Can I work while on Social Security Disability Benefits?

Can you work when receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

working on social security disabilityPeople often wonder whether or not they can work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The simple answer is yes—under certain conditions.  It is strongly recommended that. if you are considering making an effort to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you consult with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.  The rules and regulations that apply are complex and one size does not fit all. There are many factors that need to be considered by an attorney and there are numerous pitfalls to avoid.

Social Security Disability recipients are provided with a “trial work period.”  So long as an individual is within a “trial work period,” the individual can continue to receive Social Security Disability benefits regardless of the amount of the individual’s income during the “trial work period.”   At the time this article was written, a “trial work period” expires once an individual has achieved gross monthly earnings exceeding $840.00 in nine months.  It is important to note that these nine months need not be consecutive.

After an individual’s “trial work period” has concluded, they can continue to work, but they can only continue to receive Social Security Disability benefits so long as that individual’s gross monthly earnings do not exceed $1,170.00* (*in 2017; this number changes every year).  If an individual’s gross monthly earnings exceed $1,170.00* they are considered by the Social Security Administration to be engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”

If an individual’s Social Security Disability benefits have ceased because the individual is engaged in “substantial gainful activity,” the individual’s Social Security Disability benefits may be reinstated immediately at any time within a five year window if the individual must stop working again as a result of their disability.

*As stated above, the gross monthly earning thresholds identified above apply to calendar year 2017.  The Social Security Administration adjusts the gross monthly earning thresholds on a yearly basis.  An individual that is receiving Social Security Disability benefits due to blindness has a significantly higher gross monthly earning threshold.

There are numerous additional Social Security Administration rules and regulations that apply to and affect an individual’s ability to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits.  Know your rights and responsibilities.  Be safe instead of sorry.  Call our office to speak with one of our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys for a free consultation.

Attorney Lager to Speak at Advanced Rehabilitation in Erie, PA

Workers’ Compensation From The Injured Worker’s Perspective: Thoughts From A Claimant’s Attorney

Advanced Rehabilitation Physical TherapyOn April 19, 2017, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Attorney Matt Lager will be giving a seminar on Workers’ Compensation (for non-attorneys!) at Advanced Rehabilitation at 3347 W 12th St., Erie, PA, 16505. Advanced Rehabilitation is a premier Erie, PA Physical Therapy facility that provides state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques and prides itself on helping injured workers recover from injuries so they can safely get back to work and return to their normal lives! Advanced Rehabilitation also provides useful services, such as Functional Capacity Evaluations, which help injured workers return to work in such a capacity that they will not re-injure themselves.

These informational seminars are free to attend, include lunch, and also serve as valuable networking luncheons to those who regularly interact with the workers’ compensation system. Past speakers have included orthopedic surgeons and nurses on a variety of topics, from back surgeries to Medicare Set Asides (MSAs).

What will be covered in this seminar?

Attorney Lager’s speaking topics are likely to include the following:

  • Types of Workers’ Compensation Claims
  • Medical Treatment for an Injured Worker
  • Billing problems under the Workers’ Compensation Act
  • How workers’ compensation interacts with the ADA
  • An injured worker’s choice of medical providers
  • Functional Capacity Evaluations
  • Employee’s and Employer’s Rights
  • Modified Duty
  • How Social Security Disability interacts with Workers’ Compensation
  • HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation

After the seminar, there will be an open Q & A where you will be free to ask general workers’ compensation questions (but nothing case specific!). This will be an open-ended discussion where those in attendance can get a claimant’s attorney’s perspective on the workers’ compensation system.

What if I have questions but can’t attend the seminar?

If you have any questions regarding any of the above topics, or are in injured worker looking for legal representation, call our office today for a free consultation at 814-452-6232!

No Recovery, No Fee Lawyers in Erie, PA: What does “Contingent Fee” Mean?

No Recovery No Fee Lawyer in Erie PAHow do I find a lawyer in Erie that charges no fee unless they settle my case?

When watching TV, you’ll see that many lawyers advertise No recovery, No Fee payment structures, wherein the lawyer won’t charge a fee for your personal injury case unless he or she gets you money by way of a lump-sum settlement or a verdict. During our free consultations, this is often the first question we get when meeting with a new client. Like all personal injury law firms in Erie, PA, we do not charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery for our client.

What is a contingent fee?

