North Carolina Personal Injury and Disability Lawyers


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Trucking Regulations Alcohol Drug Testing


(Updated as of August 31, 2009)

Reprinted by the Department of Transportation, Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance Office,

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590 (202) 366-3784

Will it hurt my case if I try to work while I’m waiting for my appeal to be processed?

Any sort of full-time work will almost certainly be damaging to your case. Attempting to work part-time is safer, although it is still a risk. A judge may view your ability to complete part-time work as a reflection of your capacity to actually do work on a full-time basis.

Do I need an attorney to help me with my case?

You are not required to have an attorney help you with your case. However, it is in your best interest to have an attorney help you with your appeal once your initial claim is denied. Social Security Disability Law is extremely complex and an attorney is readily equipped to navigate through the details of this intricate system. Although claimants who represent themselves sometimes win their cases, many more claimants lose because they do not receive the proper guidance from an attorney.

How much will an attorney charge me?

Attorneys generally charge you 25% of all back benefits that you are awarded when you win your case (up to a maximum of $5,300). In other words, if you don’t win your case, you don’t owe your attorney a fee. Most attorneys will hold you responsible for the costs of sending letters and ordering medical records whether or not you win the case. These are all costs that you would incur if you were to pursue the claim on your own.

I’m a young person. Is it impossible for me to be approved for Social Security benefits?

Absolutely not. Although proving that a young person is disabled is generally harder than proving that an older person is disabled, if your impairment is severe enough and you are genuinely unable to do any past work or to be retrained to do new work, you have a good chance of getting benefits.

I’m an older person. Does this mean it will be easier for me to get Social Security benefits?

Not necessarily. You still must show that you have a severe impairment that prevents you from doing past work.

How are retirement benefits different from disability benefits?

You are eligible to start receiving retirement benefits at age 62. However, if you file for and receive early retirement, you will have a permanently reduced payment. If you wait until your full retirement age of 65, you will receive the full amount of the retirement benefit to which you are entitled. Once you reach full retirement age, you are no longer eligible to apply for Disability Insurance Benefits.

I’m receiving early retirement benefits from Social Security. Can I get disability benefits also?

Yes. If you apply for disability benefits before full retirement age, you may also receive disability benefits that will supplement your early retirement benefit.

Can I work and receive disability benefits at the same time?

If you are a participant of the Ticket to Work program, you may train to work or work and receive disability benefits for a limited time. This incentive program encourages people to try to go back to work once they no longer have a disability. Eventually, once you are able to sustain yourself by working, your benefits will be discontinued.

You should not try to hide your work from Social Security if you are receiving disability payments. If Social Security discovers that you have been working, it may declare that it has overpaid you for the period that you have been working and require you to pay back the overpayment.

Do I have to be receiving Social Security benefits to apply for Medicaid?

No. This is a common myth. You can apply for Medicaid at anytime and be approved for different reasons. One reason you may be approved is that you are disabled. Hence the myth that you must be receiving disability benefits in order to apply. You may not be approved, but you MAY apply. You should especially apply if you have children and have a low income.

Will my child be able to receive any sort of benefits if I die?

Yes. Even if you do not receive any sort of disability benefit while you are alive, your minor child (under 18) is entitled to a survivor benefit in the amount of ? of the benefit that you would have gotten had you been disabled. Your adult child may also be entitled to this benefit if he or she became disabled before he or she turned 22.

I’ve just moved to a new state, but I have a case pending in my former state. Do I have to go back to the former state to finish my claim?

No. You can have your file transferred to the nearest Social Security office of Office of Hearings and Appeals in your new state.

Do different Social Security laws apply to me now that I’m in a new State?

No. Social Security is a federal system that runs according to federal laws that apply in all States. Besides a few exceptions, Federal law governs the entire process.

How do I know if I qualify for social security disability?

Social Security Disability is designed to help people who are unable to work due to an injury or a disease. It is not designed to help people who have short-term recovery. For example, a person who was injured due to an automobile accident and will be out of work six to eight months would not qualify for disability but an accident victim who will be unable to work again at their former profession and cannot be retrained would be entitled to disability. The SSA is looking for people who truly cannot work again. That is why the rule of 12 months disability or more is a standard.

How do I prove I am disabled?

Your treating physician is crucial. If your doctor tells you that you cannot return to work due to a medical condition then you should apply for disability. Most doctors are aware of this and usually make the recommendations themselves. If you are unsure, sit down and talk with your doctor. The doctor’s support will make the difference. It will be important that your doctor understand what your employment abilities were and why you cannot do them now.

When do I need a lawyer?

In our firm, we will not take on any social security claim until you have been denied at the first step. However as soon as your receive the denial, call a lawyer! You only have 60 days to request a reconsideration.

What does it cost me?

The lawyer receives a percentage of the back payments equal to 25% of the total amount of back payments recovered. This is deducted out of the first check you receive for your back benefits. In addition you have to reimburse the firm for the cost of medical records necessary to prove your case. This normally does not exceed $100.00.

What experience does your firm have?

Our firm handles hundreds of social security claims each year. Our Social Security Division is made up of experienced attorneys and staff who understand the SSA system and work with our clients to move their claims along as quickly as the system allows.

What do i do if i believe i have been injured with other people as a result of the negligence causing a mass tort claim?

Immediately contact a lawyer who is involved in mass tort claims. The ability of this lawyer to network with nationwide lawyers involved in this claim is crucial. Our firm is a part of a network of lawyers through the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. This group of lawyers, including our firm, keep abreast of the latest claims and meet throughout the year to make sure we are providing the best possible representation for all of our clients.

Why are mass torts different?

Claims through a joining of many claimants can involve several different court jurisdictions. The massive amount of money the defendant throws out to defend these actions requires the ability of several firms to represent the interests of the injured parties. It is a long, lengthy process requiring patience and an understanding that this size of lawsuit will not resolve easily.

Results of mass torts?

Our system of justice allows claims such as these to be the watchdog for the American public. We should hold defendants who provide services or products to a higher standard and when that standard is breached they should be accountable. By bringing the negligence before the Courts, many people who may have been injured will be protected because a product was recalled, information made widely available so people can be aware of the dangers, and even save lives.

What should i do if i believe i have been injured due to a defective drug product?

Contact a lawyer. Most lawyers who deal with mass torts already know what is going on throughout the nation. From there, they can guide you through the process and if it is something the lawyer is not involved in, he or she will get you into the right hands. Our firm will be glad to review your claim for you.

What if i don’t know if there is a claim?

Every mass tort claim started with one person who suspected something wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you suspect that a product is defective or a drug is not doing what it claims to do and you notice a pattern, contact a Raleigh Mass Torts lawyer at Hardison & Cochran. Being the protector of the general public can start first with you.

What is Fosamax?

