Get Answers to Your Legal Questions in Our FAQ
Dealing with a legal issue whether it be applying for and receiving disability benefits, fighting for a personal injury claim, or navigating through a divorce, can be a challenge, and many people are left with questions about what they can do to get the help they need. At the law offices of Loyd J. Bourgeois, we understand how hard it can be to get the answers you need. That’s why we’ve put together the following list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers dealing with family law, personal injury, disability benefits, claims, and appeals and the related law in Louisiana.
The following are some FAQs that I receive as a Louisiana attorney. They may answer some of the questions you have regarding your Social Security Disability appeal, your long-term disability insurance denial, your personal injury claim, or your Louisiana divorce. If you have a question that is not answered here, please call the legal team of Loyd J Bourgeois, LLC at 985-240-9773.
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Do I Have To Submit The Worker’s Comp Report to SSA?
We recently represented “Donald” who was injured on the job when attempting to lift a heavy object. Donald’s injury required surgery. Luckily for Donald, his injury was covered by worker’s compensation so it paid for the surgery. After Donald did not recover as expected, he filed for Social Security Disability.
At some point during the process, however, Donald’s worker’s compensation insurer required he take a Functional Capacity Exam to determine whether or not he could return to his previous work. The FCE found that Donald was capable of working at the same physical level as before his injury. Clearly, this FCE did not support Donald’s claim for disability benefits – where we must prove that Donald’s limitations prevent him from performing any work. Simply put, this type of evidence hurts Donald’s claim.
The question is this – Do we have to submit this unfavorable worker’s compensation report to SSA even though it does not help Donald’s claim?
The answer is YES!
SSA has an “all evidence” policy that you and your representative must follow. This means that all evidence obtained in your case, even if it is unfavorable, must be submitted to SSA on your claim.
But, there is hope.
If you have unfavorable evidence from a worker’s comp doctor or any other doctor, you should promptly advise your attorney so that an effective strategy can be developed to minimize the negative evidence.
In some cases, one strategy we employ is to have your own doctor prepare a letter detailing why the negative evidence is wrong and/or problems with the methods, technique or conclusions of the negative evidence. Other strategies may be appropriate or required depending on your specific case.
If you have a worker’s compensation claim or other negative evidence that you must submit to SSA, you should seek representation from a skilled and knowledgeable SSA attorney to help in your disability claim. Our team would love to help – give us a call or use our contact form.
Can I negotiate my own personal injury claim? And if so, where do I start?
Sure - you can negotiate your own personal injury claim. There is no law that says you have to hire a lawyer. But, just like you can change your brakes without being a mechanic or install a new roof on your house without being a roofer – some things are best left to the experts. And, unlike hiring a mechanic or a roofer, you don’t have to pay anything upfront to have a personal injury attorney start working on your case!
Louisiana Personal Injury Lawyers are paid by receiving a portion of the money they are able to win for you. Additionally, most lawyers will front the costs of the case (like filing fees, expert costs, deposition costs, etc.) until the case is resolved. If you choose to pursue your own case, you will be responsible for all costs, which sometimes run into the thousands of dollars.
Insurance companies are aware that individuals do not have the training or the legal skill necessary to file a lawsuit and try a case to a successful conclusion and as a result will offer a significantly lower amount of money to someone trying to negotiate their own claim.
Without the legal skill and training, you may not accurately understand the value of your case or take into account all of your damages. This is why hiring a lawyer to handle your case or claim is usually in your best interests. If you still want to negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company yourself, start by reading all the articles on this blog – we have great advice about insurance adjuster tactics and what documentation you need to prove your case.
How long does it take to settle my case so I can catch up on my bills?
The length of time for settling a case depends on many factors and no lawyer can make guarantees on either the outcome or the timeline for that outcome. Some of the factors are how serious the accident was, how badly you were injured, how much medical treatment you require, and which insurance company represents the at-fault driver. They’re all tough to deal with, but some are worse than others!
Let’s say the other driver is clearly at fault in a rear-end auto accident. Maybe you suffered a soft tissue strain sprain and required an X-ray to assess the damage and a couple months of physical therapy to help heal. Even a very basic case like that can take between five to eight months to settle. It can be a long process, depending on the facts and circumstances of the accident, to make sure you receive fair compensation.