This sort of “no recovery no fee” arrangement is referred to as a “contingent fee,” and it is the standard practice for nearly all attorneys in Erie, PA that handle car accidents and other personal injury claims. When you see some of the heavy-advertisers focus on this structure in their commercials, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the only ones that don’t charge hourly fees and don’t charge big retainers; they’re simply the only ones that shout about it on television. Knowing that this is standard practice for nearly all lawyers, you’re free to do your research and pick the best attorney for you without having to worry about draining your savings account.

Are contingent fees fair? Should I pay hourly instead?

Contingent no-recovery-no-fee arrangements give great power to personal injury victims who are looking for a lawyer: instead of being stuck with the cheapest option out there and operating on a shoestring budget, he or she can hire the best attorney in Erie to fight the insurance company on his or her behalf. Insurance companies hate paying out a fair value for claims and hire good lawyers to help minimize their exposure: our contingent-fee arrangements allow you to even the playing field and fight for fair compensation.

Who pays for the expenses in a lawsuit?

In addition to charging no fee unless we obtain a recovery, our firm also fronts all litigation expenses: what this means is that you don’t have to worry about coming up with thousands of dollars for expert reports, medical depositions, records, expert witnesses, et cetera. Because insurance companies spare no expense when it comes to building their case, we front the money for whatever it takes to prove the significance and extent of your injuries. Our firm doesn’t let insurance companies win by simply outspending us. We ensure things are fair.

What should I do?

If you have been injured in a car accident or have a workers’ compensation claim, don’t think that you can’t afford a good lawyer. Give our Erie, PA Lawyers a call and we’ll arrange a free consultation. If, after meeting us, you want to move forward—feel safe knowing that we don’t charge a fee unless there’s a recovery.

Can I be fired for making a workers’ compensation claim?

Fired for a workers' compensation claimMany injured workers in Pennsylvania are worried that their boss will either fire them or retaliate against them for filing a workers’ compensation claim after a work injury. Although not unheard of, such an event is illegal and should not dissuade you from filing a workers’ compensation claim after getting hurt at work.

It is illegal for an employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Employers propagate this notion that injured workers should “tough it out” after an injury and “keep quiet” in order to keep their insurance premiums down. This is why many workplaces have environments where employees appear to look down on their injured coworkers. This sort of environment is inappropriate and is designed to take advantage of you.

Unfortunately for injured workers, failing to report injuries or failing to make workers’ compensation claims can potentially prevent them from being compensated for their missed work or having their medical bills paid. If you fail to take appropriate steps after an injury, you could find yourself without a job, without health insurance, and with a disabling injury that prevents you from returning to work. Although it might seem frightening, you cannot let that happen. Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone in this fight. With our low percentage-based fees, anybody can afford to have a lawyer on their side.

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, after an injured worker hires a workers’ compensation lawyer, employers are typically on their best behavior. And if they aren’t, you at least have a lawyer on your side to help protect your rights.

What are your rights under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law?

After getting hurt at work in Pennsylvania, you’re entitled to have your injury-related medical bills paid and you’re entitled to be compensated while you’re unable to work because of your injury. While it seems simple, it often isn’t. Don’t let your boss or the insurance company tell you that you aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation or pressure you into not filing. If your injury ends up more serious than you expect sometime down the road, and now you’re missing work and need a surgery you can’t afford, you very well could find yourself out of luck with nobody to help.

I want to know more.

If you have questions about the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation system or your case, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I don’t charge for consultations and, if you need to hire me, we only work on a contingent, recovery-based fee. Anybody can afford our law firm.

Who pays your medical bills after a car accident in Pennsylvania?

Who pays for my medical bills after a car accident in Pennsylvania?

car accidentOne of the things that most people find surprising if they have never been in an auto accident is that the guy who ran the red light may not be responsible for their medical bills. at least not initially  Nonetheless, the above statement is true because Pennsylvania, like many of the states, has adopted a no-fault automobile insurance system.

The system mandates that auto insurance policies provide certain mandatory coverage offerings.  Those required coverages include:

  1. Medical coverage;
  2. Income loss benefits;
  3. Funeral expenses; and
  4. Death benefits.

These coverages are required offerings, but it is not required that the insured actually purchase that coverage on his or her policy.  Many people have health insurance and disability coverage through their employment, so they minimize or reject any required coverages in an effort to be economical and save costs.  In Pennsylvania, it is only required that there be at least $5,000.00 in medical coverage issued under the policy.  You can select the amount of coverage you are willing to purchase.  Additional policy amounts are typically $10,000.00, $15,000.00, $25,000.00, $50,000.00 or $100,000.00.  There is even a separate catastrophic loss coverage that adds $1,000,000.00 in medical benefits.  If you have good health insurance, should you purchase more coverage than the required minimum?