Fosamax (Alendronate Sodium Tablets) is a bisphosphonate medication used to increase bone mass, reduce bone fractures, and prevent and treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women

If I’m involved in a boat accident, what should I do?

If anyone is seriously injured, seek medical attention immediately. After assessing the situation, decide if you need to call your insurance company due to injury or extensive property damage. If a person’s neglect was the reason for the accident, you may want to contact a Raleigh boating accident attorney.

Who manufacturers Fosamax?

Fosamax is manufactured by Merck & Company.

Under what circumstances do I need to file a boating accident report and is there a time frame in which I have to file the report?

From the 2007 US Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics Report:

Under federal regulations (33 CFR Part 173; Subpart C – Casualty and Accident Reporting) the operator of any numbered vessel that was not required to be inspected or a vessel that was used for recreational purposes is required to file a Boating Accident Report (BAR) when, as a result of an occurrence that involves the vessel or its equipment:

  1. A person dies; or
  2. A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury; or
  3. A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
  4. Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more; or
  5. There is a complete loss of any vessel.

If the above conditions are met, the federal regulations state that the operator or owner must report their accident to a reporting authority. The reporting authority can be either in the state where the accident occurred, the state in which the vessel was numbered, or, if the vessel does not have a number, the state where the vessel was principally used. The owner must submit the report if the operator is deceased or unable to make the report.

The regulations also state the acceptable length of time in which the accident report must be submitted to the reporting authority. Vessel operators or owners must submit:

  1. Accident reports within 48 hours of an occurrence if:
    1. A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence; or
    2. A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or
    3. A person disappears from the vessel.
  2. Accident reports within 10 days of an occurrence if there is damage to the vessel / property only.

The minimum reporting requirements are set by Federal regulation, but states are allowed to have stricter requirements. For example, some states have a lower threshold for reporting damage to vessels and other property.

Are there any reported problems with Fosamax?

Cases of osteonecrosis (involving the jaw) have been reported in patients treated with bisphosphonates. The majority of the reported cases are in cancer patients who are having, or have had, a dental procedure.

If I’ve been in an accident should I consult with an attorney?

Yes. Laws that apply to injuries on or around water are very complex. You may need someone that is experienced to help you analyze everything that happened and decide if you have a case to pursue. Contact a Wake County boating accident lawyer at Hardison & Cochran today.

What is osteonecrosis of the jaw?

Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ)is a rare condition that involves the loss, or breakdown, of the jaw bone. ONJ has been reported in patients with cancer receiving treatment, including bisphosphonates, chemotherapy, and/or corticosteroids. The majority of reported cases have been associated with dental procedures such as tooth extraction. A dental examination with appropriate preventive dentistry should be considered prior to treatment with bisphosphonates in patients with concomitant risk factors. While on treatment, these patients should avoid, if possible, invasive dental procedures. No data are available as to whether discontinuation of bisphosphonate therapy reduces the risk of ONJ in patients requiring dental procedures.

Is Carbon Monoxide a risk with boating?

Yes. Engines, gas generators, cooking ranges, space heaters, and water heaters are all sources of carbon monoxide. If there is little to no ventilation the colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas may cause death. Early symptoms include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness, and dizziness. Many times it is mistaken for seasickness.

What are the symptoms of ONJ?

Tell both your oncologist and your dentist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms: pain, swelling, or infection of the gums; loosening of teeth; poor healing of the gums, and numbness or the feeling of heaviness in the jaw

What are common boating accident contributing factors?

Operator inattention, careless / reckless operation, passenger / skier behavior, excessive speed, and alcohol involvement are the top five situations that lead to a boating accident.

For more information on safe boating, please see our Safety & Information page.

How is ONJ diagnosed?

To diagnose osteonecrosis of the jaw, doctors may use x-rays or tests for infection (microbial cultures). Treatments for osteonecrosis of the jaw may include antibiotics, oral rinses, and removable mouth appliances. Minor dental work may be necessary to remove injured tissue and reduce sharp edges of the bone. Surgery is typically avoided because it may make the condition worse.

Are there safety measures that I can take to prevent an accident?

  • Wear a life jacket and make sure everyone on the vessel has one available to them
  • Don’t drink alcohol or be under the influence of drugs while boating
  • Seek out boating safety classes in your area
  • Regularly check your safety equipment to make sure it is properly functioning
  • Be alert to the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Be aware of others on or around the waterway while operating your boat

For more information on safe boating, please see our Safety & Information page.

Is there a type of boat that is involved in casualty more frequently?

Yes. Open motorboats and personal water crafts (jet skis) are involved more frequently than any other type of boat.

For more information on boating accidents, please see our NC Boating Accidents Stats page.

How common are boating accident fatalities?

In 2007, more than 650 deaths occurred in the US due to boating accidents.

For more information on boating accidents, please see our NC Boating Accidents Stats page.

What age group has the highest incidence of boating fatalities?

From the 2007 US Coast Guard report the 40-49 year old age range have the highest number of deaths.

For more information on boating accidents, please see our Boating Accidents Stats page.

What are the most frequent types of boating accidents?

According to the 2007 US Coast Guard report on recreation boating collision with another vessel, collision with fixed object, skier mishap, falls overboard, and capsizing are the top five most frequent accidents.

For more information on boating accidents, please see our Boating Accidents Stats page.

Do boating accidents cause a lot of financial damage?

In 2007 the US Coast Guard reported total damages of boating accidents at $53.1 million.

For more information on boating accidents, please see our Boating Accidents Stats page.

What is the maximum blood alcohol concentration while operating a boat?

Exactly like the laws on the road the BAC limit is .08. State law allows for a boater to be charged if he is “appreciably impaired” in the opinion of the officer. This holds true even though one’s BAC may be below .08.

What is a “commercial truck”?

A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples are eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks.

What are some of the common causes of tractor trailer accidents?

  • Aggressive drivers
  • Unrealistic schedules
  • Failure to inspect tires, brakes and lights
  • Tailgating
  • Long work-shifts
  • Driver fatigue
  • Cell phone use
  • Failure to install blind spot mirrors
  • Jackknifing
  • Speeding and ignoring reduced truck speed limit

Added hazards include the absence of rear and side bumpers and high front bumpers that punch into automobile passenger compartments. Together these factors account for the high percentage of serious injuries and deaths in these crashes.

Are there any state or federal regulations governing truck drivers?

