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FAQs


General

What Is The Process Of Filing A Personal Injury Claim?

This would all depend on the case and the insurance company. Some insurance companies are known to fight everything, while other insurance companies can be a little more reasonable. This would also depend on the case itself. A rear end collision without a lot of property damage, for example, would be a very difficult case. When someone ends up with an injury after an accident that caused minor to moderate property damage, the insurance companies sometimes take the position that they could not see a lot of damage on the outside of the car, therefore they assume there was not a lot of damage to the person, which would not necessarily be true. Other cases that can be a big fight are the higher dollar ones where there is more money at stake, so there is more for the insurance company to fight over.

Do People Misunderstand How Complicated Personal Injury Cases Can Get? Do People Misunderstand How Complicated These Cases Can Get?

Definitely. There are procedures as well as laws that have to be followed, and unless the person does this on a daily basis, it is somewhat hard to navigate through it and get what they are entitled to.

Do Most Personal Injury Cases Reach A Settlement Or Go To Trial?

Most personal injury cases reach a settlement, it is usually in the client’s best interest to try to reach an out of court settlement if the insurance company evaluates the claim reasonably, unfortunately that does not always happen. Considering the cost and the time involved in going through a trial, it can be very risky to put it in the hands of six people who have never met the injured person before and who do not know anything about the person other than what they learned from the first day of the trial to the end. Often times evidence that may be very helpful to the jury in making their determination is excluded for technical/legal reasons. Often times a client can end up putting more money in their pocket if a settlement can be reached prior to going through with litigation, although not always.

What Makes Up A Viable Personal Injury Claim Versus One That Is Not Going Far?

Liability and damages are the two main factors. When somebody calls our office, the first thing we would look at would be how the accident happened and whether the person calling our office as a potential client was potentially liable or whether there was a 100% liability on the other party. We also handle cases where our client could be partially liable, and that would be considered a comparative negligence case. It would depend on the amount of the damages if our client was 10% liable and the other party was 90%. In this case, we would basically take 90% of the damages whether they were in the form of personal injury damages and/or property damages. The other component would be the actual damages themselves. While the amount of property damage is not 100% correlated to the bodily injury, it would give us a good place to start. The rest of it would be the bodily injuries to the client themselves. MRI testing would usually be done about 30 days to 3 months after the accident if the person was still complaining about pain at that point in time, because they would want to see what was going on inside that they could not see from just an outside evaluation. The value of the claim would be a little higher if the MRI showed the person had a herniation, and it would be even higher if it turned out the person was a surgical candidate after receiving some conservative treatment for that injury or that they had to have actual surgery done. It is self explanatory with respect to values if the case involved a paraplegic, as well as if the case involved death. The main areas we practice in are personal injuries resulting from motorcycles, bicycles, and automobile accidents, as well as social security disability and medical malpractice.

How Is An Attorney Compensated For A Personal Injury Case?

The initial consultation is free. A client can talk to an attorney for free just to see what their case may be worth or, whether they even had a case, or just what to expect. Beyond that, if they want the attorney to represent them, they sign a contingency fee contract, meaning the attorney would get a percentage of the settlement at the end of the case. That percentage would 33.33% unless it goes into litigation. At that point the fee would go to 40%. If it had to be appealed after a trial, the fee goes to 45%. The costs involved in a case would generally be under $1,000 until we begin litigation, once in litigation the costs can range anywhere from about $10,000 on up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the type of case. The costs would be paid by the attorney as the case went along, but the client would owe those costs back at the end of the case. For more information on Filing A Personal Injury Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

How To Deal With Insurance Adjusters?

We tell the client to get information from the person who is calling, regarding who they are and what company they are with, along with their phone and extension number. The client should then politely advise them that they are represented and they should provide them with our phone number and name. If it is the client’s insurance company calling, then they would be entitled to a recorded statement, although we would like to be there for the recorded statement, and we would like to be able to discuss it in advance with the client, so we could let them know what the insurance company is looking for. If the other party’s insurance adjuster called, they would not be entitled to a statement. Most of the time a statement is not helpful, and the insurance adjuster would say they were trying to determine liability or something along those lines, whereas in all reality they would not need a recorded statement to determine that. In any case, we would ask our client to politely get the information and then call us so we could contact the insurance company directly as well. They should not be contacting the client, once we send the letter of representation, they are not allowed to contact the client although sometimes they still do.

