Experienced Kingston Personal Injury Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Car Accidents, Social Security Disability, and Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania
Below, Kingston attorney Brian C. Corcoran answers some of the questions he encounters most frequently in his legal practice advising and representing clients in personal injury, social security disability and workers’ compensation in northeastern Pennsylvania. If you have other questions, or if you need to speak with an attorney about a particular accident or injury and your rights to compensation or benefits, contact Brian C. Corcoran Law Offices for a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Board-certified trial lawyer who can help you understand your options and assist you in obtaining a maximum recovery.
Can I still recover compensation if I was partly to blame in causing the accident in which I was injured?
Being partly at fault does not mean that you should not be allowed to recover against a negligent defendant. Pennsylvania’s law of comparative negligence states that so long as the majority of the blame (more than 50%) does not fall on you, you can recover compensation against the negligent party or parties involved in the accident. However, your recovery will be reduced proportionately. For instance, if a jury awards you $250,000 in a car accident but decides you were 30% at fault, you will only recover 70% of the $250,000, or $175,000.
Some people on juries may have a natural tendency to want to compromise and allocate some fault to each party in an automobile accident, slip and fall or other type of accident. The defendants’ insurance company lawyers, meanwhile, work very hard to try to convince the jury to assign all or most of the blame to you, rather than to their insured. If they can convince the jury that you are just 51% to blame, your ability to recover anything at all can be ruined. It is very important that you have a skilled and experienced attorney on your side who will fight to make sure that you are not unfairly assigned any of the blame for the accident that you did not cause.
What types of disability qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits?
In order to qualify for SSD, you must have a physical or mental condition that renders you unable to work or perform substantial gainful activity. In other words, you must be totally disabled from working. The disability must be permanent as well. For purposes of SSD, this means that your disabling medical condition is expected to either last for a year or more or to result in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) interprets this definition very narrowly and employs a five-step process to decide whether you meet their strict definition. It is important to work with an attorney from the outset to present your claim in the most favorable light and to continue to pursue your case if your application is initially denied.
How are SSD benefits calculated?
In addition to meeting Social Security’s definition of disability, you also have to have enough work credits built up to qualify for SSD. The amount of work credits you have will also influence how much you receive in benefits. Basically, a work credit is achieved after a certain amount of wages is earned in a given year – $1,200 for 2014 – and you can earn up to four credits during a year. In most cases, you need to have 40 work credits to qualify for SSD, which basically means you have worked at least ten years. In addition, you must have earned at least 20 of those credits within the last ten years, in most cases.
Your benefits are therefore dependent on your age, how long you have worked and when, the number of work credits you have accumulated, and your lifetime average earnings. Also, other payments you receive could affect your benefits amount. You can get a rough estimate of your potential benefits using an online calculator at the SSA website, or contact an experienced social security disability attorney for advice and assistance.
Can I sue the person at fault for causing a workplace accident and still recover workers’ compensation benefits?
In most instances, workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive recourse for an on-the-job injury, and you cannot sue your employer for damages, even if the accident was caused by the negligence of your employer or a co-worker. Even though you can’t sue for damages, you also do not have to prove negligence or fault in order to recover, although you still have to work within the workers’ compensation system to obtain your benefits.
However, if someone other than a co-worker or your employer caused the accident, you may be able to recover damages against that party in addition to applying for workers’ compensation benefits. This could be the case, for instance, if you are injured in an automobile accident while on the job, by a defective product, or while performing work on a third party’s premises which were negligently maintained by the property owner.
How much can I receive in workers’ compensation benefits?
Generally speaking, you will receive two-thirds of the average weekly wage you were making before your workplace accident or injury. However, there are many different factors which go into how much you can receive, including how long you were working, how much work you have missed, how much you normally earn, and how seriously you were disabled. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be able to give you a better estimate after visiting with you and understanding the facts in your particular case.