There are many regulations, both state and federal, that trucking companies are required to follow. Some of those laws include the following:

  • Trucking companies are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations concerning equipment and hours of service.
  • Truck drivers are required to maintain a driver’s log.
  • Federal regulations require commercial trucks to carry certain levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of the materials hauled. These regulations protect victims of large truck crashes from truck owners who may not have the financial resources to pay damages out-of-pocket.
  • The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program requires that individual States, and other political jurisdictions unify to develop and implement programs that will ultimately improve motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety and establish a safer and more efficient transportation system.
  • Commercial driver’s license standards are federal regulations in place to reduce or prevent truck accidents and resulting injuries and/or deaths by requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a single commercial motor vehicle driver’s license.
  • Both North Carolina State and / or federal law, depending on whether the truck was involved in intrastate or interstate transport may govern truck accidents.

What are the “hours of service” rules?

Under federal “hours of service” regulations, which took effect January 2004, interstate commercial drivers are not allowed to drive more than 11 consecutive hours or drive after 14 hours on duty until they have had a 10-hour break. In addition, according to federal regulations, commercial truck drivers cannot drive after accruing 60 work hours during a 7-day period or 70 work hours during an 8-day period.

Who makes sure that big trucks and trucking companies are following the rules?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is in charge with promulgating regulations to keep us safe on the road. The rules are expansive and cover all aspects of commercial driving including the driver (e.g. training, drug and alcohol testing and licensing), the vehicle (e.g. transportation of hazardous materials, inspection and repair) and the carrier (e.g. insurance, records and maintenance). In North Carolina, enforcement of these regulations, and other state laws, falls to the State Highway Patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement.

How do I deal with trucking companies or their insurance carriers after a truck accident?

The best advice is NOT to deal with them! The first thing you should do is contact an expert truck accident lawyer. The last thing you want to do is your own negotiation with a trucking company about your semi truck accident or semi rig injury. Most trucking companies are highly skilled at semi truck accident investigation and claims. Anything you say or sign may be held against you further down the road.

Why should a lawyer be hired as soon as possible?

The major trucking companies will immediately have lawyers hired and working for them. The scene must be secure. Photographers and statements must be taken as soon after the accident as possible. Many important pieces of evidence helpful to you can be lost, misplaced or be purposely destroyed.

Is the investigation of the accident important?

It is critical. a thorough investigation must be performed to establish the fault of another. An investigation will include the examination of the scene and vehicles involved, and obtaining of statements from witnesses. Be sure that you do not move your vehicle after the accident. It will be a major part of the investigation.

What if I was partially at fault for the accident?

A person can still sue, even if partially at fault, as long as they can prove that at least one other person also contributed to the accident. In a case such as this, however, your recovery may be reduced.

If a loved one or myself has suffered massive injuries due to someone elses negligence, what should I do?

Immediately consult a lawyer! Never, ever will the negligent party or the insurance company provide adequate compensation. Most people do not understand that recovering for a massive injury requires a lot of projected estimates for future care and treatment as well as compensation for loss of quality of life and economic loss. Life Care Planners, Economic Experts, and Medical Experts are needed to show the loss to the injured person. During recovery, it is crucial that all aspects of the treatment and recovery are documented.

What happens first?

Our firm immediately investigates the liability portion of the claim. This means a thorough investigation by investigators and our firm to make sure there is no question of liability. In North Carolina, because we are a “contributory negligence” state, if you are even 1% at fault you cannot recover.

When is a lawsuit filed?

Experience has taught us that insurance companies are not going to voluntarily pay large sums of money so we know that someone with massive injuries will more than likely end up going to Court. However, we wait until the person has recovered as much as possible before we file the lawsuit. In North Carolina, you have two years from the incident date if someone dies and three years if someone is injured only.

How long does it take?

Someone with massive injuries or when it involves a death case can expect to have the claim take two to four years from start to finish. Our experience tells us that if there is no dispute as to liability, then at some time during the lawsuit, usually at mediation, the claim can settle. However, if the defendant believes a jury may question liability the insurance company is likely going to go to trial.

What does it cost me?

Because of the large amount of out-of-pocket expenses, most law firms think twice about handling a large claim. That is why you need to have a firm who has the financial resources to fund the case. You would then be required to pay these costs back to the firm if you obtain a recovery. If you do not obtain a recovery, then you owe the firm no fee but would be responsible for the costs. Costs in cases such as these easily run $25,000.00 or more.

How do I know if I should proceed?

Frankly, a good law firm experienced in these type of claims will give you an opinion as to whether or not you should proceed. If your chances of recovery are slim then the advice will be not to proceed. You need to make sure you are consulting with a lawyer who has the experience to know when you should go forward.

Do I need a lawyer?

While not every injured person needs a lawyer, we encourage everyone to at least consult one to make sure you understand your rights. We caution everyone NEVER TO SIGN ANYTHING until you have talked to a lawyer. Many valuable rights were lost because the injured person believed what he or she was told by the insurance company. Just remember, the only person truly working in your best interests is the lawyer you hire.

What can I expect to be paid for in my injury case?

As an injured person you are entitled to claim:

  • Medical bills
  • Prescriptions
  • Other medical devices and costs
  • Out-of-pocket expense related to the injury
  • Lost wages if a doctor places you out of work
  • Pain and Suffering during recovery

And if your injury is permanent (as defined by a medical doctor) you can also claim future damages as set out above.

What happens if the injury case cannot be settled?

If your injury case cannot be settled, then we promptly file a Complaint for you. Once a lawsuit has been filed, the average time to get before the Court is twelve months. This is because our courts have heavy backlogs. However, we fast-track our cases so that any delay is not ours but the Courts or the other side. In North Carolina, you sue the defendant not the insurance company. In fact, you may not mention the word “insurance” in a trial. A jury hears your injury case and the jury decides who was at fault and how much you are allowed to recover.

What happens if my case settles without going to Court?

The insurance company issues a check for the total amount of settlement and sends it to our firm. A settlement statement is prepared that will show the deductions for our fee, the costs, and payment to medical providers. It also shows what you will receive as the net proceeds. This usually takes one to two weeks to conclude.

What does the insurance company do?

The adjustor takes the package and reviews it and makes a recommendation to his or her supervisor for settlement authority. The adjustor and your attorney then discuss the issues and what is a reasonable amount for your injury case. Negotiations for settlement usually take four to six weeks before it is determined if a case can settle without filing suit.

What happens when I recover?

We strongly tell our clients do not attempt to settle your case until you are pain free. Doctors will routinely release you presuming you are 100% pain free. We also suggest you wait 30 days to make sure you have no recurrence or pain. Once you are comfortable that you are fully recovered, we begin putting together your settlement package and send it off to the insurance company with a request for settlement.

What do you do if you are my lawyer?

Once you hire us, we move quickly to preserve the evidence and notify the insurance company you are represented. We routinely obtain photographs of vehicles and the accident scene. We interview the witnesses, if any. We notify your medical providers we are involved. We give the insurance company an overview of your injury case and keep them updated with your progress during recovery. We document your injury case with medical reports, bills and any lost wages you may incur. We will also will get a great deal of personal information from you so we can present your injury case in the best possible light.