Would The Personal Injury Victim Have To Provide The Other Company With Medical Records?

No, the client would never have to provide this; we would provide the medical records once a demand was made. Obviously, they would need to have the evidence and some basis on which to evaluate the case to determine what they felt the value of the case was and they would not be able to do that without medical records. These records would not be provided to them until the end of the treatment or once the doctors determined the person’s recovery had reached a plateau or maximum medical improvement. For more information on Dealing With Insurance Adjusters, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

How To Gather Evidence In Personal Injury Claims?

Evidence would be very important in a personal injury case. The person would need to start gathering all forms of evidence from day one, whether it was in the form of witnesses at the scene, photographs of the property damage at the scene, or photographs of people who were involved in the accident. Witnesses would be the top thing we would need to try to get a handle on from the very beginning of the case, because people move and memories start to fade. It would be very important to do this part of the investigation at the beginning. The other part of the evidence that is very important would be the medical evidence to determine what injuries had been caused by the accident.

Do You Advise Clients To Keep A Journal Of The Accidents And Their Continuing Care?

I do not really tell clients to keep a log of what is going on with them other than providing calendars for them to write down appointments for when they have to go to their doctors. They could write down appointments for therapy or specialist appointments, so that they can go back and see what kind of treatment they had been receiving as far as a timeline. We would tell them to keep a journal if it would be helpful for medical reasons, for example if a specific issue was reoccurring, like migraines at a certain time of day, but otherwise we would generally not tell them to keep one. Some issues can be discoverable by the other side and they could potentially actually hurt the client if the client wrote down some things but did not write down everything because it would be interpreted to mean that if the person did not write it down, it did not happen.

What Are The Challenges People Face In Personal Injury Cases?

The biggest challenges would probably be the lack of funds while going through the process and generally waiting for things to happen. The person is generally recommended to undergo medical treatment from the doctors, and the doctor may recommend for them to begin physical therapy or referrals to specialists. There is a lot of waiting because the client has to go through the medical treatment and see how their body responds to treatment. During that time, they would still be going through all the pain and they may not be able to make the money they were making before because they were not able to work the hours they were working before, on top of trying to get their physical therapy. The other big challenge is once it gets to litigation, there is time involved. It takes a lot of attorney time, as well as client time. The client needs to come in and answer a lot of questions for responses to interrogatories and they would have to produce documents. When it is time for trial, it takes time to get prepared for the trial and get the client prepared and all the other witnesses prepared with the client. We would need to prepare the before and after witnesses, and talk to the client about their doctors past medical treatment and future recommendations. For more information on Evidence In Personal Injury Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

When Is The Right Time To File A Personal Injury Claim?

We would like to have the case as early as possible. Most of our clients are actually referred to us by prior clients so they know to call us right away. If their friend said they were in an accident, our past clients generally tell them to call the law firm right away, so we can get started on investigating it. This allows us at the beginning to get the information we need, to preserve the witness testimony, gather all the evidence, and also to follow the person during their medical treatment. If the person was getting medical treatment, it is usually about 3 to 6 months of “conservative care” or anything noninvasive, meaning that they were being treated maybe 3 times a week and they go to physical therapy. This would be if there were no herniations or any reason they might be a surgical candidate. After that point the person generally has a final assessment by the doctor stating they reached maximum medical improvement. This does not mean the doctor was saying the person was 100%, but it means the person is at a plateau of medical treatment. At that point we collect whatever medical records and bills that we do not already have. We usually have already requested the prior medical records if there were any regarding any pre-existing conditions or anything like that. After the doctor finalizes the care, it usually takes 30 days to collect all of the other information we need and we are able to write the demand. If it was a case where there is not enough insurance, and the victim ended up being a surgical candidate, then we would not wait for the end of the treatment. If the policy was for $10,000 and the person had a herniated disk, then we would know that just the conservative care itself would exceed that, which is why we would not wait until the very end to do the demand. How we proceed would be decided on a case by case basis.

Is There A Statute Of Limitations On Personal Injury Claims In Florida?

The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in Florida is 4 years for bodily injury and 5 years for UM, meaning uninsured or underinsured motorist.