How much insurance should I buy?

First of all, the cost of increasing the coverage amount is usually very affordable.  I never recommend that a client spend all of their extra money on insurance, however, it is wise to carry more than the minimum coverage.  Health insurance plans typically have “subrogation” rights (this is the right to participate in any third-party recovery and it could have very serious ramifications for you).  I usually recommend a higher amount if it is within your budget.

Income loss benefits are also extremely important, however, it is not mandatory that an insured pay for same and include them on his or her policy.  Many people do not include these benefits because they are unaware of the coverage or because they have disability benefits through their employer.

Frequently, an accident will disable a person and he or she becomes unable to work for an extended period of time.  If you don’t have income loss benefits, you will be dependent upon your savings, disability insurance payments or a spouse’s earnings.  Thus, it is wise to carry this coverage.  The minimum amount is $5,000.00, but it usually can also be obtained for $15,000.00, $25,000.00 or $50,000.00.  Additionally, this coverage is some of the most economical coverage available for purchase.  You should purchase enough so that you can rely on the coverage to support your household if you are unable to work for an extended period of time.

These coverages are payable by your insurance company regardless of whether an accident is entirely your fault or the fault of another party up.  If the accident is the fault of another, you can recover losses in excess of your coverage amounts in a 3rd party action.

Frequently, insureds get into fights with their own insurance company regarding payment of ongoing medical expense or income loss benefits.

If you are told your insurance company is not going to pay for your medical bills and/or your income loss, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

How to get Social Security Disability for Seizures and Epilepsy

Can I get disability or SSI benefits for my seizures?

EEG testing for seizures in Social Security Disability cases
EEG testing can be useful in Social Security Disability cases for proving you suffer from seizures.

If you suffer from epilepsy or some other seizure disorder and have uncontrolled seizures, you may be wondering if it is possible to obtain Social Security disability benefits.  The answer to this question is yes, it is possible to obtain Social Security disability benefits as a result of your seizures.  There are several conditions that must be met before a successful claim for disability benefits because of seizures can be made.

Social Security Disability Rules for Seizures

Under Social Security disability, there are certain impairments that are considered severe enough that they prevent a person from performing substantial gainful activity.  If an individual is able to meet the requirements for one of these listings, then they are considered to be disabled and can be awarded Social Security disability benefits.

Epilepsy (and other seizure disorders) are evaluated under listing 11.02, which focuses on epilepsy and seizure disorders.  Under this listing, there are four ways to obtain disability benefits by meeting the requirements of the listing.  Two of the options are for individuals who suffer generalized tonic-clonic seizures, also known as “grand mal” seizures.  The other two options are for individuals who suffer from dyscognitive seizures, also known absence as “petit mal” seizures. Under any of the options, it is a requirement that an individual is following the treatment that has been prescribed by a medical professional.  Furthermore, it is necessary to be able to provide proof of medical treatment in order to be successful in any disability claim.

In order to meet the listing for tonic-clonic seizures an individual must either have a tonic-clonic seizure at least once a month for three consecutive months despite medical treatment or the tonic-clonic seizures must occur at least once every two months for at least four consecutive months and have a marked limitation in: (1) physical functioning, (2) understanding, remembering, or applying information, (3) interaction with others, (4) concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace or (5) adapting or managing oneself despite medical treatment.

To meet the listing for a dyscognitive seizure an individual must have either a dyscognitive seizure at least once a week for at least three consecutive months despite treatment or have at least one dyscognitive seizure every two weeks for at least 3 consecutive months despite treatment and the individual must have a marked limitation in: : (1) physical functioning, (2) understanding, remembering, or applying information, (3) interaction with others, (4) concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace or (5) adapting or managing oneself.

How Drug and Alcohol Use affects disability for Seizures

Another factor that must be considered for disability involving seizures is whether there is evidence of drug addiction or alcoholism.  For Social Security disability, if there is evidence of past drug or alcohol use, then the administrative law judge conducting the hearing may find that the drug or alcohol use is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.  If this is the case, then the judge has determined that the disabling limitations have resulted from drug or alcohol use and that any limitations not caused by drugs or alcohol are not severe enough to be disabling.  For individuals who are afflicted with seizures and have a past history of drug or alcohol use, the judge will ultimately determine if the drugs and/or alcohol contributed to the seizures and if it did, then a claim for disability benefits might be unsuccessful.