What if I have just been in an accident?

If you have been involved in an accident, we urge you to move quickly to document your injury case. If you have not yet hired an attorney make sure you get photographs of your vehicle. Get 2 to 3 estimates of repair on your vehicle. If you are injured, see a doctor immediately and follow the doctor’s advice. If a doctor places you out of work, get a written note and keep a copy. Notify the defendant’s insurance company immediately. Be prepared to be without a vehicle until the insurance company can investigate the accident. They will not pay for your vehicle, a rental, or your injury until they are satisfied you had no fault in the accident. You should also at least consult with a lawyer to make sure you understand your rights.

Do all injury cases go to court?

No. We handle many more injury cases that settle without filing suit. About 2 out of 10 cases result in trial. The insurance company generally wants to avoid trial and if a law firm has a reputation for trying cases it will work harder with that law firm to settle a injury case. While we make every effort to settle injury cases, we are also prepared to move the case quickly through the Courts system.

If I am at fault, even a small amount, can I recover?

North Carolina also has what is called “contributory negligence”. We are one of the few states remaining that still have this law. What it means simply is that if you were 1% at fault you cannot recover for any damages. For that reason, it is especially crucial that you seek the advice of a lawyer if you feel you have a injury case for injuries arising out of a vehicle accident.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a remedy that was created by the Legislature in order to provide compensation for those who were injured on the job. Prior to workers’ compensation it was necessary for an injured party to prove that the employer was negligent and it was that negligence that caused the employee’s injuries in order to obtain recovery. Many injured employees were left without compensation and unable to work thereafter. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act was then formed. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act offers benefits to entitled injured workers through the form of medical treatment, lost wages, and payment for permanent disability.

What is a workers’ compensation injury?

In order to have a compensable workers’ compensation injury you must have been injured by an accident that arose out of and in the course of your employment.

What should I do if I get injured on the job?

If you are injured on the job the very first step is to notify your supervisor. Make sure that an accident report is filed with the appropriate personnel of your employer. Even if your injuries are not serious you must still report your injuries as they become more problematic at a later date and failing to report them may hinder your claim. In addition if you need medical treatment then request it when you file your report with you employer.

Is workers’ compensation the same as State Disability?

No. Workers’ compensation is not disability that is provided by the State of North Carolina. It is governed by state legislation, therefore, the state has laws that govern an individual’s entitlement to workers’ compensation. The Industrial Commission is the state governmental entity that applies those laws found in the North Workers’ Compensation Act.

Can I receive unemployment compensation and workers’ comp benefits at the same time?

No. If you are receiving weekly benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier then you cannot receive unemployment benefits from the Employment Security Commission.

What can I do if I’m not receiving my benefits check?

Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-18(g), if any payment of compensation is not paid within fourteen days of the day the payment was due then you are entitled to a 10% late payment penalties for any amounts not received. In order to receive this amount you must file a request for this penalty with the Executive Secretary’s Office of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

If I am unable to return to the type of work I did before I was injured, what can I do?

If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment.

Is there a period of time after which my claim is no longer open?

If you have a workers’ compensation claim and you receive only medical treatment and do not lose any time from work then your claim will close within 12 months of the last date of medical treatment paid for by the workers’ compensation carrier. If you received weekly benefits due to your injury then your claim will close two years from the last date of compensation received.

If I am injured, do I have to file a claim form?

No. There is no requirement to a file a form with the Industrial Commission, however, in order to protect your statutory rights it is highly recommended that you file Form 18. A Form 18 is a Notice of Accident which lets the Industrial Commission, your employer, and their insurance carrier know that you are claiming a work-related injury. If a Form 18 is not filed within two years then your claim may be time barred and no recovery may be had.

What are my benefits?

If you are injured on the job and you have a compensable workers’ compensation injury then you are entitled to medical treatment, lost wage benefits, and benefits for any permanent partial disability suffered as a result of those injuries.

What are temporarily disability benefits?

If you are not able to perform your position at work due to your compensable injury and your treating physician has you out of work or light duty that your employer cannot offer then you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits. Temporary total disability usually come in a weekly check and are supposed to be two thirds of your average weekly wage. Your average weekly wage is the average wage over the 52 weeks prior to your injury.

Where do I go for treatment?

Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act the insurance carrier has the right direct the medical treatment. You must find out from either your employer or your insurance carrier where you need to seek treatment. If they will not provide you with treatment then you can seek treatment on your own and then request that the Industrial Commission name this physician as your treating physician.

What if I become dissatisfied with my treatment?

If you become dissatisfied with your treatment and that provider releases you then you may be entitled to a second opinion pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-27. If after that second opinion there are other treatments recommended then you can ask the Industrial Commission to Order the workers’ compensation carrier to provide the recommended treatment.

Can a workers’ comp claim be filed if an injury occurred outside of work?

In order to have a compensable workers’ compensation claim your injuries must be the result of an accident that arose out of and through the scope of your employment.

What if I am unable to return to my job?

If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment.

What if I have to change my line of work because of a workers’ compensation injury?

If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment.

What about Death Benefits?

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides a limited amounts of benefits for those who are killed as a result of a work related accident or as a result of work related injuries. Generally, the deceased’s dependants are entitled to 400 weeks of two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly wage. The average weekly wage is computed by averaging the weekly wage of the deceased for the 52 weeks prior to the injury. There are exceptions to this rule which may need to be addressed by a competent workers’ compensation attorney.

What other benefits am I entitled to other than Workers’ Comp?

There are some instances in which you may be entitled to short-term or long-term disability as well as workers’ compensation. This depends on many factors such as your employer, whether you individually have one of these policies, and the individual policy itself.

Do I need an attorney?

There are several instances in which you may need an attorney. Several problem areas which legal counsel can address are as follows: you are not receiving the proper medical treatment; your benefits checks are not coming properly; the insurance adjuster will not call you back; and you are not capable of returning back to work and you are concerned about your future.

Are there consultation fees to have my case reviewed by an attorney?

If you wish a consultation with Hardison & Cochran L.L.P the consultation is free. You can speak to a workers’ compensation attorney at any time within your own time.

I have been employed at a company for three months and my supervisor is harassing me to the point where I can’t sleep at night and my family is being affected. Can I file a claim?

No. Workers’ compensation only offers compensation for injuries that are the result of a work related. As of right now, the courts have not recognized employer harassment for the above circumstances as a compensable workers’ compensation injury.

Is a worker who sustains an on-the-job injury entitled to compensation if the injury causes disfigurement?

Yes. N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-31 allows for compensation for disfigurement if there is no other compensation payable under the statute for that injury. If the disfigurement is to the face or head then the law allows up to a max amount of $20,000.00 for the disfigurement. If the disfigurement is to any other body part then compensation may be payable up to $10,000.00.