How Soon Should Someone Seek Medical Treatment In Case of Personal Injury?

Under Florida law, the person will lose their PIP benefits if they do not receive medical treatment within 14 days of the date of the accident. This would be $10,000 in medical bills that would have to be paid by the person’s own insurance company. It would be paid at 80% unless the person had Medpay, which is why it would be so important to seek treatment within those 14 days. I personally think it is important to go as soon as the person felt that the pain necessitated it. People who get into an accident often have neck and back injuries, and they feel a little bit of pain at the time of the accident but then it tends to get worse through the night and into the next day. The person should go to the doctor right away if this is happening, although they may not necessarily have to go to the emergency room unless they felt it was an emergency at the time of the accident. Clearly, the person should go if they felt like they were injured right at the accident scene. Instead of wasting the entire amount of PIP on an emergency room visit, during which they may run a lot of tests that may not otherwise be run and that may not actually be needed, the person can just go to their PCP or they could go to a clinic or something like that to be evaluated. If the person was still having pain the day after the accident, then I would recommend that they should at least go and get checked out.

What If You Started Having Aches And Pains After The 14 Day Period?

Unfortunately PIP would not be responsible meaning the personal injury protection. However, this would not affect the person’s claim for the bodily injury, against the individual who actually caused the accident. The longer the person waited to receive treatment, the more difficult it would be to argue that the person’s injuries were related to the accident. Not only that, the longer one waits to receive treatment, the more likelihood there may be of something happening in between that time. If the person has not received any treatment or they had not documented injuries then it would be hard to separate the initial accident and another event. If health insurance is available this can also be utilized to pay for needed treatment.

How Do People Manage When They Are Disabled And Waiting For Damages?

This can be difficult. There is PIP, meaning “Personal Injury Protection” benefits that could pay a portion of the person’s lost wages while they were out of work, but that would only be up to a maximum of $10,000 and the medical bills would also be paid from that amount. Lost wages are paid at 60% of your average weekly wage basted on the 13 weeks prior to the accident. Once that amount ran out, if the person and their doctors felt they would still not be able to work for at least a period of 12 months from the time of the accident, then they would be able to file for social security disability at the same time they were going through the process of the personal injury suit, which we also handle at our office. For more information on Filing A Personal Injury Claim, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

Why Follow Suggested Medical Plans?

It is very important for the person to follow medical treatment recommended by their doctors; whether they recommended physical therapy or medications or referrals for diagnostic testing or specialists. The doctor would be the specialist in that area, not the client nor their attorney. If the person does not follow the recommendations of the doctor and the case goes to trial, the defense would bring up, in front of the jury, the fact that the person went to the doctor but did not do what he/she recommended and they would argue why they should pay the person for any potential future medical care if they were not going to do it anyway. I do not tell people to go have injections or go have surgery, but if it is recommended and they do not feel they are in enough pain to warrant having that done, then they really should not have it done. If they are in enough pain that they needed that relief and they are willing to undergo injections or surgery, then doing it during the case would be the best time to do it. They might as well get it done now if they were going to try to wait it out and then ultimately get treatment 2 or 3 years later.

Do Preexisting Issues Count Toward The Current Personal Injury Case For Damages?

Yes, it would definitely factor in. Insurance companies always look at pre-existing conditions to see if they can say everything was already there before the accident occurred. When we make our demands to the insurance company, we try to get all of the records from the pre-existing condition whether it was from an accident or just something that happened to the person. We provide those records to the insurance company to let them know we were not hiding anything, and we explain how the person’s condition had changed as a result of the injury. An example would be someone who may have had a lower back surgery 10 years ago, and had not received treatment for 8 years until this accident happened. During that time they were working full time, they were leading a normal life and then this accident happened which caused them to be in pain again. The pre-existing condition definitely plays a role in the way the case is evaluated by the insurance company. We can present this to the jury showing through logical reasoning how their current condition was different from the prior to the accident. We have all lived lives and things have happened to all of us, but that does not mean that just because someone had a back injury 10 years ago, that the person who caused the accident yesterday should not be held responsible for the pain they caused today.

How Can A Gap In Care Affect A Personal Injury Case?

