyer would file an application for his fees with the SSA rather than sending you a bill. Once approved, his attorney fees would be paid out of your past-due benefits.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses You May Owe
Your lawyer is permitted to charge you for out-of-pocket expenses as well as attorney fees for his services. These costs can include the fees for obtaining medical records, expert witness fees, and postage. You may owe these expenses whether or not you win your case. It is important to discuss these additional fees with your attorney before you hire him so you understand what they are and how their payment will be handled.
Let Us Help You File Your Claim for SSDI Benefits
Unfortunately, many SSDI applications are denied by the SSA even when the applicant qualifies for benefits. Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to guide you through the process of filing your application and fight for the benefits you deserve. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.
How can I determine whether or not a drowsy driver caused my vehicle collision?
Too many motorists cause serious collisions because they are too sleepy to operate their vehicles properly. Drowsiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgement, and increases collision risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving caused 795 fatalities during 2017.
Drowsy Driving Causes
Most drowsy driving collisions occur when drivers drift out of their lanes or leave the road, leading to head-on collisions, sideswipes, and side-impact accidents. Drowsy driving is often caused by:
- Shift work. Employees who routinely work the night shift or irregular hours may suffer from sleep deprivation, causing them to drive while they are exhausted.
- Alcohol. Alcohol consumption can increase a driver’s drowsiness.
- Sleep disorders. Drivers with undiagnosed sleep apnea or narcolepsy may fall asleep while they are on the road.
- Sedating medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can induce drowsiness in motorists.
Drowsy Driving Evidence
Unlike alcohol and drug testing, there are no tests to determine whether or not a motorist is guilty of drowsy driving. However, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather evidence to prove that the driver was drowsy, including:
- A lack of skid marks at the accident scene, indicating that the sleepy driver made no effort to stop the vehicle.
- Work or school attendance records, which may be used to show that the motorist was suffering from a lack of sleep.
- Prescription records for medications known to induce drowsiness.
- Cell phone records, social media posts, and credit card records proving that the drowsy driver had been awake for an extended period of time.
You Need the Representation of a Skilled Vehicle Accident Attorney
Fatigued driving can be just as risky as drunk driving, and victims of these accidents need representation by a skilled vehicle accident attorney. If you’ve been hurt by a drowsy driver, your attorney can gather evidence to establish 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.
Why should I hire a VA disability attorney instead of using a VSO?
Many injured Veterans rely on Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) for help when pursuing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims. VSOs are typically non-profits run by volunteers that are established to support Veterans. Some of the most popular VSOs include American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Representation by VSOs offers some advantages, but there are drawbacks, as well.
Veterans Service Organizations
Representation by a VSO offers some important advantages, including:
- Free help. VSOs typically assist Veterans with the filing of their disability claims free of charge. Veterans are not required to be a member of the organization to take advantage of their services.
- Relatable. Most VSOs were created by Veterans, for Veterans. This means that disabled Veterans can have a representative who understands what life in the military entails.
Veterans Disability Attorneys
While Veterans sometimes choose a VSO since the services are free, many Veterans have benefited considerably from hiring an attorney to guide them through their disability claim process. An experienced Veterans disability attorney can:
- Gather evidence. An attorney can locate various necessary pieces of documentation, such as medical bills and records, to support a disability claim.
- Request an independent medical exam. The VA often requires very precise information from a physician, and a doctor’s report may be rejected if this information is unsuitable or insufficient. An attorney can request an independent medical exam to ensure that the VA receives the information necessary to process the claim.
- Navigate VA claims and appeals. The VA claims and appeals processes are complicated, and the laws governing them are often difficult to understand. Attorneys know how to interpret the regulations that are applicable to a disability case.
Hiring a VA Disability Attorney
While there are no mandatory certifications or credentials for VSOs, Veterans disability attorneys must undergo years of education and training before they are permitted to represent Veterans. Hiring an attorney can significantly increase your likelihood of collecting benefits, by ensuring that you receive personalized attention when submitting or appealing your claim. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
Can I receive Social Security disability benefits if I’m self-employed?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 9.6 million self-employed workers during 2016, including entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers. Self-employment has numerous advantages, such as having more freedom in the workplace and the ability to work from home. However, self-employed individuals sometimes wonder if they can still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) should they suffer from an injury or illness that prevents them from working. The good news is, self-employed workers can still receive these benefits, under certain circumstances.