Is an injured employee entitled to vocational rehabilitation?

If you are unable to return to your previous position due to your work related injuries then the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the injured employee to be placed in vocational rehabilitation to be provided by the workers’ compensation carrier. A vocational rehabilitation counselor will be assigned to help the injured employee find suitable employment.

Must an injured worker notify their employer of a work-related injury?

Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §97-22 the injury must be reported to the employer within 30 days of the accident, unless it can be shown that the employer had knowledge of the injury. The Industrial Commission also may within its discretion allow the claim to be filed as long as the employer was not prejudiced by the delay.

Should an injured worker allow their employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company to record a statement regarding the accident?

It is almost always customary for the insurance carrier to require a recorded statement. It is usually permissible for an injured employee to give a recorded statement, however, if for any reason you have knowledge to believe that the insurance carrier questions the circumstances surrounding the events of your case you may need to consult an attorney prior to agreeing to provide a recorded statement.

Should an injured worker sign any documents for their employer or the employer’s workers’ comp insurance company?

If you are not sure as to what you are signing then you should consult an attorney prior to sign any documents. Consultation with Hardison & Cochran is free so you nothing to lose and you could be severely hindering your claim.

Should an injured worker apply for unemployment benefits?

If you are receiving weekly benefits from the insurance company for disability then you are not entitled to unemployment. If, however, you are not receiving benefits and you have been terminated from your employment and you are not completely taken out of work from your doctor then you can apply. In order to apply for unemployment you have to certify that you are ready willing and able to work. As long as you can work in some capacity you can apply for unemployment.

Can an injured worker be harassed or fired for filing a claim for workers’ comp benefits with the North Carolina Industrial Commission?

No. It is against the law for an employer to terminate an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is covered by both state and federal laws.

What is a “third party” case?

If you are injured on the job and suffer a compensable injury wherein it was due to the fault of another party other than the employer then you may have a cause of against that “third party.” If that is the case then the workers’ compensation carrier may also have a lien in this matter. The amount of their lien is limited to medical treatment and disability benefits that they have provided for you by way of your workers’ compensation claim. In order to resolve the third party action you will need to address this lien with the workers’ compensation carrier. It may be possible to have the lien waived by the carrier or extinguished by a Superior Court Judge.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can often be the result of repetitive motion and or repetitive stress. It is has been linked to the workplace on many different occasions. The repetitive stress and or motion causes injury to the soft tissue and tendons near the wrist. The tissues and tendons then swell and bunch in the carpal tunnel passage. As the hand and wrist is moved these bunched tissues and tendons rub against the nerve causing severe pain.

Are working women more at risk for developing CTS than male workers?

Yes. Women are three time more likely to contract CTS then men. There are several reasons that this is hypothesized, however, there is no true single reason why. Many think that it is due to the fact that women have smaller wrist and therefore their carpal tunnel is smaller making it more likely to cause impingement. Others believe that it is simply more likely that a female will suffer a muscular skeletal injury and others believe that it is due to hormonal changes.

What should I do immediately following a car accident?

If you are not severely injured, collect all pertinent information from the other drivers – driver’s license numbers, address, telephone numbers, insurance card information, etc. Keep a daily journal beginning with the date of the accident to document all physical and mental injuries, as well as document your view of the accident. Notify the arriving North Carolina police officer of the events of the accident that you can recall.

Who is liable for paying for my physical injuries as well as any personal property damage?

The driver(s) who caused the accident’s liability insurance pays for your car damage and personal injuries. If you are at fault for the car accident, your liability insurance will pay the other driver(s) for property damage and personal injuries up to your policy’s limits.

Who is responsible for an accident involving my vehicle and a city street pothole?

Responsibility for damage caused by improper maintenance or repair of North Carolina’s roads and highways generally lies with the government agency responsible for the upkeep of such roadways. If it were a pothole on a city street, the city would be responsible, etc.

Should I take the settlement my insurance company is offering me?

You should not take any settlements offered by an insurance company without first speaking with an experienced North Carolina auto accident lawyer. Insurance companies typically offer a minimal amount of money in return for your signature stating that you will not sue them. Never take an insurance check without first consulting an attorney.

What issues will I face in making a claim for my injuries sustained in an auto accident?

The three categories of issues that typically arise in a tort claim after an automobile accident are:

  • Liability – who is at fault and to what degree
  • Damages – injuries or losses that were caused by the accident
  • Insurance Coverage – what the insurance company will pay for after an accident

A claim for injuries usually is based upon carelessness or negligence. In worse case scenarios, it involves an intentional or reckless act.

What if I cannot afford to pay my medical bills?

If you suffer injuries from a car accident, you will likely have medical bills from physicians, hospitals, physical therapists, and other health care providers. Under North Carolina’s law, you are primarily responsible for paying your bills, regardless of the cause of your injuries. The at-fault person’s liability insurance carrier is responsible for paying you reasonable compensation for damages incurred, which includes medical bills, but the insurance carrier is not responsible for paying your doctors, hospitals, and other providers. Sometimes the amount the insurance company is willing to pay is far less than the actual amount you owe.

When will my personal injury claim be resolved?

Personal injury claims can be resolved in a matter of a few weeks or months. However, they can take up to several years depending on the complexity of the case. It is best to speak with an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney about your specific case.

What is a permanent injury?

A permanent injury is an injury that will be with you for the rest of your life or for some period beyond the settlement of the claim. In most cases, the injured party is entitled to compensation from the at-fault party or their insurance company for all medical bills incurred to date and into the future for all injuries caused by the accident.

I did not feel pain at the scene and refused medical treatment. Now, a few days later I am in pain. What should I do?

You should immediately consult your medical provider regarding any pain, discomfort or possible injuries from a car accident, even if you think they may be only minor injuries. Even if you did not complain of injuries at the scene of the car accident, you may be entitled to payment of your medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of earnings capacity, and emotional distress due to personal injuries. You should consult an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney to discuss whether you need representation on your claim.

What sources of compensation can be pursued after an auto accident?

After an accident depending on who is at fault, you may pursue compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical expenses and future pain and suffering.

What is negligence?

Negligence is the failure of the person to act as a reasonably prudent person would act under like or similar circumstances.

Should I contest an accident-related traffic citation?

If you were not at fault for the accident, you should seek to contest any accident-related traffic citation.

What if the driver was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident? Can damages be recovered?

North Carolina law does not bar a victim’s right to compensation just because they were not wearing a seatbelt.

My son was rear-ended and the other driver claimed my son caused the accident. How does the law decide what is being rear-ended?

A rear collision is where one vehicle collides into the rear of another. Typically the person who hits the vehicle in the rear is at fault, However a vehicle that is rear-ended may still be responsible for the accident. If the person stopped suddenly or had improperly working brake lights or turn signals, he/she could be held responsible or partially responsible for the accident.