It can be overcome, but it can be very problematic. If the person had an accident and treated for their injuries consistently for a few months but then all of a sudden did not treat for 6 months to a year, it would be understood they did not need the treatment or else they would have sought it out and received it. If they did not need the treatment during that time, the jury would consider whether something else could have happened during that time period, regardless of whether or not there was any evidence of it. The jury would have this question in the back of their mind when they consider why the person decided to get treatment a year later, or it might even be the mere fact that the person was getting ready to go to court which was why they went back for treatment. This is why it is so important to have consistency of care.

Can You Help Clients Negotiate Medical Bills In A Personal Injury Case?

Yes, this is a service we provide. Things can become very difficult, which is why we try to find out at the very beginning what the insurance amount is and if the client has health insurance, so we can let the client know they need to be careful because there is only a certain amount of insurance. It does become very complicated, and I have had cases where the person knew there was hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills because of a very serious crash, but there was only $10,000 in the policy or $50,000 or maybe even $100,000 which would obviously not be able to cover the medical bills. If the client had health insurance, we will make sure all the providers are aware of that health insurance from the very beginning. There is a certain time period during which the health care providers would have to file with the insurance company, because if they do not do that then the health insurance would not have to pay it either. We try to get the bills paid as we go along and we try not to have them outstanding any more than we have to, although it may still end up that the medical bills are more than the actual settlement. I recently had a case where this happened. We called the individual providers and tired to negotiate with them and explain to them that there were very low limits and there was only a certain amount available there. We try to get everybody compensated for the services they provided, and for the most part the providers are very receptive to that. They understand that it is what it is and they can continue to bill but they would not be able to get any money from it, which is why they often try to negotiate with us. The last resort would be to do a motion for equitable distribution. If you get to the point where the medical provider is not willing to negotiate with the person before going to the motion hearing, then they will probably not be willing to negotiate at the motion hearing either. The judge will then make the determination of how that settlement would be dispersed. The judge would often say that if it is a $100,000 settlement, then they would take the attorney fees and costs off of there and then 50% of that would go to the providers split pro-rata, depending on what their medical bills were, and 50% of that would go to the client. This would not release the client from owing those medical bills, which is actually a popular misconception. Even if the judge allowed us to disperse the funds, meaning the hospital bill was for $100,000 but the funds would only cover $20,000 of that $100,000 hospital bill, the hospital would still have the right to pursue their patient for the remaining balance. This is something we are generally successful in doing, but there would be no way to give someone a 100% guarantee that would happen. For more information on Medical Care In Personal Injury Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

How To Avoid Damaging Your Personal Injury Case?

The biggest place we see people making mistakes is social media. They might post things on Facebook, or use social media in a way that might show they were physically better off than they actually are. Nobody posts on Facebook about their life being miserable and that they are in a lot of pain, because people generally tend to post about the good things are in their lives. If the defense attorney decided to look on Facebook and then saw all of these posts about quotes for the day or what that person’s daughter did or how wonderful something is, then all of this would highlight a beautiful part of your life, but it would not show the pain. A lot of the postings contain a lot of things that can actually be excluded from trial. People post a lot of things about going out and drinking, and although I cannot understand why they would post about that, they do. People post a lot of those kinds of things and although they can be excluded, they can still go into an evaluation process with an adjuster. They will still be looking at all of that even though the jury may not. With regard to social media, we tell our clients from the get go to please stop posting if they are posting about things and to just see if they can walk away from it for a little while. We cannot tell people to take down postings they have already made because that would be against the Florida bar rules. If they did take them down, they would have to copy them, print them, and have them available to the defense if they ever asked for them. This can be a tough one, because as an attorney I cannot tell my client to take down and get rid of posts that might hurt them, because doing so would be an ethical violation for me. This is very important and I have told my kids since they were very young, when social media started getting popular, that they should understand that anything they put out there would be there for life. They can delete it, but it would already be out there in the world, so they should try not to do it.

Would It Be A Mistake To Not Follow Doctors Recommendations Regarding Treatment?

The other mistake people make is not attending doctor’s appointments or by not following doctor’s recommendations. A lot of the time, people intentionally do not follow the doctor’s recommendations because either it was not convenient for them or they had a lot of other things that came up in their lives. As adults we take care of our kids and everybody else, but we do not necessarily take care of ourselves, so it is not be like the person was intentionally trying to sabotage their case, but they should realize that by not taking care of themselves, they do actually sabotage their case and their health. For more information on Damaging Your Personal Injury Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

How To Choose The Right Personal Injury Attorney?

