If you receive long-term disability insurance in Pennsylvania, your long-term disability insurance carrier will frequently make you apply for Social Security Disability. As Erie, PA Social Security Disability Lawyers, we frequently get calls asking about letters people have received from their insurance carriers threatening to cut off their benefits if they don’t apply for Social Security Disability. In this article, we will explain how these policies typically work and what your rights are. In short, you should probably file for disability and you should definitely hire your own lawyer to help—not the insurance company’s “lawyer” or “advocate.”
Your long-term disability insurer can make you apply for Social Security Disability
If you order a full copy of your long-term disability policy, you will most likely finding a clause that requires you to file for Social Security Disability. Failure to do so can often lead to your benefits being terminated, so it’s important to stay on top of this and find a skilled Social Security Disability lawyer to help you through the process. Although applying for Social Security Disability is most likely in your best interest, your insurance company requires you to apply for a very selfish reason: it reduces the amount of benefits the insurance company needs pay you (directly), because most policies allow the insurer to take an offset for any benefits paid to you by the Social Security Administration. As a practical matter, this offset is dollar-for-dollar, so you still receive the same amount of money at the end of the day: it just comes from two different sources (one check from the insurance company, and another check from the Social Security Administration). Be careful, though: if you win Social Security, your insurance company will most likely be entitled to all your past-due benefits. Be careful not to spend the past-due benefit check (however tempting it might be) and to check your policy to be sure who owns the money.
Can I hire my own Social Security Disability Lawyer if I’m on Long-Term Disability Insurance?
If you’re receiving long-term disability insurance, you are most likely being inundated with solicitations and letters from various “advocacy groups” offering to help you file for Social Security Disability benefits. Please be aware that you do not have to hire these groups: you can and should hire your own lawyer to look out for you and your rights. These “advocates” are disability mills and do not care about you, your family, or your case. They enter into contracts with insurance companies and do mass volume work. You won’t meet your “lawyer” until the day of the hearing and you’ll never speak to the same person twice (in fact, you’ll spend most of your time navigating phone menus and waiting “on hold”). When these companies lose your case, they’ll cut you loose and so will your insurance company, leaving you holding the bag. Instead of calling one of the groups that sent you a letter, call our Erie, PA Law Firm instead.
What will it cost to hire my own lawyer?
If you’re receiving long-term disability insurance and your insurer is requiring you to file or Social Security Disability, it likely won’t cost you anything to hire our law firm. Because we typically work on a contingent basis for a portion of your past-due benefits (nothing from your ongoing benefits), and because your long-term insurance carrier is most likely entitled to your past due benefits, our fee ends up coming out of the insurance company’s pocket—not yours. If you’re on long-term disability insurance need to apply (or have applied) for Social Security Disability benefits, you should call our lawyers today at 814-452-6232. We can help protect your rights and make sure your case is handled the right way. If you’re undecided, we offer free consultations.
You should always call the police after a car accident
As Erie, PA car accident lawyers, we frequently get asked, “should I call the police after a minor car accident?” Without knowing anything else about the crash, we can confidently state that you should always call the police after a car accident, even if the damage to the vehicles was minimal and if even if you think nobody was hurt. As you sit there in the moment, you simply aren’t equipped to properly assess the situation. Police are. Let the experts do their work. Sometimes you don’t know you’re hurt until later that day, after your adrenaline wears off. Sometimes, people that admit fault on the scene later lie to their insurance companies. You need a witness.
Why should I call the police after a car accident?
The most important thing the police do after responding to a car accident, after making sure everybody is okay, is protecting evidence. The police will gather insurance information, get statements, and attempt to piece everything together while the accident scene is fresh and before things have been tampered with or moved. This helps keep all the parties honest: too frequently, at-fault parties will admit fault on the scene of the accident, only to later deny fault to their insurance companies after they’ve went home. You simply cannot rely on people to be honest. Moreover, it’s good to have an independent witness (the police officer) on the scene to remember what everyone told them.
