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.
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.
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:
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!
Do I need a Louisiana Personal Injury Attorney to Settle My Case?
If you were involved in a car crash, industrial accident, or another incident, you may be wondering if you need an attorney to settle your claim.
Here is my answer – maybe, maybe not. It depends on the specifics of your case and your injury.
Do I really need a personal injury attorney?
In my opinion, some small injury cases do not require a personal injury lawyer. How do you know if your case is a small injury case?
Some things I see in small personal injury cases:
- minimal impact;
- limited or no doctor visits; or
- no ongoing treatment or limitations after a few weeks.
My office usually does not get involved in cases with very minor injuries requiring only a visit or two to the doctor because doing so is usually not cost-effective for you or us.
The amount of damages at issue in these smaller cases is not that much, and after paying an attorney’s fee and your medical bills, you may be left with very little or nothing. This is simply not fair to you.
When settling on your own after an auto accident, you need to collect your medical records, evidence of your lost wages (including sick days and paid time off), details about the accident, and evidence of liability.
It is important if you are handling your case after a car accident that Louisiana has a one-year prescription period, this is commonly known as the statute of limitations. You need to negotiate a settlement before this one year mark passes or you may lose your rights to recover your damages.
When should a personal injury lawyer be used?
However, for more serious and disabling injuries, accident victims will usually benefit from having an experienced Louisiana personal injury attorney represent them. Why?
An experienced accident and injury attorney is knowledgeable about legal authority and knows how to effectively utilize the court system.
In some cases, an insurance company will only make their best offer with a trial date approaching.
An experienced personal injury attorney can effectively prepare you and your case for trial, and try your case to a judge or jury if need be.
And – in 1999, the Insurance Research Council (an insurance industry non-profit) found that injured people who used an attorney received, on average, three and a half times more in settlement money than those who settled without hiring an attorney. This is not just lawyer talk.
The insurance industry’s own data shows how important having an attorney is for injured victims. Ever wonder why the insurance industry hates lawyers – because lawyers hold them accountable for the damages their insured’s cause.
But, if you have serious or disabling damages, the insurance industry’s own data suggests – hiring a lawyer may be a good idea.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Claim in St. Charles Parish? How do I file an injury claim in Metairie?
When you are seriously injured because of a car wreck in the River Parishes, Louisiana, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit. While you should make the decision to contact an attorney to help you with this process, you may want to try handling the case on your own. Whether you hire an attorney or handle it on your own, there are a number of very important steps that you must take to file your personal injury claim.
Steps to Filing a Louisiana Personal Injury Claim
Filing a lawsuit in Louisiana properly is very important. If you file incorrectly, your claim can be dismissed and you may never recover from your injury and pain. Here are a few important things that you need to properly file a lawsuit:
- Proper name and correct address of at-fault party or parties;
- Proper name and correct address of at-fault party’s insurance company;
- Appropriate description of location of collision, incident or action that caused you damages;
- Appropriate description of collision, incident or action that caused you damages;
- Appropriate description of the damages (special and general) that you suffered due to the collision, incident or action;
- Properly drafted complaint/petition for damages (this document gives an overview of the case – it identifies you (plaintiff), the defendant, what happened, and other basic facts.
- File the complaint/petition in the proper court and before the case prescribes (or statute of limitations expires);
- Pay for the filing fee;
- Have the complaint/petition properly served on the defendant(s) at the correct address;
- Pay the service fee;
- Check to make sure service made properly and within required time frames;
- If service not made timely or properly, re-request service and pay additional fee for service;
- Make sure defendant(s) answer the suit timely. If not, take appropriate action to place defendant in default.
- If defendant answers suit timely, begin litigation with defendant.
This is a brief and non-exhaustive overview of the beginnings of a personal injury lawsuit. Your specific case may be different or require additional steps. In order to hold the insurance company and defendant accountable for your damages, you must complete all steps properly.
While this sounds daunting, a qualified Louisiana personal injury attorney can take care of this process and make sure things are done correctly.
This is just the beginning. After these steps, much more extensive information and steps will be required. These steps include discovery (answer questions from the defendant, having our questions answered by the defendant, requesting documents, producing documents, giving depositions, taking depositions, working with experts, etc.), negotiations, trial preparation, and going to trial. By cooperating with your Louisiana personal injury attorney, you will become a team, and by working together you’ll greatly increase the chances of negotiating a fair settlement or winning your personal injury claim in court.
Contacting A Louisiana Personal Injury Attorney
After a serious accident, while you are dealing with disabling injuries, large medical bills, car repairs, and insurance companies, having someone work for and with you can mean the world.
If the prospect of going through just the beginning steps alone seems daunting and you decide you need help, Louisiana disabling personal injury lawyer Loyd Bourgeois is ready to provide you the assistance you need! Contact us today to schedule a FREE no obligation legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.
What Is My Personal Injury or Car Accident Case Worth?
There is no simple formula or magic trick to figuring out how much your injury case is worth. If things were that simple - both sides would always agree on the value of a case, injured accident victims would not need to hire a personal injury lawyer, and there would be much fewer lawyers.
The truth is - injury cases are very subjective and each case too unique to arrive at a simple personal injury compensation formula. The same type of injury may affect one person differently than it affects another. For instance, a guitar player who loses a finger may have a substantial lost income claim if he or she can no longer perform but a cashier with the same injury may have very little or no lost income because having one less finger does not negatively impact job performance.
Why is so hard to tell what my case is worth?
Ultimately, the value of your personal injury case is what a jury may feel is fair to award or what you are willing to accept. But we never know that figure until the jury reaches a verdict or you decide to accept or reject a settlement offer.
Making things more complicated - separate juries would likely arrive at different awards even when presented with the same exact evidence. Juries are made up of individual persons, each with different backgrounds, experiences, and philosophies about awarding damages for injuries. Each jury is different.
From a settlement perspective – you may accept one amount on one day but a lower or higher amount on a different day. We simply do not know until we are faced with the decision!
Generally speaking, your personal injury damages include some or all of the following that impacts the case’s worth:
- Past and future medical bills;
- Past and future mental and physical pain and suffering;
- Past and future loss of enjoyment of life;
- Past and future loss of income or earning capacity;
- Loss of consortium;
Agreeing on the value of intangible damage such as mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and disfigurement is difficult. Your results may vary greatly depending on your attorney’s skill and experience, trial presentation, the location of your trial, and how you present.
While the elements of damages are generally determined by the severity of a victim’s injuries and the resulting impact on your life, other factors also come into play:
- Your credibility and likeability;
- Was the defendant’s conduct a simple mistake or reckless behavior;
- Do you have any portion of fault;
- Did you have pre-existing injuries to the same areas of the body;
- Are the injuries permanent;
- Has your income been affected at all, temporarily or permanently;
- How much is past medical treatment;
- Do you need and how much is the cost for future medical treatment; and
- In which Louisiana parish the case is filed (some parishes are considered more conservative, others more liberal).
With so many variables affecting the value of a given case, you can see why no two cases are truly alike. Even if the injuries seem identical, other circumstances are not. Properly evaluating a personal injury case requires the knowledge, experience, intuition, and skill gained through years of involvement in handling them.
HURT IN A WRECK – GET HELP NOW!
If you are trying to figure out if you have a reasonable offer, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney in Louisiana who can help you figure it out! Loyd J. Bourgeois stands ready to help. Contact us to schedule your FREE legal consultation – (985) 240-9773.