What should I do if I want to get disability for my seizures?

Successfully obtaining Social Security disability benefits as a result of epilepsy or another seizure disorder is a difficult and involving process that contains many different factors and considerations.  In order to optimize your chances of obtaining benefits if you do suffer from seizures, it is important to retain an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer who understands the Social Security disability system and seizure disorder.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

What should I do if I injure my neck and back in a car accident

What should I do if I injured my neck and back in a car accident?

Neck and Back Pain after a Car AccidentInjuring your neck and back in a car accident can be devastating. Although neck and back injuries are the most common injuries after a crash, they can be the hardest to prove and the hardest for which to get fair settlements from the insurance company. Your claim will be denied because it’s preexisting, because you can’t prove it’s related, or because you have “limited tort.” If you’ve injured your neck and back in a car accident, here’s how to maximize your settlement:

Make sure the paramedics and emergency room doctors know if you’re experiencing neck and back pain.

The human neck and back are fragile, so it’s no surprise that neck and back injuries are often pre-existing (to some extent) and have causes other than car accidents. That’s why, after a car wreck, if your neck and back are in pain, it’s important that you tell your doctor! If an ambulance responds to your accident, be sure to let the paramedics know your neck and back are hurting if they’re in pain—don’t assume it’s temporary! It’s common for insurance adjusters to deny claims for neck and back injuries because the pain wasn’t immediately reported to paramedics or emergency room staff!

If your neck and back don’t start hurting until a few days after the car accident, make an appointment with a doctor or a chiropractor

It’s common for neck and back pain to start several days after a collision. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that, once the pain starts, many people don’t start treating until months later when the pain doesn’t get better on its own. If your injury ends up being more serious than the sprain/strain you thought it was, the insurance company will say that this “treatment gap” indicates you must have hurt your neck and back somewhere else—not in the car accident! Without any doctor having seen you for months, it’s almost impossible to prove you actually hurt your neck and back in the accident. If your neck and back start hurting a few days later, make an appointment with your family doctor or chiropractor to get things looked at. In Pennsylvania, your car insurance is required to pay for medical treatment related to the accident; most people have at least $5,000.00 in medical coverage for accident related treatment (which includes chiropractors!).

How do I make the insurance company pay fair settlement value for my neck and back injury?

How to get the insurance company to pay you a fair settlement for your neck and back injury is a simple answer: get a lawyer. Because you do not have the ability to file a lawsuit and work your case up properly, the insurance adjuster will not pay you fair value for your neck and back injury. They know that, whatever they offer, you have no choice but to take it. Call our Erie, PA car accident lawyers for a free consultation; if we don’t think we can get you a better offer and more than pay for ourselves, we’ll let you know.

My doctor has told me I’m disabled; does that mean that I can get Social Security disability benefits?

Am I automatically entitled to Social Security Disability benefits if my doctor says I’m disabled?

Social Security DoctorIf a doctor has said that you are disabled, you might be thinking you have an “easy” Social Security Disability case.  Perhaps your doctor has filled out a form for Medicaid (insurance through the Department of Public Welfare) that states you’re disabled.  But, despite all of this, it does not mean that you are automatically entitled to Social Security disability benefits and it does not mean you have an “easy” case.

Instead, it is important to understand that “disability” under Social Security is a legal determination that must be made by Social Security, often by an administrative law judge (also known as an “ALJ”).  This ALJ is a Social Security Judge who will ultimately determine whether you are disabled or not.  And in making that determination, the ALJ looks to the rules and regulations that Social Security has issued in order to make the decision.  As part of the decision, the ALJ will look to medical opinions and medical records from treating sources such as your doctor.  But, it is important to understand that this is only one area that the ALJ takes into consideration.  It is vital to have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, one who understands the Social Security’s rules and regulations on disability, aid you in the process of obtaining benefits—particularly at the appeal stage.

Alternatively, if you have visited a doctor and the doctor has expressed an opinion that you are not disabled, you still may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.  Because disability under Social Security is a legal determination, it is possible to obtain benefits for disability even when the doctor does not believe that you are disabled.  For example, Social Security’s rules contain the Medical/Vocational Guidelines, often referred to as the GRID rules, which contain different standards for individuals based on their age, work history, and education.  These GRID rules are typically used for individuals over the age of 50 because at that point, the standards for disability are often relaxed.  Because of this, an individual whose doctor does not believe that the person is disabled may very well be found to be disabled under the legal rules and regulations set for by Social Security.