Sometimes your insurance requires you to call the police after an accident
Although you’ve probably never read your entire car insurance policy, as personal injury lawyers, we have! If the person that hit you turns out to be uninsured, and you pay for uninsured motorist coverage, your Pennsylvania auto insurance policy almost certainly requires you to report the accident to the police as soon as you reasonably are able, else you risk your claim being denied. Making a police report immediately after the accident is the number one way to protect your rights under your insurance policy. The longer you wait, the easier it is to forget to make the report and the more likely your insurer is to deny your claim.
Police keep everybody safe
After an accident, it’s not uncommon for the at-fault party to become hostile and, sometimes, dangerous. Calling the police is a good way to keep everyone on their best behavior. When everybody knows the police are on their way, they’re less likely to do anything they might later regret.
What if the police refuse to respond to the scene of the accident?
If the police refuse to respond to the scene of the accident after you’ve called 9-1-1, it might simply be out of your control. Regardless, there will still be a record of your call and a brief report prepared at the station to satisfy your insurance company if the other driver turns out to be uninsured, as described above. This is normal—when they’re busy, police frequently won’t respond to the accident if nobody was injured. Just keep your cool, exchange insurance information, take pictures of the damage (and the license plates), and gather phone numbers of all the witnesses.
Do I need a lawyer after a car accident?
After a car accident, if you’ve been injured, you should call a Pennsylvania car accident attorney to protect your rights. Our personal injury lawyers have been representing injured victims in Pennsylvania since 1985 and can help recover your lost wages and medical bills. If you would like a free consultation, or just to talk to lawyer on the phone, call us at 814-452-6232.
The Erie Personal Injury Attorneys at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are dedicated to working with and supporting our local community. We want to keep Erie beautiful, which is why we support and encourage our longtime office manager, Carol Witherow, in her endeavor as a volunteer LEAF (Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park) board member.
LEAF recently celebrated its 14th Annual Winterfest at Frontier Park, a free event that is open to the public. To support this event, our law firm donated a toboggan as a prize for event-goers. Pictured to the right are the winners of the our toboggan! Congratulations!
At Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, our Erie, PA law firm handles a large number of SSI cases. In this practice, our lawyers frequently see issues with SSI recipients losing their benefits due to joint bank accounts with boyfriends, girlfriends, or other significant others and family members. If you receive SSI benefits, it is almost never a good idea to share a bank account with anyone other than your spouse. In this article, I will briefly explain some of the issues with co-ownership of bank accounts and SSI benefits. Please note that this article applies only to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, not Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Supplemental Security Income is a needs-based program where entitlement to benefits is based partially on financial eligibility, whereas Social Security Disability Insurance is a work-credit based system that has nothing to do with your assets, only your work history. Social Security Disability beneficiaries are free to share their funds with whomever they desire. If you are unsure whether or not you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, and are considering a joint bank account, you should consult with an attorney first.
SSI Qualifications and Joint Accounts
In addition to being disabled, in order to qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet certain financial eligibility requirements as to your “countable resources.” This not only includes your income, but also resources that are available to you, not counting certain excludable resources. If your countable resources ever exceed the total allowable amount, you will become ineligible for SSI and potentially other welfare benefits, like health insurance and food stamps. When you chose to open a joint bank account with another individual, the Social Security Administration presumes that you share ownership of these funds. When your co-ownership of this bank account is discovered, if your personal funds in addition to the shared funds exceeds the total allowable amount, you will be kicked off your SSI benefits. When that happens, it is almost always advisable to immediately get separate bank accounts so this problem does not continue occurring.
If you find yourself having your SSI benefits terminated due to the co-ownership of a bank account you should contact an attorney immediately, as it is sometimes possible to rebut ownership of a joint account. In order to do this, you must be able to prove that the funds in the joint account were not available to you personally. This can be extremely difficult. While our firm has had success rebutting ownership of funds in a joint account, it is by no means the norm. Regardless, it still makes sense to speak with an attorney to determine whether or not this is possible in your case.
It is imperative that you follow this advise and never open a joint bank account with another individual without first consulting with an attorney if you are in pursuit of SSI benefits. We have seen situations where people fought years for SSI benefits, won in front of an administrative law judge, only to have their claim later denied due to a joint bank account opened with a significant other several years prior. This can be tragic and often times irreversible. Even worse, sometimes the Social Security Administration does not notice that you have this joint bank account for several years after they have been paying you SSI benefits; this can lead to what is called an “overpayment,” where Social Security comes after you to be repaid all the benefits they have paid to you. We have seen situations where Social Security is claiming they are owed upwards of $20,000.00. if you find yourself on the receiving end of an overpayment, you should contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your options.