What happens if I’m sued for causing an auto accident and I don’t have insurance?

If you are the cause of an accident and are sued, if you have insurance your insurance carrier will provide a defense for you at no extra expense. However, if you have no insurance you could be personally responsible for any damages owed to the injured party. In addition, your driver’s license could be revoked for being uninsured.

If I’m involved in an accident, do I have to tell the insurance company about it right away or can I try to handle it on my own?

Your insurance contract requires you to report an accident immediately to them. Failure to comply with the terms of your insurance policy could result in a denial of coverage. It is usually best to notify your insurance company rather than try to handle the case yourself.

What if I witness an accident?

If you witness an accident, you should stay upon the scene until the officer arrives. If you are unable to stay on the scene, you should give your name, address and telephone number to one of the parties in the accident to give to the officer to contact you if he/she needs any additional information about the accident. you can also follow-up with the local police or highway patrol to let them know you witnessed the accident to give them a statement of what you saw happened. Insurance company’s and attorneys may contact you to get your version of the accident.

I loaned my car to a friend who was involved in an accident. Am I liable if my friend was at fault?

If someone else is driving your vehicle, as long as that person had your expressed or implied permission your insurance coverage will cover the accident. You could be held liable for the accident along with your friend if your friend was operating the vehicle for your benefit or you negligently entrusted the vehicle to your friend.

Can a spouse recover damages for injuries caused by the other spouse?

If one spouse causes the accident, you can seek recovery for your injuries from your spouse.

I have a physical or mental impairment that keeps me from working. What sort of help is available for me from Social Security?

There are two basic types of payments available to those who apply to the Social Security Administration: Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income.

Disability Insurance Benefits

Claimants who are disabled and are currently insured by Social Security are entitled to monthly disability insurance payments from the Social Security Administration.

Supplemental Security Income

Regardless of whether or not you are insured under Social Security, if your income is low enough and you have limited assets, you may be eligible to receive supplemental income. You must meet the same disability requirements that apply to Disability Insurance Benefits.

Can a passenger in the car recover for injuries caused by the driver?

If the driver was negligent in the accident, then usually a passenger can recover from the driver for injuries the passenger sustained. However, if the passenger contributed to the accident in any way, he could be barred from recovery. For instances if the driver was drunk and the passenger knew or should have known, the passenger would be considered contributory negligent and would be barred from recovering from the driver or the driver’s insurance.

I have children. Can I get benefits for them too?

Yes. If you are receiving disability insurance benefits, any children under the age of 18 or any children in high school and under the age of 22 are entitled to a benefit amount equal to half of your disability benefit amount. If your child is over the age of 18, unmarried and not in school, he/she may receive disability insurance benefits based on your earnings record if he/she has a disability that began before the age of 22.

Even if you do not personally qualify for any benefits, your child may qualify to receive Supplemental Security Income if he or she is under age 18 and disabled and you meet the income and asset requirements for Supplemental Security Income.

My seatbelt was unbuckled when the driver of the car I was riding in caused an accident. I was injured. Can I sue the driver for damages?

Yes you can still sue for damages even if you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of an accident.

Where do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

You can apply for disability benefits at your local Social Security Field Office, over the phone (1-800-772-1213) or online

What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage covers damages an individual suffers as a result of a motorist who fails to carry the required insurance on his/her vehicle. Underinsured motorist coverage covers a person for damages whose injury claim value excess the insurance coverage the at-fault owner/driver carried.

When should I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

You should apply for your benefits as soon as you feel you are unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment. Waiting a long time to apply for benefits may cause you to lose payments that you genuinely need and deserve.

What is the purpose of obtaining uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits?

Having uninsured motorist coverage’s protects you from the irresponsible driver who drives without insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage helps protect you when you have serious and significant injuries.

It has been a long time since I last worked. Am I out of luck if I’m not insured anymore?

No. As long as you can prove that you became disabled while you were still insured, you can still get benefits. However, remember that you are only entitled to receive Disability Insurance Benefits for up to 12 months prior to your filing date for.

If I get injured in a car accident but do not have insurance, can I still sue and recover for my injuries?

You can recover from a third party who is responsible for your injuries even if you do not have insurance. However, if the third party responsible for the accident does not have insurance then you may not be able to recover for your injuries

I was denied Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The denial letter said I did not have enough credits. What does this mean?

Social Security Disability Insurance is similar to any private insurance policy. You have to pay premiums to qualify for coverage. These “premiums” are taken out of your paycheck every month at your job and paid to the Social Security Administration. A set amount paid to Social Security earns you a quarter credit. In order to be insured, you need enough quarter credits at the time you become disabled to be insured. An easy way to determine whether or not you are insured is to request a copy of your Social Security Statement.

On my way to a company authorized seminar, a deer hit my car causing serious damage to my personal car. MY auto insurance will be used to cover the damages. But, whose obligation is it to pay the deductible?

Most of the time if you hit a deer the accident will be covered under comprehensive coverage. Many policies do not have deductibles under the comprehensive coverage. However, if you have deductible, you should check with your employer if they will reimburse you the deductible.

I was denied Supplemental Security Income. The denial letter said I had too much income and/or too many assets. What does this mean?

In order to qualify for Supplemental Security Income, your income must be below a certain limit and you must not own too many assets. Social Security does not count your primary residence or only one automobile when it determines the value of your assets. However, multiple automobiles or multiple residences will likely disqualify you from receiving SSI depending on their value.

Am I liable for damages to my employer’s car because of a rear-end accident that occurred while I was using the car on my employer’s business?

If you were rear-ended and the accident was not your fault you should not be liable for damages. However, if you are at-fault and rear-ended the vehicle you and your company can be liable for the other person’s damages.

I was denied Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income. The denial letter said I was not disabled. What makes me disabled?

According to Social Security you are disabled when:

  1. You are not involved in any substantial gainful activity (In other words, you are not doing a job that earns you more than $860 per month in 2006)
  2. You have a severe mental or physical impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months
  3. You are unable to perform any past work
  4. You are unable to perform or to be trained to perform any other less demanding work

My 17 year old son was in a coma 3-4 months because of an injury in a car wreck. Now he is 20. Does the time period for filing suit apply to a person that was in a coma and is just realizing what happened and wants to sue the driver’s insurance company?

The statute of limitations is 3 years from the date of the accident except for minors and those you are incompetent. If you are a minor or incompetent, you have 3 years from the date of your 18th birthday or 3 years from the date the incapacity is lifted.

How do insurance adjusters operate?

Insurance adjusters work for the insurance company and are not necessarily working for your best interest. They are licensed by the state and are required by their company’s to follow guidelines and procedures set out by the state and their company. Most insurance adjusters will want a statement from you, their insured, a police report and any witness information before deciding to pay a claim.

