CBA Blog

Should I report an accident to my insurance agent?

by Timothy B. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Be sure to report an accident to your insurance agent, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.  You may need to make a claim under your collision coverage for your vehicle if the at fault party doesn’t have insurance.  You will need to cooperate fully with your own insurance company.  If your insurance company asks for a recorded statement, give it one. You always have the right to have your counsel present when you do so, and you should seriously consider such if you plan on making any claims of your own. However, if the other party’s insurance company asks for a recorded statement, you are not required to give one and you may want to consult a lawyer before making any kind of comment regarding an accident particularly in a situation where you or someone else has been hurt.

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Should I stay at the scene if I am involved in a car accident?

by Timothy P. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Don’t leave the scene of an accident unless a medical emergency requires you to do so.  Generally, it is better for you to wait for an ambulance and trained medical personnel to arrive and assess any needed medical treatment.  Leaving an accident scene in which you were involved makes you look bad, even if the accident wasn’t your fault, and may subject you to criminal penalties.

You should call 911 to report where your accident occurred and if anyone is hurt so that law enforcement and emergency medical personnel can be sent as quickly as possible, if necessary.  If you don’t have a cell phone on you, see if the other driver has one, or see if a passing motorist will call 911.  Attend to the immediate medical needs of those persons in your car and the other car.  Don’t move anyone unless it is necessary to prevent more serious injury.  Unless you are qualified to do so, limit your aid to basic emergency treatment involving bleeding, breathing and shock which you feel competent to handle.

Take immediate steps to prevent further injury, first by warning other motorists of the accident and second, by moving vehicles, but only if necessary.  If not necessary to move vehicles, don’t do so, for it may be helpful to the responding law enforcement officer to view the placement of the vehicles in determining who should be cited.  If you can’t warn other motorists directly, because you are injured or helping others, see if somebody else can signal oncoming vehicles from a safe position.  It is always a good idea to have flares, reflectors, and flashlights in your car which can be quite helpful in warning others, particularly at night.

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If I am in an accident and hurt, what should I do?

by Timothy B. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

If you are injured in any way, it is a good idea to seek medical treatment, be it at the Emergency Room or your family doctor.  Don’t make any general statements at the accident scene about your physical condition other than to describe your symptoms to the medical emergency personnel.  The more time which passes between the accident and your receiving any medical care, the less likely your doctor will attribute your complaints to the accident.  If you go to the Emergency Room or a medical doctor, be sure to advise the healthcare provider about the accident and describe as thoroughly as possible what happened to you physically as a result of the accident and how you have felt since that time.

Remember that all claims have statutes of limitations which destroy your legal rights if they are not pursued within a specific time period.  While there are exceptions, generally speaking, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit arising out of a car accident is two years from the date of the accident.

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Who evaluates medical and financial/legal eligibility for SSI/SSD?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

The state agency in Ohio called the Division of Disability Determination makes the initial determination of medical disability.  It also decides any financial or legal issues that may affect eligibility, particularly on SSI claims where the family resources and income are considered.

To be legally eligible for SSD benefits, you must have 20 quarters of work coverage in the last 40 quarters.  This equates to approximately five of the last ten years.  Work quarter credits do expire, so if you’ve worked for 30 years, but none or only a few in the past ten years, you would not be eligible for SSD.  You could still seek SSI benefits though.

If you are told by the SSD office that you do not have enough quarters of work, but you have worked five or more of the last ten years, now would be a good time to contact an attorney to help evaluate your options.

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If I get approved for SSD, will I also get Medicare?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Panelist

Generally yes, if you choose to, but you’re not required to accept Medicare if you have other medical coverage. There is a 29-month waiting period from your disability date before Medicare becomes available. This is due to a five-month (full months) waiting period from the date you became disabled before the cash benefits are payable, plus an additional  24-month wait to receive Medicare coverage. 

For example, if you become disabled on February 10, 2013, and perhaps are approved for SSD in August 2014, you would be able to receive Medicare in July 2015, 29 full months after the date of original disability. 

If your spouse has insurance that covers you or you are receiving veterans benefits, etc., you may wish to decline Medicare.  If you do decide to enroll for it, the cost will be taken out of your monthly SSD benefit amount.  Currently the cost is about $100 per month.

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I had a heart attack and was denied SSD. What are my options?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

This is fairly common.  After a heart attack or stroke your medical state may be in flux for many months. After rehab and additional time, heart attack and stroke survivors hopefully will be able to return to work.  A claimant’s disability must be projected to last at least 12 months in order to be approved for benefits.  As a result, Social Security may take a wait-and-see approach to see if there is a chance you will return to work, which would make you ineligible for benefits. 

In these situations, it’s most important to be persistent and make sure your medical records are being updated with Social Security on a regular basis.   And remember, if you are denied, you can appeal.

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I was turned down for SSD and appealed twice. Now, I am scheduled for a hearing. What does that entail?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Statistically, the hearing level is when most successful SSD applicants are approved for benefits.  It is very important to make a strong case at this stage. This is when your case will be heard by an administrative law judge in the federal system.  You, a vocational expert witness, and sometimes a medical expert witness will testify under oath to answer questions the judge asks.  

The judge will evaluate your case, records, doctors’ opinions and other information in your file.  He or she will then make a decision as to your ability to work at either your previous job(s) or at any other jobs – even very simple jobs –in the economy.  This means it is critical that your file include all information that might help support your case.

Hearings are currently being scheduled about 10 months out, so if you are in the waiting period, it would be a good point to consult an attorney if you haven’t already done so.  The attorney will fully prepare the case, including preparing you for the kinds of questions the judge may ask you.

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I have filed twice and been turned down twice for SSD. What other options do I have available?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

After you have filed your original claim for SSD or SSI and are denied, you can appeal the decision.  It’s important to make the distinction that you will be filing an appeal on your current application instead of filing a new application.  If you fill out a new application each time you are denied, it will start the whole process over again—typically resulting in the same decision denying your claim. 

Once your appeal is filed, the state agency will review your file again, including any updates of medical records, limitations in your ability to function, medications, and treatments.  If you are denied benefits at this stage, you can then file an additional appeal.  This next appeal will be where a hearing is set at which you will appear before a judge and testify about why you cannot work.  Going before a judge is usually the most important stage of the disability proceedings.

This also is typically a good time to consult an attorney about the appeal process and to get help with gathering information for your hearing.

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I have filed for Social Security Disability, but haven’t heard anything for months. Should I contact an attorney?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

At the time of filing the application, a file is opened for the individual requesting SSD (or SSI) benefits.  Once Social Security opens a file, it is then sent to the corresponding state agency for review. The Social Security Administration has partnerships with each of the 50 states who take on the task of evaluating the claim for SSD or SSI benefits at this early stage of the process. This often includes gathering information from hospitals and doctors, finding medical records, and asking for further information from the claimant.  A physician then will review the data for Social Security and the decision is made.  Altogether, this process typically takes between four and five months. 

If you are originally denied for SSD or SSI, it would be beneficial to consult an attorney before filing an appeal.

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What if an attorney is not acting in my best interest?

By Steven F. Stuhlbarg, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

The attorney-client relationship works best when there is a high level of trust between the parties.  If you have concerns about your attorney, talk with him or her openly about your concerns.  Ask questions.  As in any relationship, communication is the key to improving the relationship.

Though it may not be in your best interest to do so, one option you always have is to fire your attorney.  Your right to fire your attorney is absolute, with or without cause, and regardless of whether you owe your attorney any money.

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