What about Payees?
One common pitfall where individuals wrongly think its okay to have a joint bank account with an SSI recipient is when said individual is a payee for a disabled person receiving SSI benefits. Even if you are the payee for a disabled SSI recipient, you should not co-own a bank account with the disabled individual, as doing so can cause the disabled individual to be kicked off their SSI benefits should the funds in that bank account end up exceeding the amount of allowable countable resources for SSI recipients. This can be an innocent mistake with tragic results. In short, it almost never a good idea to have a jointly owned bank account if you are an SSI recipient or are co-owning a bank account with an SSI recipient. If you believe your situation is unique, you should strongly consider consulting with an attorney before opening any joint bank accounts to determine whether or not doing so will affect your entitlement to benefits.
If you are in the process of looking for a disability lawyer, call our Erie, PA Disability lawyers for a free consultation at 814-452-6232.
For years, the insurance lobby has been spending millions of dollars to convince Americans that civil lawsuits are largely frivolous. This lobbying has been so successful, that most of our clients say things like, “I know most lawsuits are frivolous, but not mine—I’m really hurt.” The truth of the matter is, while there exist some silly lawsuits, most are legitimate and serve the greater purpose of protecting the public and compensating innocent victims.
Recently, the Trial Lawyers Association in DC released a simple video that helps dispel the myth of the “frivolous” lawsuit
Our Erie, PA personal injury attorneys have been helping innocent injury victims put their lives back together since 1985. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s nothing frivolous about asking insurance companies to pay fair value for your lost wages, lost loved ones, and disabling injuries. Don’t be fooled.
At Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, ErieInjury.com, we strive to provide excellent representation to our clients. We provide this excellent representation by working hard, drawing from our experience, and believing in our cause. When we began working with our designers on our new Social Security Disability commercial, we sought to tap into the most fundamental part of the Social Security System: Patriotism and the uniquely American notion of “no man left behind.”
As Americans, our work defines us.
We’ve given our lives to our trades.
We pay into our system so those of us who get hurt won’t be left behind.
If you’re disabled, refusing to allow your disability to define you…
Is just as important as where you turn.
ErieInjury.com: Erie’s Social Security Disability Attorneys.
After being injured, it’s important to stay local and hire an attorney that understands Erie County Pennsylvania. Despite how difficult of a task it may seem, finding a car accident law firm in Erie, PA doesn’t have to be hard! If you’ve done your research, you’ll notice that Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager (also known as ErieInjury.com) consistently has five-star reviews across the board! We’re small enough that we’re able to give each of our clients extremely personalized attention, yet big enough that we spare no expense when it comes to handling your case. Need a top-dollar expert witness? We’ll pay for that. Need an expensive accident Reconstructionist to prove your case? We’ll front that expense, too. Is your case complex? Not a problem.
If you do your research and read our reviews, you’ll notice that our car accident law office is known for our personalized service: if you want to speak to your attorney, you’ll speak to your attorney—unlike some of the Pittsburgh firms that dabble in the Erie area, we do not simply have paralegals “work up” your case and act as your main points of contact! When you hire us, you’re hiring a personal injury lawyer to do 100% of your legal work. Excellent results require excellent representation.
Best Law Firm in Erie, PA
If you’re looking for the best law firm in Erie, PA, don’t take my word for it. Read our reviews and draw your own conclusions. If you speak to any of your prior clients, they’ll tell you to stop looking around and to give us a call.
What do I do next?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, stop stressing about how to handle the bills and the insurance companies. We’ll take care of that so you can take care of yourself and your loved one. We make it simple. Worries about how you’ll have time to meet with us? We’ll come to you whenever it’s convenient, even if it’s after hours or on a weekend. We want to help. Call us at 814-452-6232 for a free consultation.
According to PennDOT Secretary, Leslie Richards, 2017 was the safest year for traffic-accident deaths in recorded Pennsylvania history, when PennDOT began record-keeping in 1928. Although fatalities from car accidents are on the rise nationwide, Pennsylvania has managed to reverse this trend.
