Can I work while on Social Security Disability?

Can I work a part-time job while on Social Security Disability?

Social Security AdministrationIndividuals who are currently on Social Security Disability often ask if they are able to work and earn money while remaining on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The general answer to this question is “yes, it is possible to earn some money while still retaining disability benefits.”  But there are important conditions and rules that must be taken into account whenever an individual is considering whether or not to work while receiving disability benefits.  One of the most important factors to take into account is whether the amount of earnings will be considered “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) by the Social Security Administration.

Substantial Gainful Activity

The Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity to generally be any work that results in earnings over a certain amount.  For each year the dollar amount required to be considered substantial gainful activity will change.  For 2017, the amount for substantial gainful activity is $1,170.00 for non-blind individuals and $1,950.00 for blind individuals.  Because of this, if an individual who is not blind earns more than $1,170.00 per month, they will generally be considered to be participating in substantial gainful activity.  And, if a person is participating in substantial gainful activity, they are generally considered to not be disabled by the Social Security Administration, as disability is defined as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity.

*The amount of money that qualifies as “substantial gainful activity” changes every year. This article was written in 2017 and provides 2017 numbers only. For an updated amount, please check the Social Security Administration’s website on Substantial Gainful Activity.

Other Factors

There are however many circumstances and conditions that may lead to the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making less than $1,170.00 is performing substantial gainful activity and there are circumstances that can lead the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making more than $1,170.00 is still not performing substantial gainful activity.  For example, if a person is making less than $1,170.00 but is performing volunteer work that would normally be an activity that a person would be paid for, then Social Security may consider such activity to be substantial gainful activity.  Or, a person who is earning more than $1,170.00 but was provided with special equipment to aid them in the job or given work specifically to accommodate the individual’s disability may not be considered to be performing substantial gainful activity if it can be shown that the person’s income would have been less but for those circumstances.

What about my specific circumstances?

Due to these factors, along with other exceptions that Social Security provides that may allow for an individual to earn more than $1,170.00 a month such as a trial work period or the ticket to work program, it is important to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney prior to accepting a job while on Social Security Disability benefits.  There are numerous rules, regulations and factors that must be considered in any individual case and it is important to understand all of your options before you make a decision. Call our office today for a free consultation to speak with one of our experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys.

Five Things NOT to do after a Car Accident

Car Accident ChecklistCar Accidents occur suddenly and unexpectedly.  They typically result in an individual to respond with their natural acute stress response of “flight or fight.”  It is not uncommon for one to act instinctively after a motor vehicle collision without properly considering the future consequences of these initial actions.  If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision, there are some actions you should never take following a motor vehicle accident.

After a car crash, never do these five things:

1. Do NOT forget to call the police to the accident scene

Having a police report is critical to establishing fault for the car accident. Insurance companies rely heavily on police crash reports when making liability determinations.  The police should always be called even if nobody appears to be injured.

2. Do NOT leave the scene of the car accident

No matter the circumstances of a crash, you should never leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident before the police arrive and say it’s okay to do so. Even if there appears to be no damage to the vehicles, do not simply drive away!

3. Do NOT admit fault for the car accident

Many people make the mistake of immediately exiting their car and beginning to apologize for the crash even if it was not their fault. It is always best to check if everyone is fine and call the police. Never admit fault after being involved in a collision: just report the facts of the accident to the police. It isn’t uncommon for other witnesses with better vantage points to come forward to demonstrate the accident was actually someone else’s fault.

4. Do NOT provide a recorded statement to any insurance company

You should never give a verbal or written statement to any insurance company, including your own. Insurance adjusters are trained to and experienced at questioning you in an effort to create a record favorable for them and unfavorable for you.  The other driver’s insurance carrier will question you with the intent of demonstrating that you were at least partially responsible for the happening of the accident. Your own insurance company will question you with the intent of demonstrating that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for you as it relates to the motor vehicle accident due to a loophole found in the fine print of your motor vehicle insurance policy, typically referred to in your insurance policy as a “policy exclusion.”

5. Do NOT represent yourself in your personal injury claim

There are many complicated legal issues involved in the pursuit of a claim stemming form a motor vehicle collision.   Attempting to represent yourself in a claim can result in irreparable harm to your case.  We frequently see individuals contact our office after unsuccessfully trying to handle the matter themselves.  Typically these individual have said and done things in their efforts that result in negative implications to their case.  Some bells just cannot be unrung.

What you should do after a car accident:

Promptly contact one of our experienced car accident attorneys for a free, no obligation meeting to discuss your motor vehicle accident claim.

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.