There are a few things to consider when choosing a personal injury attorney. The first of them would be the attorney’s practice areas. I would personally not recommend going to an attorney who is a general practitioner for a personal injury case, because that attorney would need to know the ins and outs of the business and they would need to know how insurance companies work and what the laws are. It would be quite impossible for any attorney to know all the laws in all the areas of law, which is why it would be important to hire somebody who does this as one of their few practice areas. The second thing to do would be to have a consultation with the attorney. The client can look them up online, get referred by a friend or family member or find them in the yellow pages or however they wanted to. They should have an in-person consultation and see if they clicked with that attorney, whether their personality was something compatible with the client’s personality and whether they can trust what the attorney was saying. Quite honestly, I believe the best way to find an attorney would be through word of mouth. When looking for an attorney on the internet or even if someone had recommended them, it would still be very important to research them and see what that attorney was all about, meaning whether they made a good presentation because an attorney would physically need to be able to make a good presentation, they would need to make a good presentation to the other side and they would need to be able to present the case to a jury. The attorney will have to be able to speak well and they will need to be trustworthy. It might be something to take into consideration if the client walked into an attorney’s office and were not treated appropriately from the time they walked in the door, because maybe the person at the front desk did not make them feel comfortable. If the person does not really understand everything the attorney is saying when they sit down with them because the attorney was not communicating well with them, then it is likely that the attorney will not be able to communicate well with the jury either. It is important for there to be open communication and trust with that attorney, regardless of where the client got the attorney’s name from.

What To Avoid When Choosing A Personal Injury Attorney?

The biggest thing that potential clients should run from is an attorney who promises a specific amount of money or a specific amount of time to get that money. There is no way an attorney is able to tell just by somebody walking in the door what kind of money they will be able to get from a case. They have no idea what all their medical records stated, what their prior conditions were, what the insurance coverage is or what the assets of the other person might be. Another thing people should stay away from is an attorney who advertises a lot but is not really in the courtroom a lot.

What Makes Your Firm Different Or Particularly Suited In Handling Personal Injury Cases?

Between Susan Rene, the other attorney in the office, and myself, we have over 20 years of experience. We are very family centered and we consider our coworkers and clients as family. People who were my clients from when I first started practicing still come back and every year at Christmas they just stop in or just call or e-mail to say hello. We do not stop working at 5, and we are not one of those people on TV who advertise “Call us 24/7″ While I will give existing clients my cell phone number if they need it, I do not advertise that. I think it is important to be able to be there for your clients when they need you, and we always think about our clients. I cannot tell you how many times I have awoken in the middle of the night thinking about something else I wanted to do or another angle on a case, or that I had a text from one of my paralegals or another attorney in the office doing the same thing that night. It is not that we stop working at 5 and start at 8:30, because we are pretty much around the clock even when we are on vacation and would be think about things that need to be done for our clients or things that we could do better. We also periodically send out surveys to our clients asking them about their experience with us, is there anything we can change to make it better and we try to make them as comfortable as possible during this process because it is a difficult process to begin with.

What Are Some Misconceptions About Working With A Personal Injury Attorney?

People tend to believe that insurance companies will pay them and do the right thing because they have been paying premiums for so long. This generally does not happen because the adjusters are hired by the insurance company to save them as much money as possible. The other misconception is that people think it would cost too much to hire an attorney and that they simply do not have the money to do that. The initial consultation for an attorney is generally free, and they actually get paid a percentage of the recovery instead of money out of their client’s pocket. The attorney will fund the personal injury case, and they will pay costs that were necessary to do the investigation, so it is a lot more helpful for somebody to have an attorney than to try to do it on their own, not only because they would not know how to do it, but also because they would probably not have the funds to do the proper investigation. For more information on Choosing The Right Attorney, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

Social Security Disability

Do People Need To Quit Their Jobs In Order To Receive Disability Benefits?

You do not need to quit your job but working does send a red flag to Social Security and usually will result in a denial, at least at the initial and the reconsideration levels. If you are working and earning money, they look more into that to see if you are voluntarily limiting the amount of income that you are earning to try to qualify for disability. My advice is if you can work, you are always better off to work than you are to be on social security disability. So, it is more of a natural process.