Safer. But not safe.
Unfortunately, even though the road is generally safer, the Secretary’s report indicates that fatalities related to distracted driving are on the rise in Pennsylvania, up to 69 from 66 in 2015 and 55 in 2014. Even more troubling, PennDOT fears that this number actually under-represents cases of distracted driving, as people often fail to report that they were texting while driving.
People that drive distracted, e.g. texting while driving, can needlessly end lives and ruin families. This tragedy is entirely preventable and simply requires that we, as a society, make a conscious effort to put the phone away when getting behind the wheel. While we have long rejected the societal acceptance that used to accompany drunk driving, we still have a long way to go before we all reject and condemn those that text behind the wheel. If you have a friend or loved one that texts while driving, let him or her know that it’s not okay.
Have you been injured by a distracted driver?
If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver in Pennsylvania, you might be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensation. Our law firm represents car accident victims of distracted drivers and people who text while driving. We can help you recover your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and get back to worrying about what’s important—your family. Call our Pennsylvania Car Accident Law Firm for a free consultation at 814-452-6232.
ErieInjury.com to Sponsor WICU’s 2018 Olympic Medal Count
We at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are proud to announce that we will be the official sponsors of WICU’s Erie News Now’s 2018 Olympic Medal Count! When you tune in to watch Erie News Now’s coverage of the 2018 Olympics, be on the lookout for our name!
As Erie’s Injury Attorneys, we are committed to providing excellent and local legal representation to the people of Erie and the rest of Northwestern Pennsylvania, into Smethport and Bradford. If you were injured and are in need of a lawyer, you don’t have to go to Pittsburgh to find a good lawyer anymore: we’re right here.
Also be on the lookout for our commercials, which will be airing throughout WICU’s coverage of the Olympic Games!
Can you sue the EMTA for Injuries after a Bus Accident?
There is a common misconception among the people of Erie that the EMTA (Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority) cannot be sued for personal injuries after bus accidents because the EMTA is a “government entity.” This simply isn’t true. This misconception stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of “sovereign immunity” and Pennsylvania’s exceptions thereto. As will be explained in this article: Yes; you CAN sue the EMTA for injuries after a bus accident! However, there are limitations and requirements that must be met and you should hire an experienced car accident lawyer to help!
The doctrine of sovereign immunity is ancient and generally provides that you cannot sue a sovereign, such as a state or a local government, unless the state specifically waives its immunity. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8542, Pennsylvania waives its sovereign immunity for lawsuits arising out of motor vehicle collisions, like bus accidents, subject to a number of other conditions.
One important requirement is set forth under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5522, which generally requires a political subdivision to be put on notice of a lawsuit within six (6) months of the date of the incident. If this deadline is missed, an injured person may not be able to sue a government entity even though the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for such injuries is normally two (2) years! As such, it’s important to hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident!
Another important limitation that causes people to incorrectly think the EMTA cannot be sued is 42 Pa.C.S. § 8553, which places some significant limitations on damages that can be sought in a settlement or from a jury verdict against government entities. For example, one cannot recover for pain and suffering against the EMTA unless there is either a death involved or “in cases of permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement or permanent dismemberment where the medical and dental expenses…are in excess of $ 1,500.” Unfortunately, this often precludes settlements when a person suffers “minor” injuries like whiplash. Our attorneys know how to help prove your injuries are permanent.
Call 814-452-6232 for a FREE Consultation!
Finally, when it comes to significant injuries, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8553 caps damages against government entities like the EMTA at $500,000.00. While this is more than many cases are worth, it places a significant limitation on people who have been killed or disabled as a result of the EMTA’s negligence. Unfortunately, these damage caps only hurt those have been injured the worst.
Our Erie Lawyers can help.
If you have been injured in a bus accident or are looking to make a claim against the EMTA, you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately to protect your rights and help build a case. Don’t let other lawyers tell you it cannot be done: it’s simply harder to do and requires the appropriate skill set. Our attorneys offer free consultations and only charge a fee if there’s a recovery. Call 814-452-6232 for an appointment today.