Attorney Matt Lager Guest Lectures at Penn State Law

Attorney Matt Lager Guest Lectures at Penn State Law

Attorney Matt LagerWe at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are proud to announce that, last week, our own Attorney (and Penn State Alumni) Matthew Lager guest lectured at Penn State Law for 2L and 3L law students who were taking Professor Erickson’s Workers’ Compensation course. As a former student of Professor Erickson’s Workers’ Compensation class (who previously held the distinction of achieving the highest grade in this course among his peers when he was a student), Attorney Lager was delighted to head back to State College and share his practice experience representing injured workers in Pennsylvania.

Because the course focuses on an overview of workers’ compensation law nationally, Attorney Lager spoke about Pennsylvania-specific legal issues from the perspective of an injured worker, sharing practice tips for helping to fight insurance companies. Attorney Lager also spoke to students about how the workers’ compensation litigation process affects injured workers and their families.

Are you an injured worker looking for legal help?

If you have been injured at work and are looking for an attorney to help you in your workers’ compensation claim, call 814-452-6232 to book a free consultation with Attorney Matt Lager. He’s happy to help and doesn’t charge any fee without a recovery.

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.

 

 

How do I settle a personal injury case on my own?

How do I settle a case on my own?

How to settle your own personal injury caseAs Pennsylvania personal injury and car accident lawyers, we often get asked how to settle a car accident case on your own, without a lawyer. While we strongly advise against representing yourself (remember the old maxim, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”), in some limited circumstances you may not need a lawyer (although it’s always advisable to at least have a free consultation with one).

Subrogation and Liens on a Personal Injury Settlement

If you’re looking at settling a case safely, you need to be intimately familiar with Pennsylvania subrogation law and how liens against your settlement are treated. The last thing you want to do is settle your case for $X.XX and then have a health insurance company, the Department of Human Services, or even Medicare come back at you demanding you pay them $X.XX long after the settlement money is long gone! To understand this, you’ll need to research the laws, research statutory liens, research equitable liens, and research contractual subrogation rights you may have agreed to when accepting health insurance. Subrogation and liens are the #1 thing that people trying to settle their own cases—and even general-practice attorneys that are dabbling in personal injury law—mess up.

Know the full extent of your injuries and don’t settle too soon!

After an accident, insurance adjusters will typically call you a couple days later offering settlements of $1,000 or $2,000. Don’t accept any offers to settle your case that soon after an accident! While it may seem like a good deal (and might even be a good deal if you have minimal or no injuries), it’s simply too soon to know if your injuries are minimal. It’s all too common to not realize your injuries are serious until months, or even years, later! I’ve had a number of clients who have rejected $1,000 offers before realizing things were more severe, coming to my office, and proving damages of one hundred times their initial offer.

Watch the statute of limitations for your personal injury case

This piece of advice goes hand-in-hand with the “don’t settle too soon” advice: don’t settle too late, either! If you wait too long, your claims might be forever barred by the “statute of limitations,” which is a law that every state passes that puts a time limit on how long after an accident you can bring a claim. In Pennsylvania, you typically need to settle your case (or file a lawsuit) within two years from the date of the accident. There are, however, many exceptions and caveats to this rule (e.g. certain parts of minor’s claims). If you want to know what the statute of limitations is for your individual case, do NOT rely on this paragraph or anything you read online—you NEED to call a personal injury lawyer, given them your facts, and ask!

Call a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation

I don’t mean to sound too facetious here, but there is no way to write a complete guide on how to properly or safely settle your case without a lawyer, because that guide would entail going to law school and spending years practicing personal injury law in the jurisdiction where you claim arises. While some minor cases that only involve property damage or bumps and bruises might safely be settled without a lawyer, any case with significant injuries requires a lawyer (in my professional, legal opinion). I’m not just saying that because I’m a lawyer, either. If I were injured in a car accident, I’d call a lawyer myself (as I said earlier, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”). As such, if you’re considering settling your case, give a personal injury attorney a call and at least sit down for a free consultation to make sure you’re doing things correctly. If you’re in Erie or Smethport, or anywhere in Western Pennsylvania, give me a call at 814-452-6232. I’m happy to discuss your case for free. If you are interested in hiring me, I don’t charge a fee without a recovery.

It’s worth noting that a good personal injury lawyer almost always ends up paying for himself or herself.

Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager Nominated for Erie’s Choice Award

We’ve been nominated for Erie’s Choice!

The voting for Erie’s Choice for Erie’s Favorite Law Firm has opened and we’re proud to announce that Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, PLLC, has been nominated as a candidate for Erie’s Favorite Law Firm! If you’re one of the many individuals who have had stellar interactions with our attorneys and staff, please vote for us today!

Erie's Choice Award for Best Law Firm

Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager has been in business serving the people of Erie since 1985 and we’re committed to ensuring that each and every person in Erie has access to excellent representation. To help achieve that goal, two of our partners have recently been awarded Erie’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award for their dedication to providing free legal representation to those in Erie who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer: Adam Barnett in 2015 and Matt Lager in 2017. This award only given to a single attorney in the Erie County Bar Association every year.

Please cast your vote today!

