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.

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 my Car Insurance be Cancelled for a Late Payment?

Can they cancel my car insurance for a late payment?

Cancelled auto insurance for late paymentMost insurance companies typically offer options regarding the payment of premiums.  Almost all companies issue policies with a 6 month term.  The premium can be paid in one payment or multiple payments depending upon the selected payment plan.  Generally, the longer the payment period, the greater the premium actually paid.

Some of the insurance companies even offer monthly payments.  These carriers typically are an option for minimal coverage low cost options for coverage.  Unfortunately, people who select these options for coverage are the ones who typically run into problems with late premium payments because of tight budgets which forced the selection of a monthly payment option in the first place.

The Law

Pennsylvania law provides the consumer with some protection here.  Under Pennsylvania law, the insured is entitled to advance notice that his/her policy will be cancelled unless the premium payment is received by the carrier.  Typically, the insurer will send out this “notice of cancellation” a day or two after the premium’s due date.  Under regulations in PA Code, the cancellation date must be no earlier than 17 days after the date of the cancellation notice.  The actual form for this notice is included in the regulations.  The failure to provide a timely and adequate notice of cancellation can invalidate the purported cancellation of the policy.

The problem is especially complicated when the insured is on a monthly billing cycle.  In order to comply with the regulations, these carriers will actually try to combine the bill with a notice of cancellation.  There are many ways to challenge the cancellation notices under these circumstances and one of our car accident lawyers can help.

Jim Stuczynski, Pennsylvania Insurance Cancellation LawyerI recently had a case where a company sent out its bill/notice indicating the policy payment was due by June 29.  This was one day earlier than the previous month because of the fact there were 31 days in May.  On June 30, the insured’s payment was received, however, the insured was in an accident early on June 30.  The carrier denied coverage, indicating the policy was cancelled June 30 and reinstated on July 1.

There was no valid cancellation notice provided under the law and when threatened with bad faith, the carrier provided coverage and even paid reasonable attorney’s fees for forcing the insured to retain counsel to contest the denial of coverage.  If you should find yourself in such a situation, gather the last couple of months bills/notices and your policy and immediately schedule a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers.  You may still be entitled to coverage.

As a final word of advice, do not select the convenient monthly premium payment plan.  This option is not only the most expensive, but it is also the one which can most easily lead to an unwanted cancellation of your policy.

Not only is the cancellation of coverage extremely serious in itself, it means you will have limited tort status despite any full tort selection in your policy.  Also, if you are uninsured for 30 days or longer, your carrier can charge you “high risk premium rate,” which is the highest premium rate permissible by law.

Our lawyers can help.

If your car insurance company is saying your policy was cancelled after an auto accident, our personal injury attorneys can help. Call one of our Pennsylvania lawyers today for a free consultation: 814-452-6232.

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.

Matt Lager to serve on the ECBA Board of Directors

Matt Lager to serve on the ECBA Board of Directors

Erie, PA Lawyer Matt LagerWe’re proud to announce that one of our partners, Attorney Matthew Lager, has been nominated and approved to serve a three-year term on the Erie County Bar Association’s Board of Directors starting in 2018. Attorney Lager has long been committed to serving the ECBA in a number of capacities, acting as the 2017 Chair of the Solo/Small Firms Division, the 2016 Vice Chair of the Solo/Small Firms Division, and serving on the YLD Leadership Committee for multiple years.

Attorney Lager was nominated for this position by his peers, which was then approved by the ECBA nominating committee before being voted on at the 2017 Annual Membership Meeting.

Congratulations, Matt!

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.