Does Someone Have To Be Permanently Disabled To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

The regulations state that you have to be disabled or expect to be disabled for a period of at least twelve consecutive months. So, it is not necessarily permanent, but it is a period of twelve months or more. You may be entitled to dependent benefits for your children if they are under the age of nineteen and still in school for the DIB claim, which is Title II. For the SSI claim, (Title XVI) there are no dependent benefits.

Can I Get Social Security Benefits If I Have A Criminal Record?

Yes, but not while incarcerated. The general rule is that if you have a felony conviction, it does not have an impact on your social security or the SSI benefits but there are a few exceptions. You are not entitled to receive social security disability benefits if your disability arose or was made worse while you were committing a felony or if your disability arose or was made worse while you were imprisoned in a jail, prison or a correctional facility for a felony conviction or if you made yourself a widow or an orphan by killing your spouse or a parent.

Can I Receive Both SSI And SSDI Benefits?

Yes! You can if your DIB, which is Title II, amount is lower than the current SSI allowed amount, which for 2016 is $733 for an individual or $1100 for a couple. That amount normally changes every year but for this year, that is what the numbers are, so if you get DIB or Title II and your monthly amount is less than $733 as an individual or less than $1100 as a couple, then you could qualify for SSI as well, depending on your overall resources as well.

What Is A Compassionate Allowance? How Does Someone Qualify For Such A Program?

It is a program that Social Security instituted a few years ago and it is a way of quickly identifying diseases or other medical conditions that are known to qualify under the listing of impairments based on pretty minimal objective medical information. It allows social security to really focus in on those type of cases that are really obviously disabled. It is not a separate program from disability, from the SSI or the DIB but it is a procedure that you can go through and ask for a compassionate allowance. Some examples of compassionate allowance are acute leukemia, different types of cancers like esophageal cancer or adrenal cancer. There is also one listed for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. There is quite a list of them that you can get it for, but it is a way to kind of try to expedite the process when it is clear that the person should be getting disability and you do not have to go through quite as many hoops as you do for the normal disability process. They could actually get their decision in a matter of weeks instead of months or years. It depends on a lot of different factors, one of those is how quickly they can obtain the medical evidence from a doctor or the other medical sources. Whether a medical examination conducted by Social Security is necessary to support the claim and then there is also the chance that if your claim is randomly selected for quality assurance to review the decision that could delay it a little bit longer even if it is a compassionate allowance.

Does Someone Receive The Same Disability Benefits After Reaching The Age of 18 That They Received As A Minor?

There are rules and guidelines for what we call a child disability versus adult disabilities. Usually at age eighteen or nineteen,depending if the child is still in high school after age eighteen, they will pull it up for review. That does not mean that the benefits will discontinue, but they do what is called a continuing disability review to ensure that the disability is continuing and also to ensure that they meet the qualifications under the adult disability standards because they are a little bit different in some cases than they are for the children’s disability. For more information on Social Security Disability Benefits, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

What Are Some Medical Sources That Are Used To Prove A Disability?

There are regulations on what can and cannot be used for medical evidence. Therefore the records that would be acceptable would be licensed physicians, they can be medical or osteopathic doctors, licensed or certified psychologists; that actually includes school psychologists and other individuals that are licensed or certified to perform the same function as school psychologists; licensed optometrists, licensed podiatrists and qualified speech language pathologists are a few sources.

If Someone’s Doctor Says They Are Disabled, Do They Automatically Qualify For Benefits?

No, it does not! That is a big misconception. Just because a doctor says you are disabled, that is a legal determination, not necessarily a medical determination. It is based on medical records but the Social Security Administration and eventually if you get to a hearing, the judge, is the one that makes a determination if those medical records are enough evidence to warrant that you meet the disability guidelines under the social security rules and regulations. It is helpful if the doctor says you are disabled but you have to meet certain requirements, they cannot just say you are disabled and you are.

When Do Disability Benefits End?