It is vital to retain an experienced Social Security disability attorney when considering whether to apply for disability.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

What happens when both drivers in a car accident are insured with the same insurance company?

What do I do after a car accident if the other driver uses the same insurance company as me?

Car Insurance PaperworkBoth drivers in a car accident being insured with the same company is not as uncommon a situation as one might expect.  In Erie, Pennsylvania, there are several large companies which have significant shares of the insurance market.  Hence, it is not that unusual for the same car insurance company to provide insurance coverage to both vehicles in a two-car accident.  How does that change the normal policy processing of the claims?

Auto Insurance carriers are sensitive to the pitfalls in this scenario.  An insurance company contractually owes a fiduciary obligation to protect its insured.  A fiduciary obligation is an extremely high duty of good faith and loyalty and it is one of the highest duties under the law.  This creates difficult conflicts where an insurer insures both parties in an accident.  After all, if the situation is contested, and it takes the position of one insured, it usually damages the interests of the other insured.

In these situations, it is extremely important to document everything.  The insurer will assign separate adjusters to handle the claims of each insured and those files are supposed to be maintained separately from access by the opposing adjuster.  In a disputed accident, the carrier will frequently refer the matter to an independent arbitrator to determine fault.  That is not a perfect system, though, because the arbitrator’s decision will be based upon the evidence submitted.  Keep in mind that while the arbitration can prove helpful, it does not absolutely bind the insured.  Hence, even if an insured is determined to be at fault, he or she could still have rights to sue.  Eventual success may depend upon carefully documenting the situation.

The scenario can be extremely confusing for the typical client.  I had a case a few years back where a client was rear-ended by another vehicle and both vehicles were insured by “A” Insurance.  An adjuster was assigned and contacted the client after her release from a hospital.  He arrived at her house, took a recorded statement and offered her “gas money” to help her with the expenses of treatment.  She signed a “receipt” on a clipboard and when she contacted the adjuster a month later after a week in a hospital to seek additional funds, she was advised she had settled the claim.  After contacting us, we discovered the adjuster had never disclosed he was the “enemy” adjuster for the other driver.  He had tricked her into settling her claim for a pittance.  She had assumed he was her adjuster.  We demanded the release be set aside and that request was refused.  The events precipitated several years of litigation that resulted in a significant recovery for our client, but the situation could have been averted by contacting counsel at a much earlier stage of the controversy.  If you are involved in such a situation, be sure to get a lawyer as soon as possible.

How do I file a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Pennsylvania?

How do I file a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim?

As workers’ compensation lawyers, injured workers frequently ask us “how do I file a workers’ compensation claim?” Normally, the reason they’re asking is because either their employer failed to report the injury to their insurance company or because the insurance company denied their claim, asserting that the injury wasn’t “work related.” If this happened to you, you need a lawyer.

You need a lawyer to help file your workers’ compensation  cFiling a Workers' Compensation Claimlaim.

It’s important to realize that “making a workers’ compensation claim” isn’t as simple as, for example, reporting a fallen branch on your roof to your homeowner’s insurance carrier. Making a workers’ compensation claim is more similar to litigating a personal injury claim in real court, as it involves multiple hearings, cross-examination of witnesses, and medical depositions. This is neither cheap nor simple and it is not something you should try to do without an experienced lawyer.

When I get involved in a situation where a claim needs to be filed, I file what’s called a “Claim Petition” with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This is just the beginning of the process. Soon thereafter, I am required to pay for and submit expert narrative reports, medical records, and conduct depositions of the treating doctors. This is both time consuming and expensive. It is not unusual to spend $4,000.00 litigating a workers’ compensation claim petition from start to finish.

We can help file your workers’ compensation claim.

When our office represents an injured worker, we work on a contingent basis and we pay all litigation expenses. We know that, when you’re out of work, you can’t afford to pay a lawyer’s retainer or be expected to spend $3,000.00 on a medical deposition. Importantly, in workers’ compensation claims, we never charge these expenses to our clients—we either get paid back by the employer or we don’t get paid back at all. We take the risk so you don’t have to.

If you’re wondering how to file a workers’ compensation claim in Erie, PA, Bradford, Smethport, or in Northwestern Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact our office for a free consultation. If we can’t help you, we can at least point you in the right direction.