If I own an automobile, am I required to buy auto insurance?

North Carolina requires every person to carry liability coverage on any vehicle they own. The minimum amount of liability coverage you must carry is $30,000.00 per person, $60,000.00 per accident for bodily injury damages and $25,000.00 per accident for property damages.

If I’m involved in an accident, do I have to tell my insurance company about it right away or can I try to handle it on my own?

Your insurance contract requires you to report an accident immediately to them. Failure to comply with the terms of your insurance policy could result in a denial of coverage. It is usually best to notify your insurance company rather than try to handle the case yourself.

What makes my child disabled?

The disability standard for a child is actually tougher than the one for adults. In order for a child to be declared disabled, the child must either meet a specified Social Security Listing or have an impairment that makes them functionally equivalent to a disabled adult. Basically, this means that a child must have a serious limitation in two of the following areas or one extreme limitation:

  1. Acquiring and using information
  2. Attending and completing tasks
  3. Interacting and relating with others
  4. Moving and manipulating objects
  5. Caring for self
  6. Health and physical well-being

If I am sued, will my insurance company defend me in court?

In an auto accident case, if you were responsible for an accident and had insurance coverage at the time of the accident, your insurance company should defend you in court.

Can I automatically get disability benefits if I am blind?

As you will discover, nothing is guaranteed when applying for Social Security benefits. You are entitled to receive disability benefits if you meet Social Security’s definition of blindness. In order to be eligible for benefits, you must have a vision of 20/200 or worse in your best eye when using corrective lenses. You must also meet a lessened credit requirement to be insured.

  1. Acquiring and using information
  2. Attending and completing tasks
  3. Interacting and relating with others
  4. Moving and manipulating objects
  5. Caring for self
  6. Health and physical well-being

If a rental agency is aware at the time of rental that another driver will drive the vehicle other than the one authorized and covered under the rental agreement and insurance purchased, is the car agency partly liable for an accident that the unauthorized driver causes?

When renting a vehicle, the person renting the vehicle is liable for damages they cause unless they purchased additional insurance. If the person driving the vehicle is not authorized on the rental contracts then the rental company can deny any liability for an unauthorized driver.

Can I appeal my denial of Social Security benefits?

Absolutely. The Social Security Administration provides an appeal process that allows you to have your claim for disability and/or supplemental income reviewed several times. The first level of appeal is called Reconsideration. Another set of examiners will review your claim to determine whether the first examiners made a mistake. Most denials are not overturned at this level.

When is a person considered disabled?

Under Social Security Administration (SSA) rules, workers are considered to be “disabled” if they suffer from a “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment that prevents them from engaging in any “substantial gainful activity” and their impairment: 

  •        Is expected to result in death, or
  •        Has lasted or will last for a period of at least 12 continuous months. 

If you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits in North Carolina, a medical decision on your claim will be processed by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. 

At Hardison & Cochran, we can help guide you through this process. Contact us today for a free initial consultation if you are applying for benefits or appealing the denial of your claim. 

How DDS Will Determine Your Disability 

The DDS team that will decide your claim includes a claims examiner and a medical consultant. They will review the work and medical records you submit as part of your application.  

Your impairments must be applicable to your job duties. For instance, if you suffer from an impairment that prevents heavy lifting, but your clerical job does not require heavy lifting, your impairment may not be considered “severe.” 

The DDS team considering your claim may ask your doctor for more information or require you to undergo an examination in order to obtain any additional information it needs. The examination may be with your doctor or with one chosen by DDS. 

Is your impairment in the Blue Book?  

The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments in its “Blue Book.” These listings describe impairments to each major body system that are considered severe enough to prevent an adult from performing any gainful activity.  

For each body system, the Blue Book describes common ailments and the medical criteria that apply to the evaluation of impairments. 

The Listing of Impairments covers:

  •        Musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments)
  •        Sensory systems (including speech)
  •        Respiratory system
  •        Cardiovascular system
  •        Digestive system
  •        Genitourinary system (kidneys, bladder, etc.)
  •        Hematological (blood) disorders
  •        Skin disorders
  •        Endocrine disorders (hormonal imbalances)
  •        Neurological disorders
  •        Mental disorders
  •        Malignant neoplastic diseases (malignant growth or tumors)
  •        Immune system disorders
  •        Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems. 

If your condition matches a condition in the Blue Book, approval of your claim is automatic. If there is not a direct match, the team evaluating your claim must determine whether your condition is “equal” in severity to a listed condition. If the DDS team decides that it is, your claim is approved.  

If the DDS team decides that your condition is not “equal” in severity to a listed condition, the team will examine whether your condition prevents you from doing the work you did before. 

Whether you are disabled is directly related to the essential functions of your job. If you can perform your job’s essential functions with or without a reasonable accommodation, you may not be disabled.  

But if your impairment makes it impossible to do your current or previous job, there will be one final question to answer: Can you do any other type of work? 

The DDS team will consider your medical condition, age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you cannot do other work, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. 

Once you are judged to be disabled, your claim will be sent back to the regional SSA office. You will be notified of the benefits you will receive and the date they will start. 

If your claim is denied, the DDS office will keep your file and notify you of that decision, including why your claim was rejected. 

You have 60 days to appeal a denied claim, which you must do in writing. An appeal goes to a second team of evaluators. You will be allowed to present evidence to them.  

You also have the right to be represented by an attorney or another qualified person of your choice at the hearing of your claim appeal. 

Contact a North Carolina SSD Lawyer about Your Benefits Claim 

At Hardison & Cochran, we have extensive experience with the state-run Disability Determination Services in North Carolina and the Social Security Administration. We can help you organize a disability benefits application or present your appeal of a denied claim. 

Our objective is to get you the SSD benefits you deserve without burdensome delay. We can review your case in a free initial consultation and explain how we can help you. Call or contact us online today to get started. 

For More Information  

Social Security Disability Benefits, Social Security Administration

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (Blue Book), Social Security Administration

I had an accident with a car I was test driving. Does the car dealership cover the costs of repair?

If you are test driving a vehicle, you are considered to be using the vehicle as a temporary substitute and your insurance will cover the costs of repairs.

Is there a time limit on filing an appeal?

Yes. You have sixty (60) days from the date of your denial letter to appeal your case. This time limit applies at every level of appeal.

I did not feel pain at the scene and refused medical treatment. Now, a few days later I am in pain. What should I do?

You should immediately consult your medical provider regarding any pain, discomfort or possible injuries from a car accident, even if you think they may be only minor injuries. Even if you did not complain of injuries at the scene of the car accident, you may be entitled to payment of your medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of earnings capacity, and emotional distress due to personal injuries. You should consult an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney to discuss whether you need representation on your claim.