Full retirement age, which is social security retirement, is actually between the ages of sixty-five and sixty-seven now, depending on when you were born. The DIB benefits or the Title II benefits would automatically transfer to retirement benefits, again depending on when you were born. For an example, if you were born in 1960 or after, the date for full retirement benefits is age sixty-seven. If you were born from 1943 to 1954, the age is sixty-six and for the years in between that, it sixty-six and two months, sixty-six and four months, so it depends on when you were born, but those benefits do automatically change to retirement benefits based on that scale and you do not have to do anything for them to change.

Does Someone Need Multiple Doctors’ Opinions Or Diagnoses In Order To Prove “Disability?”

No, not necessarily! It depends on what the disability is. If you are going for one single disability, say somebody has had a back surgery, a herniated disk and had to have a fusion but does not have anything else wrong with them, then you would really most likely be looking to an orthopedic surgeon to be able to fill out some forms and indicate whether they made a listing and present that evidence. If you are going for what we call a combination of impairments, meaning I have had a back injury and I also have depression, then we would be seeking medical records and forms potentially from both the orthopedic or neurologist or neurosurgeon as well as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Can I Still Receive Disability Benefits If I Have Been Unemployed For Many Years?

For SSI or Title XVI, yes, if you meet the financial requirements. That is a need based system. You have to basically not have income or that income will be offset and you cannot have resources in excess of $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 as a couple. For SSD or Title II, you have to have worked five out of the last ten years prior to the onset date of disability that you have been able to prove. If for example, in 2016, I want to say that I have been disabled since 2015, I have to have worked for five years out of the last ten prior to 2015, so 2005 to 2015, I would have to have five years of work. If I am filing for disability, now in 2016, but I can prove that my disability actually went back to 2010 and I worked five years from 2000 to 2010, then that would also qualify me. So, it really depends on onset of disability.

Can A Non-US Citizen Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Yes, if they are qualified aliens. There are specific rules and regulations for that but you have to meet those conditions to qualify to get SSI. You have to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence or you have to be granted conditional entry under certain regulations, you can be paroled into the U.S. under Section 212, you could be a refugee admitted to the U.S. under Section 207, or you could be granted asylum under Section 208. You could be a Cuban or Haitian entrant as defined in Section 501, so there are certain things that you would have to qualify for that to be what they call a qualified alien. If you qualify as an alien, and you were receiving SSI and lawfully residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996 and you are a lawful alien with forty qualifying quarters of coverage, you could be qualified for SSI benefits as well. There are also some provisions that if you are currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or you were lawfully residing in the U.S. August 22nd, 1996 and you were blind or disabled you can qualify. But you can only receive SSI benefits for a maximum of seven years from the date you were granted the immigration status. For more information on Medical Sources Used To Prove Disability, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

How Are Attorneys That Represent SSD Applications Compensated?

The most common way for the attorneys to get paid is a fee agreement that allows for a fee of twenty-five percent of the past due benefit. If you apply for disability this year and assert your onset to be 2014 and you are awarded back benefits from 2014 till whenever that decision is made, say some time in 2016, the attorney would be eligible for twenty-five percent of the past due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000 in order to be paid. They can also do it on an hourly fee, which is based on contract and a fee petition, which is done and approved by the Social Security Administration. In other cases we will do a fee petition based on an hourly fee where going into the case, we know that there is not going to be back benefits because they are offset by some other programs. But the person still needs to get on disability and then they understand at the beginning, you are going to have to pay that money out of pocket, but that has to be approved by the Social Security Administration.

Is It Advisable To Retain An Attorney When Applying For SSD Benefits?

I prefer to represent somebody from the beginning! You can have an attorney represent you from beginning to end. I prefer to do it at the beginning because I can help get the records to Social Security and get the forms to the doctors and get things prepared a lot quicker. We do take cases even that are already set for a hearing if we have enough time that we feel that we can prepare the file adequately to attend a hearing. It does not cost the client any more or less to get an attorney at the beginning of a case than it does at the end, so with all the forms and all the hoops that you have to go through, I think it is in the client’s best interest to have an attorney from the beginning.

What Is The Best Time To Initiate The SSD Benefits Applications Process?

As soon as you are aware that you will be unable to work for a period of twelve months or more. You do not necessarily have to wait till you are out of work for twelve months, but if you have some disability or some injury where the recuperation period is going to be at least twelve months, apply right away. The process takes time, so you are better off to apply right away and go through the process while you are also trying to go through treatment rather than to wait the twelve months and start the process then and then you have another several months to several years to get through the system.