Vote for Erie's Choice

Our team prides itself on excellent communication and working to help our clients achieve the best result possible under the law. We’re proud that we aren’t a mere “personal injury mill” and that each of our clients gets the individual attention he or she deserves. We succeed only because we truly believe that we can make a difference in people’s lives. Voting ends on August 25, 2017, so please Vote for us today!

 

Should I hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

When you should Hire a Disability Lawyer

Should you hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

Many people wonder if they should hire a Social Security Disability attorney. If your and your family’s livelihood depends on winning your case for disability benefits, it’s not a question of if you should hire a Social Security Disability attorney, it’s a question of when you should hire a Social Security Disability attorney. Unfortunately, many individuals wait too long before contacting an attorney about their claim for Social Security Disability benefits.  There are two rules to follow if you are considering or have already applied for Social Security Disability benefits:

Contact an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney before applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Not every individual needs to have an attorney represent them when making their initial application for Social Security benefits.  However, in some cases, retaining counsel at the initial application level can improve an individual’s chances for being approved.  Regardless of which category an individual falls into, speaking with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney prior to making the application will allow an applicant to obtain advice in avoiding common pit falls that can result in an initial application being denied.  Such pit falls include applying for benefits too soon or too late, failing to allege an appropriate onset date for disability benefits, and applying for benefits before having sufficient medical documentation to support your allegations of disability.

If you receive a Notice of Decision denying your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, contact an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney immediately.

If your claim for Social Security Disability benefits was denied, not only do you have a limited time period in which to appeal the denial of your initial application for benefits, but it is important to have an attorney review the basis for the Social Security Administration’s denial of your claim as soon as possible.  Do not wait until your hearing has been scheduled to seek legal representation.  Although it can take up to 24 months or more before your appeal will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge, retaining an attorney right away will ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to further document your medical condition and win your case.

Our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys would be happy to provide you with a free review of your Social Security Disability claim. Call our office at 814-452-6232 for a free consultation!

Car Accidents with No Police Report

Police Report for AccidentAfter a car accident in Pennsylvania, it’s extremely important to call the police and ask for an officer to be sent out to prepare a police report or an accident report. The police will come out, interview witnesses, assess damage, and will give you what’s referred to as a “crash receipt.” This receipt isn’t always the full report, but it can be used to obtain the full report after it is prepared back at the station.

Why Police Reports are Important after a car accident

Police reports are important after an accident for a number of reasons. To begin, police officers are impartial witnesses who are skilled at conducting investigations and forcing drivers to disclose their car insurance information. Often times, without the police, the other driver will refuse to disclose his or her insurance information, making it difficult to recoup your losses. It’s rare for people to refuse disclosing their insurance information to police.

Second, police officers will obtain and record statements and contact information from witnesses who may have seen the accident. Years later, if your case ends up in court, this information makes it much easier to find witnesses to testify as to what happened. Although the police report itself probably won’t be admissible, the witnesses will be able to testify directly as to what they heard and saw.

What if there is no police report for my accident?

If you have been injured in an accident without a police report, you need to call our Pennsylvania attorneys immediately. Our office will work to gather the evidence and information that the police normally would have gotten had they been there to draft a police report. It’s important that we act fast, as evidence tends to disappear as time goes on. Additionally, witnesses become harder to find and at-fault drivers tend to move without leaving a trace of insurance information or even  forwarding addresses.

After a hit-and-run, your insurance probably requires you to call the police

Not only is calling the police to get an accident report a good idea, sometimes your insurance requires it! For example, after a hit-and-run, most Pennsylvania auto insurance policies require you to call the police and make a report as soon as possible after the accident. The police will then come out and document that you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run and will preserve evidence. This report allows you to put your insurance company on notice of a potential uninsured motorist claim, which can allow you to recover damages even if the other driver’s identity is unknown. Failing to make a police report in a timely fashion can sometimes eliminate your ability to make a claim.

Do I need a police report if nobody was injured?

Even if you weren’t injured, calling the police to get a police report is still a good idea. Frequently, although the at-fault driver admits fault on the scene, his or her story changes after getting home and talking to the insurance company. After that happens, without the police to have documented their admission of guilt, it’s your word against theirs and now your insurance rates are going up for an accident that wasn’t your fault. For the same reasons, never let someone talk you into “handling the accident outside insurance.” More often than not, you’ll end up getting burned for trying to be nice.

How do I get the police report after an accident?

At the scene of the accident, the police will typically hand you a “crash receipt.” If one of the cars was badly damaged or if someone was injured, this ordinarily isn’t the full report. You can obtain local reports by contacting your local police station, or you can request the Pennsylvania State Police Report using their form SP7-0015. That said, if you’ve been involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, our accident lawyers will get the full police report and protect your rights. We offer free consultations and don’t charge a fee unless we get a recovery, so we’ll be happy to obtain and review the report with you and your family.