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In March 2020, as the pandemic lockdown cloud descended on the Memphis Metro Area and throughout Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, some touted fewer car wrecks as one of the silver linings of this cloud. Instead, the opposite happened. The number of fatal vehicle collisions in the United States increased significantly in 2020. This number rose even more sharply in 2021. “This is a national crisis,” remarked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We cannot and must not accept these deaths as an inevitable part of everyday life,” he added.

According to Department of Transportation researchers, poor driver habits, mostly driving while impaired, excessive speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt, contributed to the higher death totals. These factors complicate legal negligence claims. Furthermore, if the victim was disabled in a single car crash, as was frequently the case on mostly-empty roads, there’s no one else to sue for damages. So, a Social Security Disability claim may be a viable alternative to a legal claim for damages in many cases, especially if the victim sustained a disabling injury.

For some reason, many people assume the Social Security Disability process is a lot different from the legal process. Philosophically, that’s not true. An injury claim is always a plaintiff against a defendant. Likewise, an SSD claim is always a claimant against the Social Security Administration. The SSA has no legal obligation to pay benefits or even to make the process easier. That’s why claimants need a Memphis SSI disability lawyer from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm to stand up for them during the process and offer solid legal advice along the way. The more disabled you are, the more helpful it is to have the support of Heermans Law Firm, so that you and your family can continue to enjoy your life during a disability claim process. 

Qualifying for SSD Benefits

Usually, car crash compensation in civil court is based on the victim’s economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. As mentioned, traditionally victims must also prove in court that another driver caused the wreck. A handful of these claims involve other defendants, such as a manufacturer who sold a defective product or a city that failed to properly design or maintain a road.

A Heermans disability lawyer near you needs not prove fault for the injuries. Indeed, the circumstances which lead up to the injury are completely disconnected from a SSD claim. Instead, these claimants must prove they have enough work credits to obtain benefits and their injuries are disabling.

Social Security Disability work credits are relatively straightforward. By the time they turn 62, the minimum retirement age, most people have worked more than ten years, which is the benchmark for SSD benefits. But anyone of any age could be a car crash victim. So, the SSA uses a modified test in these situations, as follows:

  • Recent Work: Basically, if you have worked on at least a semi-regular basis, you probably qualify for SSD based on work credits. The disability benefits benchmarks are a year and a half of work (six credits) within the past three years for individuals under 24, and five years of work (20 credits) within the past ten years for individuals older than 31. If you are between 24 and 31, the recent work formula is somewhat complex.
  • Work Duration: Applicants must also qualify based on the amount of work they have performed overall, and not just recently. This test is complex as well, so strap yourselves in and stay sharp. Applicants younger than 28 must have six credits (1.5 years of work). For older applicants, their work credits must match their age, beginning at 22. So, if Alice is 30, she must have at least eight credits, or two years of work, since she’s eight years older than 22.

Different rules apply for individuals under 21. Usually, these people are eligible for SSI (Social Security Insurance) benefits if they are disabled. SSI doesn’t involve tax payment. However, the issues are similar. So, a Heermans SSI lawyer near you should be contacted for a free disability case evaluation. 

There is a sliding scale for work credits, but there is no sliding scale for disability determinations. As far as the SSA is concerned, applicants are either disabled or they aren’t. Basically, the condition must be so severe that it prevents the applicant from working, and that severe condition must be terminal or last at least a year.

Potentially Disabling Car Wreck Injuries

As a general rule, if you were unable to walk away from the scene of a car accident, either with or without assistance, you might have a disabling injury. At the very least, a Heermans SSA law firm can help you evaluate your situation and provide a summary of your legal options.

Severe Arm or Leg Fractures

These injuries are very common in car wrecks. Seat belts and airbags usually absorb frontal force. Meanwhile, a victim’s arms and legs often flail against a solid object, like the dashboard during impact in a car accident. According to the SSA, these fractures are disabling if:

  • The bone has not completely healed (no “solid union”), and
  • The injury will be “severely impairing” for at least twelve months. 

The solid union test is rather objective. Any separation, even a hairline crack, meets this requirement. The severely impairing test is a bit more subjective. Some people can get around pretty well with a broken leg and others are essentially paralyzed.

Additionally, many claimants must show they’ve exhausted all medical options. Of course, not all medical options are available to everyone and seeing your doctor about your injuries is important. Not everyone can become a cyborg.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Basically the same test applies to burn injuries and other soft tissue injuries to a tendon, ligament, muscle, nerve, or blood vessel. Basically, the soft tissue injury must substantially restrict a bodily function, like eating, a sensory function, or two extremities, like a hand and a foot, for at least twelve months,

Different rules apply to internal bleeding. Frequently, after a serious crash, doctors can control internal bleeding, but they cannot stop it. SSD is available in these cases if the applicant required at least three blood transfusions of at least two units each over the past six months. Moreover, the transfusions must have been at least thirty days apart.

Back Injuries

The spine is essentially a long chain of bones extending from the neck to the waist. The extreme force of a car wreck often knocks spines out of alignment. Frequently, these injuries are permanent. SSD is available for the following conditions:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis that makes walking difficult,
  • Spinal arachnoiditis which requires position shifts more than once every two hours, and
  • Nerve compression that limits movement. 

The medical evidence in these situations is often misleading. Anyone with a bad back knows that the pain is often a lot worse than it looks on an MRI or other diagnostic test. 

Anxiety Issues

About half of car crash victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many other victims suffer from generalized anxiety or other mental disorders. If the crash-related mental disorder includes symptoms like frequent panic attacks, avoidance, trouble concentrating, hypervigilance (unreasonable fear of danger), or muscle tension, and the symptoms meet the twelve-month requirement, SSD benefits might be available.

For more information about obtaining government benefits after a collision, car crash, motorcycle accident, or any other type of accident, contact the disability lawyers near you at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm serving the greater mid-south region. Give our full service law firm a call at (901) 244-0057. Our online form can be used to provide you with a free evaluation—after you submit your free evaluation request we’ll provide some questions that can be easily and quickly answered to evaluate your case. 

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