What Happens During The Hearing Stage Of A SSD Benefits Application Process?

Once the file is transferred to the hearing office, here in Tampa, it is about twelve months to get a hearing. Sometimes it is a little longer as long as you do not qualify for the Compassionate Allowance and those types of things! Once you get to that stage and the hearing is set before what we call an ALJ or administrative law judge.That administrative law judge may also bring experts in such as MEs or VEs. MEs are medical experts and VEs are vocational experts. They may do paper reports or they may appear at the hearing. The vocational experts almost always appear at the hearing, the medical experts are sometimes done as a paper review. The testimony is taken by the judge while you are at the hearing and that testimony is taken from the claimant themselves as well as any witnesses that you may bring. Generally, we advise one lay witness that has been involved in your life on a pretty consistent basis since your onset of disability. Sometimes the claimant themselves are not able to really articulate what is going on with them but a husband, wife, child or a parent has seen the process evolve and they are better able to give testimony on that. Once the testimony is given and the legal arguments are made by the attorney, the judges will sometimes render a decision right there at the hearing but sometimes they do not and there should not be anything assumed by whether you get a decision at the time of the hearing or not. A decision will be mailed usually within 3 months of the hearing. There are some judges that just do not like to give decisions, good or bad, while they are at the hearing. If you do not get a decision at the hearing, then you have to wait for the paper decision. You have to wait for the paper decision before you are going to get any money anyway and that is normally what we tell people. It is usually a three-month process and that is an average. There are some decisions we have received in as little as a week and a half and other decisions that have taken six months.

Is There Any Recourse If SSD Benefits Are Denied?

Each level of your application process has a denial that states the process for the appeal right in the denial itself. There are different forms at each level that have to be completed and submitted in order to appeal that denial. Generally, it is a sixty day appeal period for each one of them and at sixty days from the date on the denial letter itself and they allow five days for mailing. For more information on Compensating Attorneys Representing SSD Applicants, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

Who Determines Reconsideration For SSD Benefits?

The reconsideration level is what we consider the second stage. It is after a denial on an initial application. You have sixty days to file your reconsideration appeal and a clerk from the Social Security Office is the one that makes that decision. You are not at a hearing level, so it is not going to a judge yet, it is essentially the same process that you have gone through for the initial claim, for the reconsideration level as well. Eighty-nine percent of these claims are denied nationally. If you get denied on the initial level, you are very likely to be denied at the reconsideration level and have to request a hearing.

Is There Any Recourse If Someone Is Denied Benefits At Both Hearing And Reconsideration Level?

You can file what is called a request for a review to the Appeals Council that normally takes a couple of years to process, unfortunately. You have sixty days just as with the other appeal levels, sixty days to file it, you can either do that or you can file a new application, but you have to amend your onset of disability date to be the day after the denial from the ALJ. You do have to make that choice. You used to be able to file a new application at the same time that you were appealing the judges’ decision to the Appeals Council, but now you have to make a choice for either appealing that denial or filing a new application.

Can Someone Get Any Financial Assistance While Waiting For SSD Benefits?

You can apply for county aid, or for county healthcare, food stamps and rental assistance. Generally, you cannot get money from Social Security until and unless they have deemed that you are disabled. You can sometimes get an advance if you have been deemed disabled but the paperwork has not been processed for offsets and all of that kind of stuff. You can go into the local Social Security Office with your decision and ask for an advance, but they are not going to give you money until you have actually been deemed to be disabled. A lot of our clients do have to go to county assistance programs or churches and things like that to try to get some assistance while they are going through the process.

Additional Information Regarding Social Security Disability Benefit Applications

Going back to the Appeals Council appeal after you get denied at a hearing level, you have to really consider if you want to take that step since you cannot file the new application anymore at the same time and the reason I say that is the process usually takes eighteen to twenty-four months and there is only a thirteen percent approval rating at that level. You may be delaying your whole process for another two years and you only have a thirteen percent chance of winning it. Generally, the attorneys that are representing you will go through the likelihood of your success because, of course, every case is different. They go through the likelihood of your success and what you are potentially giving up if you do not win. It is a very good idea to ask that question before you make that decision. For more information on Reconsideration Of SSD Benefits, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (813) 873-0180 today.

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