I’ve already accepted a settlement from the insurance company, but I’ve since had more medical bills. What can I do?
Unfortunately, if you have already signed a release form with the insurance company, you’ve lost the ability to pursue legal action against either the at-fault driver, their insurance carrier, and possibly your own UM insurance. The best possible scenario is to avoid this situation altogether, which you can do by not signing the release form until you have absolute medical clearance from your doctor that you are finished with treatment.
If your injuries are of the type that will require future treatment(s), you need to take this into account in any settlement or resolution. If you need help determining if the insurance settlement offer is fair and will cover all of your current and future expenses, give us a call at 985-240-9773.
Does the amount of property damage to your car matter in your injury case?
The short answer is NO!
The medical literature shows that there is no direct correlation between the amount of property damage in an accident and the type and severity of injuries received. A person is a minor fender bender with less than $500 damage can sustain severe injuries, and a person in a significant collision where multiple vehicles are “totaled” can walk away with no injury.
Everyone has different injury tolerances. Two people who experience the same accident can have different injuries - this is because everyone — biologically speaking — is built differently. Some people may have a genetic tendency to be more predisposed to certain types of injuries. For example, women tend to sustain different types of injuries than men.
Also, the fitness level and age of an individual can have a lot to do with the type and severity of injury received in an accident. As such, factors like wear and tear on the body and the actual individual’s injury tolerance, which is genetic, bears no relationship to the amount of property damage in an auto case.
However, you need to be aware that many people including jurors are often biased towards the opinion that no/minimal vehicle damage means no/minimal personal injury. If you were injured in a no/minimal vehicle damage case, you will likely need a skilled attorney knowledgeable about defenses to this argument to effectively recover for your injuries.
If you have questions about your personal injury claim, give us a call now at 985-240-9773 or fill out our contact form.
Do Social Security retirement benefits affect my Long-Term Disability payment?
A recent caller to the office – let’s call him Al – asked an interesting question. Here is our exchange:
"Al, let me see if I understand your question correctly,” I asked.
“You have been receiving long-term disability payments through an insurance plan and that LTD insurer reduced your benefits by the amount of your Social Security Disability. Correct?”
Al said, “Yes.”
I continued, “Now that you have reached full Social Security Retirement age, your Social Security Disability is now Social Security Retirement. And, you want to know if the LTD insurer can continue to offset the LTD benefit by what you now receive as Social Security Retirement. Correct?”
Al said, “Yes.”
“Great!” I exclaimed. “I just like to make sure I am understanding what you are asking.”
“Al,” I said, “Here is my lawyer answer – I don’t know.”
I explained to Al, and now to you – how and whether any Social Security Retirement payments affect your LTD payment will be a function of the specific language of your LTD policy. And, each policy is slightly different. You will need to obtain a copy of your policy and read specifically what it says about receipt of any Social Security benefits. How SS Disability and/or SS Retirement benefits are construed and/or offset are policy specific.
In most ERISA plans that I have reviewed, the LTD policy only pays benefits until you reach your Social Security Retirement age. If this is the case, the effect of receiving full SS Retirement benefits will be that you are now aged off of the LTD benefit.
In private LTD plans, the policy period varies and how each policy handles offsets for SS Retirement differ.
So, as I told Al – “You need to get a copy of the policy and review it. And, if you don’t understand what you are reading or what you are looking for, give my office a call to schedule an appointment where we can review it together.”
Al set off to find a copy of his policy. If you have this question, you should do the same!
What kind of doctor should I see for my car accident injury?
This is a question I am frequently asked. I strongly recommend that anyone who is hurt in an auto accident go to the emergency room immediately. However, emergency rooms only determine if you have any emergency medical needs and provide basic medication such as anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxers, and minor non-addictive pain relievers. It is important to know that most injuries worsen a day or two after an accident and can become unbearable over time, thus the medications and treatment you receive at the emergency room can be of tremendous benefit.
After going to the emergency room, you’ll need follow up care and that MUST mean a facility with a medical doctor on staff who understands crash injuries and is skilled in treating these type of injuries.
Additionally, most of these facilities also have a massage therapist, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and additional medical professionals on staff to help you through the treatment process. If your pain persists, most doctors will request for you to have an MRI to further evaluate the type of injury you have and determine your treatment needs.