Self-Employment and Social Security Insurance
Self-employed individuals may qualify for SSDI if:
- They have paid Social Security taxes. While employees pay into the Social Security system automatically when taxes are deducted from their paychecks, self-employed workers must pay these taxes on their own.
- They have accurately reported their income. Self-employed individuals must accurately report their earnings when filing federal income taxes.
- They have worked long enough to qualify for benefits. All workers are required to pay Social Security taxes for a number of years before they can collect benefits in the event of a long-term disability. While the amount of work necessary to qualify for disability benefits varies with a person’s age, they are typically required to have worked for at least five out of the last ten years.
- They have a qualifying disability. Just like everyone else pursuing SSDI benefits, self-employed individuals must prove that they have a disability that is expected to last for over a year. Furthermore, this disability must prevent them from continuing to work.
- They can no longer engage in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) means that a person is engaged in significant physical or mental labor. For 2019, SGA is defined as earning $1,220 or more per month from employment.
An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you’ve been self-employed, and qualify for SSDI benefits due to an injury or illness, 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 should I do when an insurance adjuster requests a recorded statement?
After you’ve sustained injuries in a vehicle accident, you may be contacted by an adjuster from your own insurance company, as well as the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. Your response to requests from these adjusters can have a huge impact on your vehicle accident claim.
Responding to the Insurance Company
Regardless of whether you are contacted by your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, the insurance adjuster’s job isn’t to help you. The adjuster works for the insurance company, with the goal of saving the insurer as much money as possible. The insurance adjuster will likely ask you for a recorded statement. The appropriate response to this request depends on whether you are being contacted by an adjuster from:
Your Own Insurance Company
If the adjuster from your own insurance company asks for a recorded statement, you must either comply or risk denial of your claim. This is because you, as the insured, are contractually obligated to cooperate with your insurance company. While you are required to comply with your insurer’s request for a recorded statement, you should only do so under the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company will likely contact you and request a recorded statement. However, you are under no obligation to provide a statement to someone else’s insurer—and you shouldn’t. Insurance adjusters are experts at asking leading questions, and they will attempt to make you admit that the collision was partly your fault. If you say anything that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, the other driver’s insurance company will likely use your statement to reduce or deny your claim. Instead, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney speak with the insurer on your behalf.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Claim
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, a personal injury attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that jeopardize your claim. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Can I afford to hire a VA disability attorney?
Hiring a lawyer to assist with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claim is very affordable, thanks to the contingency fee arrangements that most disability attorneys use. Under a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer is only paid for legal services after the case has been won.
Contingency Fee Arrangements
Contingency fees are typically paid directly out of a Veteran’s lump sum payment from the VA, provided that the veteran and attorney have entered into a fee agreement that allows for this. The VA will send the percentage of past-due benefits specified in this fee agreement to the attorney, and will then send the Veteran the balance of the lump sum. Clients benefit from contingency fee arrangements in several important ways, including:
- No payment is required up front. Disabled Veterans are often already suffering under an immense financial strain due to their injuries. Contingency fee arrangements allow Veterans to secure the legal representation they need regardless of their economic circumstances.
- Clients only pay for results. Veterans will never owe legal fees unless their attorney is successful in obtaining the disability benefits they are owed. Veterans with a successful claim will also be responsible for payment of their case expenses, such as the cost of obtaining medical records and hiring expert witnesses.
- Disability attorneys have a strong performance incentive. Since lawyers are only paid if and when they secure compensation for their clients, they have a powerful incentive to provide quality representation.
Receiving VA Disability Benefits
If you’ve been injured in service to your country, you may be entitled to receive VA disability benefits. Unfortunately, pursuing these benefits is frequently a struggle, since it is a long process requiring extensive documentation. An experienced attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve. The consultation is free, and there is never a charge for providing assistance during the application process. To learn more about what a disability lawyer can do for you, call us today or complete the contact form on this page.
What is the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled?
An 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
The 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?
While 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.