Joint Bank Accounts and Supplemental Security Income “SSI” Benefits

Social Security Administration

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.

What is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

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.

If you’ve been hurt by someone’s negligence, call our Erie law firm today for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

Our New Social Security Disability Commercial

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.

If you have questions about Social Security Disability, our attorneys can help. Call us for a free consultation.

Car Accident Law Firm in Erie, PA

Great Firm with Very Caring Attorneys
See what our clients are saying on Google!

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.

Review of Matthew J. Lager: In summary, I would highly recommend Attorney Lager and His Firm

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.

PennDOT Reports Safest Year for Car Accidents since 1928

According to PennDOT Secretary, Leslie RichardsSafest year for car accident deaths, 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 Olympic Medal Count!

ErieInjury.com to Sponsor WICU’s 2018 Olympic Medal Count

2018 OlympicsWe 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?

Can you sue the EMTA for Injuries after a Bus Accident?

Can you sue the EMTA?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.

Will Car Insurance Pay for a Chiropractor?

Will Car Insurance Pay for a Chiropractor?

Whiplash Injury and ChiropractorsIf you have Pennsylvania Car Insurance and were injured in a car accident, under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), you’re insured for at least $5,000.00 of medical treatment coverage for your accident. Whether or not you have health insurance, you are entitled to have car-accident-related medical treatment paid for by your auto insurance. Additionally, you’re given the freedom to direct your medical care as you see fit. This includes going to a chiropractor for your injuries if you so choose.

Under Pennsylvania law, you have the right to see a chiropractor if you hurt your neck or back in a car accident.

Many people don’t realize that their Pennsylvania Auto Insurance covers chiropractic treatment. While some people like chiropractics and others don’t, the important part is that you have the freedom to choose for yourself. You don’t need a referral from a family doctor, either. You’re allowed to call a chiropractor of your own choosing and make an appointment at your own discretion.

How do I open a medical claim in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, opening a medical claim under your auto insurance is as easy as calling your insurance company and completing an Application for First-Party Benefits. This is a simple form that tells in the insurance company you were injured and require medical treatment. After (or even before) this form is sent in, you should be provided with a claim number you can give to any medical provider, including a chiropractor, to render medical treatment. Best of all, with Pennsylvania auto insurance, there are no co-pays! You should speak with a lawyer before filling this form out.

Call 814-452-6232 for a Free Consultation with an Auto Accident Lawyer!

Do I need a lawyer to have my medical bills paid?

Although you don’t need a lawyer to have your medical bills paid after a Pennsylvania car accident, if you were injured, you should consult with a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer before filling out any paperwork or speaking with the insurance company! There is too much to go wrong and there is too much at stake. Our personal injury law firm offers free consultations and doesn’t charge a fee without a recovery, which makes it easy for anyone to afford a lawyer. Call one of our lawyers today at 814-452-6232.

Social Security Beneficiaries get a Raise in 2018!

Social Security Beneficiaries get a raise in 2018!

Social Security AdministrationThere is finally good news on the horizon for those who rely on Social Security Benefits: The Social Security Administration has announced a 2% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to take place in the beginning of 2018. This 2% raise will affect both Social Security and SSI recipients. Although this is the largest increase in Social Security benefits since 2012, it only comes out to about $25.00 per month for the average Social Security beneficiary.

For more information, take a look at the Social Security Administration’s cost-of-living adjustment website.

If you or a loved one is interested in apply for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), call our law firm for a free consultation.

 

Automobile Safety Over the Years

Automobile Safety Over the Years

Over the years, trial lawyers and personal injury lawyers have been instrumental to encouraging legislatures and automobile manufacturers into making safer cars. In fact, one of the most important functions of tort law in the United States is to encourage manufacturers into making safer products by creating a financial disincentive to releasing dangerous products. Because corporations tend to favor their shareholders more than the safety of their customers, the ongoing threat of multi-million-dollar lawsuits provides an economic incentive for releasing a safer product, even if a dangerous product is cheaper to manufacture and research.

In 1959, Automobile Insurance Carriers banded together and formed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit organization that performs fantastic research to help make vehicles safer. While partly altruistic, the insurance companies funded this organization because they realize that safer cars equates to less money paid out in insurance claims to injured victims who hire attorneys to file suit for their injuries. Regardless of a reason, this is a great thing for everybody.

As personal injury attorneys, it’s inspiring to see the real-world effect that tort law and the resulting legislative changes have had on safety over the years. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed a crash test between a 2009 Chevy Malibu and a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air. This test demonstrated how far cars have come:

The results of the above video are staggering. Even more staggering, perhaps, is the data. As can be seen in the graph below, the number of deaths per mile driven have steadily and dramatically dropped nearly every year since the invention of the automobile.

Annual US traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled (red) and miles traveled (blue) from 1921 to 2015.
Annual US traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled (red) and miles traveled (blue) from 1921 to 2015.

The fight for highway safety is far from over.

Unfortunately, even with safer cars, the fight for safety is far from over. Even with top-of-the-line safety mechanisms, we are from from eliminating “the human factor,” which remains responsible for a staggering number of deaths and injuries per year. When it’s your loved one in the car, even one death is too many.

Our Lawyers fight for car accident victims.

At Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, we continue the fight for safer vehicles and for safer drivers by protecting the innocent victims of car accidents caused by reckless and negligent drivers. We also take on the car manufacturers themselves when they create a dangerous vehicle. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, call one of our Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyers for a free consultation. Because we understand lawyers can be expensive, we don’t charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery.