ErieInjury.com Supports LEAF’s 14th Winterfest

LEAF Toboggan Winners, Winterfest in Erie, PA

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!

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.

Social Security Disability and Early Retirement

Social Security AdministrationIf you are in your 60s and believe you are unable to continue working full time due to health problems, you may be considering filing for Social Security Retirement benefits.  But, before you do so, it may be worthwhile to consider Social Security Disability as an alternative option that may save you thousands of dollars. Frequently, you an file a joint application that gives you the best of both worlds. If, after reading this post, you decide to file for disability, know that our Social Security Disability lawyers can help and offer free consultations.

Social Security Retirement Age

Historically, the full retirement age for Social Security Retirement was the age of 65.  However, in recent years the full retirement age has begun to slowly increase over time.  If you were born before 1954, your full retirement age is considered to be 66 years. If you were born between 1955 and 1959, the full retirement age gradually increases for each year. For those born in 1955 the age is 66 years and 2 months, for 1956 the age is 66 years and 4 months.  Individual born in 1957 reach full retirement age at 66 years and 6 months, for 1958 full retirement age is reached at 66 years and 8 months, and for 1959 full retirement is achieved at 66 years and 10 months.  Finally, for any individual born in 1967 or later, the full retirement age for Social Security is 67 years.

Social Security Early Retirement

If you have not yet reached full retirement age, but are considering collecting Social Security because of health problems that prevent you from working full time, there is the option to take early retirement.  Unlike the full retirement age, the early retirement age has not increased gradually, instead it is still possible to take early retirement at age 62.  By doing so, an individual receives a reduced amount of benefits instead of receiving their full amount of benefits.  For individuals born after 1960, taking early retirement at age 62 will mean receiving 70 percent of the full benefit they would receive if they waited until reaching full retirement age.  The Social Security retirement age calculator can help determine the exact amount of reduced benefits an individual may receive if they were born between 1955 and 1959.

Social Security Disability

However, while Social Security early retirement may be an option if you are unable to continue to work full time due to health problems, it may not be the best option.  In fact, by taking early retirement benefits, you may people giving away thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits by taking the reduced rate.  Instead of taking early retirement benefits, it may be worthwhile instead to consider applying for Social Security Disability.  Individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits receive the same amount as they would receive in full, unreduced retirement age benefits.  And, once an individual reaches full retirement age, the Social Security Disability benefits automatically convert from disability benefits to retirement benefits.

Navigating Social Security benefits and deciding what the best option is for you can be a difficult and complicated process.  Every case has its own circumstances and facts that may determine which option is right for you.  Due to this, if you are considering early retirement due to health problems, you should contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney prior to making any decision.  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.

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.

Matt Lager named in Erie Reader’s 40 Under 40

Attorney Matthew Lager named in Erie Reader’s 2018 “40 Under 40”!

Matt Lager named in Erie Reader's 40 Under 40
Photo Courtesy of ErieReader, Erie’s 2018 “40 Under 40”

We at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are excited to announce that our own Matt Lager, our firm’s youngest partner, was named in Erie Reader’s 2018 “40 Under 40” list, which is a list of notable young people who have been making a difference in Erie, Pennsylvania. Every year, Erie Reader releases this list of individuals under 40 who are making a difference in our community, taking risks, starting businesses, innovating, and helping drive Erie’s resurgence.

 

This year, Erie Reader received a record-high number of nominations for individuals who are deserving of this recognition, so we are proud to announce that Matt has made the cut. Take a look at his Nomination in the June 20, 2018, issue of Erie Reader, available throughout Erie, or online on their website at ErieReader.com.

Erie ReaderMatt’s legal practice focuses on Car Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, and Social Security Disability. He has previously received Pro Bono awards from The Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Erie County Bar Association, and Northwestern Legal Services for his dedication to pro bono work in Erie County.

Congratulations, Matt!

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.

Attorney Matthew Lager Selected as Super Lawyers Rising Star

Attorney Matthew Lager Selected as 2018 Super Lawyers Rising Star

Erie, PA Lawyer Matt Lager

We at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager are proud to announce that our youngest partner, Matthew J. Lager, has been selected as a 2018 Super Lawyers Rising Star! Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Matthew J. Lager, Super Lawyers Rising StarSuper Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys. The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Attorney Lager

To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Matthew Lager, who represents individuals in personal injury cases, car accident cases, workers’ compensation cases, and Social Security Disability appeals, call our office at 814-452-6232!

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.

What is Date Last Insured for a Social Security Disability Claim

What does “Date Last Insured” mean?

Date Last Insured, Social Security DisabilityFor any individual considering applying for Social Security Disability, there are a number of different factors that must be taken into consideration.  One of the most important factors is an individual’s “date last insured,” often abbreviated as  “DLI.”  This date can determine whether an individual is eligible to obtain Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or if they are only potentially eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability and Date Last Insured

In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI), an individual must have obtained enough quarters of coverage to be considered insured under the program.  A person earns a quarter of coverage by working in a given quarter during a calendar year and paying Social Security and Medicare taxes and a person can earn up to four quarters of coverage in one year.  Once a person has obtained a quarter of coverage, she is eligible for coverage under the SSDI program up until a certain point in time.  This point in time where the coverage for SSDI lapses is referred to as the “date last insured.”  After the date last insured passes, a person is no longer eligible for the SSDI program if their disability begins after that date because that person no longer has coverage under the program.

Due to this, it is very important for an individual to be aware of his or her date last insured when applying for Social Security Disability Benefits.  If a person’s disability begins before his or her Date Last Insured, then he or she can be eligible for SSDI benefits.  An individual can apply and obtain SSDI benefits after his or her date last insured has passed but, in order to do so, he or she must prove that his or her disability began before the date last insured had passed.

What if my Date Last Insured has passed?

If your date last insured has passed and you are unable to prove that your disability began prior to the date last insured, you will not be eligible to receive SSDI benefits.  However, this does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to obtain disability benefits. Depending upon your income and assets, you may be eligible for SSI benefits, as the SSI program is a separately administered program with its own eligibility requirements.

Because there is so much complexity and so many factors involved in obtaining Social Security Disability Income, it is important to obtain an experienced Social Security Disability attorney in the event you are seeking to obtain disability benefits.  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.