If you have injuries such as knee, wrist, hip, ankle or other types of injuries besides neck and back injuries, you should follow up with an orthopedic doctor.
If your neck or back symptoms persist you may be referred to a neurologist, neurosurgeon, or orthopedic spinal surgeon for a consultation.
In summary, be sure to go to the emergency room after a car accident even if your pain is not significant because it may increase over time. Next, you should follow up with a facility that has a medical doctor on staff to treat your injuries and not just a chiropractic or massage therapist’s office. While massage therapists and chiropractors are an important part of the treatment process, you need a medical doctor directing and coordinating your treatment.
PTSD and Social Security Disability – What Do I Need To Show To Get Disability for PTSD?
Michael is a client of mine. He admirably served our great country in some very brutal and hostile territory. The horrors he described experiencing have clearly left a mark on him. While a decorated soldier and a certified tough guy, Michael struggles to deal with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder his service left him with. He attends counseling sessions at the VA clinic in Reserve, Louisiana, meets with a psychologist and psychiatrist at VA New Orleans, and has trouble in his everyday life as a result. Michael called us looking for help obtaining Social Security disability benefits due to his PTSD.
PTSD is characterized by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a close family member or close friend, and the psychological aftermath of clinically significant effects on functioning. Symptoms and signs may include, but are not limited to, distressing memories, dreams, and flashbacks related to the trauma or stressor; avoidant behavior; diminished interest or participation in significant activities; persistent negative emotional states (for example, fear, anger) or persistent inability to experience positive emotions (for example, satisfaction, affection); anxiety; irritability; aggression; exaggerated startle response; difficulty concentrating; and sleep disturbance.
PTSD can be seen in our military veterans, in crime victims, and survivors of other traumatic or stressful events – such as car crashes, physical and verbal abuse, and similar events.
SSA recognized the seriousness of this disease in its most recent mental health listings. Listing 12.15 recognizes the severe effects of PTSD on survivors and others and provides a pathway to a favorable decision.
To meet the requirements of Listing 12.15, a person must show the following:
- Medical documentation of all of the following:
- Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
- Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
- Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
- Disturbance in mood and behavior; and
- Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understand, remember, or apply information.
- Interact with others.
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
- Adapt or manage oneself.
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
If a person’s PTSD does not specifically meet the listing, a skilled and experienced Louisiana Social Security Disability attorney can help present a PTSD case in a strategic way to make sure all of the severe symptoms and limitations caused are taken into account by SSA.
For Michael, and others like him, SSA’s recognition of this debilitating disease in a specific listing is tremendously beneficial.
If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD and needs help with obtaining Louisiana Social Security Disability benefits, give our team at Louisiana Disability Law a call today: (985) 240-9773.
Please note that names are changed and circumstances may be combined for illustration purposes!
- Medical documentation of all of the following:
What are the different types of auto insurance coverage and how do they help me?
Some of the most common types of auto insurance coverages are:
- Property Damage Liability – This provides coverage for all property damages the insured is legally obligated to pay due to an accident. Louisiana law requires a minimum of $25,000 in property damage coverage.
- Bodily Injury (BI) – Bodily Injury provides coverage for death or serious and permanent injury to others when you are legally liable for an accident involving your automobile. Louisiana law requires a minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident.
- Medical Pay (Med Pay) – This covers medical treatment for the insured or resident family member resulting from an auto accident, regardless of fault, as well as any person occupying the covered auto. This is not a required coverage in Louisiana.
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) – This is coverage provided to the insured, resident family members and any other person occupying the covered automobile for bodily injury resulting from an accident involving an uninsured or under-insured driver. This is not a required coverage in Louisiana.
- Comprehensive Coverage – This is coverage for your own property damage in case of an uninsured, underinsured or self-caused accident. While this coverage is not required by Louisiana law, if your vehicle is financed then the bank/credit union/loan provider typically requires comprehensive coverage to protect their interests.
Can I afford a lawyer?
Yes! As a personal injury attorney, our firm only collects a fee if WE WIN or SETTLE your case. Our fees are contingent on us recovering MONEY for YOU – if no recovery, then no fees.
And, our firm charges less of a contingency fee than most other firms! We operate on a sliding scale for our fee that is based on the status of the case when we recover YOU money. This can result in you saving thousands of dollars!
You really have nothing to lose by hiring a lawyer to represent you!