What happens if my Reconsideration is denied?

You have the opportunity to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. The judge will review all of the evidence in your file to determine whether Disability Determination Services made a mistake. Many denials are overturned at the hearing level.

Do I need an attorney to help me with my Social Security Disability benefits case?

If you are seeking Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, there are several things you must do – both on time and without error – in order to obtain the financial assistance you need.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows SSD applicants to be represented by an attorney or another qualified person when seeking SSD benefits or when appealing a denied claim.

At Hardison & Cochran, we have a history of helping SSD applicants throughout North Carolina to pursue the benefits they need and deserve. The head of our Social Security division, Jonathan Biser, is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law.

Here’s how a Hardison & Cochran Social Security Disability benefits attorney can help you:

We can organize your initial SSD application.  

About two-thirds of initial applications for SSD benefits are rejected. Many claims are denied because the applications are incomplete or contain unclear information. Our attorneys can make sure your claim application has:

  • Accurate contact information for all doctors, nurses, other medical professionals and/or case workers who have participated in diagnosis or treatment of your condition
  • Complete medical records pertaining to your disabling condition
  •  Details of your work history, including W-2 forms and job descriptions of work you have done.

We will be your point person as your application moves forward.  

The team evaluating your claim application – a claims examiner and a medical consultant in the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in Raleigh – may have questions for you or your doctors. We can coordinate communications between the DDS, your doctors and you.  

If your doctors do not know what the DDS evaluation team needs to understand and process your claim correctly, we can advise them based on our experience and understanding of the SSD program.

If your claim is denied, we will be ready to appeal.  

Many SSD applicants hire an attorney after their initial claim has been rejected. If we have already organized your claim, and it has been denied for some reason, you won’t lose any precious time while a legal team gets up to speed in your case.

We will act as experienced advocates for you.  

Our experience with SSD claims will benefit you at an appeals hearing. We know the questions that are likely to be asked. We will make sure you can answer them with documented evidence, including medical records that are up to date. We also know what issues should be addressed.

We will prepare you for your appeals hearing.  

We will explain to you ahead of time what to expect at the hearing. Our goal will be to have you fully prepared for your hearing and ready to proceed with confidence.

We can expedite further appeals. 

If an initial appeal does not go well, you can then ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These hearings take several months to be scheduled, but your attorneys can expedite the process. We can:

  •        Write a “dire need” letter describing a severe hardship you face, such as eviction or foreclosure, which a prompt hearing could resolve; or
  •        Write a brief for an on-the-record review, or OTR, which presents new evidence to the DDS office and asks that this be considered in lieu of a hearing before the ALJ. 

We will make sure every avenue is explored. 

Our overall objective is to make sure you obtain the financial security you and your family will need in the days ahead. If it is available, we will seek compensation for you in addition to SSD benefits.  

For example, if your disability occurred because of a workplace accident or job-related illness, you should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If a specific individual or organization caused your disability through negligence, such as in a car accident, this party may be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. 

Get Legal Help Today for Your SSD Benefits Claim

Contact Hardison & Cochran today if you need help with your SSD benefits claim in North Carolina. We will review your case for free and explain how we can help you. Call or contact us online today. We will respond to you within 24 hours.

I gave a recorded statement to the insurance company of the woman who hit my car. Now I’m thinking about getting legal representation. Is there a problem?

You may still seek and obtain legal representation after giving a recorded statement. Any statement you make can be used later against you.

Will I have to go to court if I request a hearing?

You will not be going into a formal courtroom setting. Your hearing will most likely be at your regional Office of Hearings and Appeals. These offices have several rather small hearing rooms.

While riding my motorcycle a couple of weeks ago, I was hit by a guy running a red light. His insurance company sent a form for me to sign giving them access to all of my medical records. Is this normal? Why do they need records related to the traffic accident? Their agreement said they needed all of them to see if there were any pre-existing conditions?

It is normal for insurance companies to send medical authorizations to injured parties in order to obtain your medical records. If you are making a claim for bodily injuries you will have to provide the insurance company with your medical records for their evaluation. You do not have to sign the authorization and can either hire an attorney to handle your case or obtain the medical records yourself. The adjuster may ask for your prior medical history and may obtain that information once a lawsuit is filed, but is best to contact an attorney before sending any prior medical information to the insurance company.

Who will be at the hearing?

There will always be at least two other people besides you and your representative at a hearing. The judge will of course be present to hear your testimony. In addition, a clerk will be in the hearing room to make a recording of the hearing and to deal with any evidence that you may need to submit.

In some cases, a judge will ask a vocational expert and/or a medical expert to testify.

What happens if I’m sued for causing An auto accident and I don’t have insurance?

If you are the cause of an accident and are sued, if you have insurance your insurance carrier will provide a defense for you at no extra expense. However, if you have no insurance you could be personally responsible for any damages owed to the injured party. In addition, your driver’s license could be revoked for being uninsured.

What is a vocational expert?

A vocational expert is an individual who has special knowledge about many different types of jobs. A vocational expert testifies about how much strength, education and intelligence is required for particular jobs. They also testify as to what jobs exist and how many positions of a particular job exist in the national economy.

In some cases, a judge will ask a vocational expert and/or a medical expert to testify.

I hit a car parked in the street while backing out of my driveway. The car was in my blind spot. I was uninsured at the time because I was (still am) on a tight budget. The car owner received one estimate and is now harassing us to pay for the damages. Can we ask for another estimate? Can the owner keep asking us for money?

The owner can continue to contact to recover there expenses or they could file suit directly against you. Most insurance companies will want to have at least two estimates before paying a claim and should be reasonable to ask for another estimate.

What will the judge ask me at a hearing?

Different judges ask different questions at hearings. Each judge has his or her own style of asking questions. However, most judges are trying to get the same information. The judges want to know how your impairment affects your ability to work. He or she will ask you about your daily activities, how much pain you experience and generally how your impairment affects you.

I injured somebody in an accident. The insurance company refused to settle within my policy limits. The jury awarded damages in excess of my policy limits. Must I pay the excess instead of the insurance company?

If your insurance company failed to settle the claim within your policy limits when the other side would have agreed to settle, you are liable for the excess verdict. However, your insurance company’s action may have arisen to “bad faith”. IF the insurance company acts in “bad faith” then the insurance company ultimately could be responsible for paying the excess judgment/verdict.

What sort of evidence will I present at the hearing?

Besides testifying for the judge, you should present any medical evidence that Social Security has not already gotten on its own. Typically, the hearings offices prefer that any new and additional evidence be submitted at least a week before the date of the hearing.

Can I have a witness testify on my behalf?

Yes. However, if someone testifies about your condition, it is best if that person is not a close friend or family member since a judge would expect such a person to be biased. However, if your condition is such that you are unable to describe the effects (for example, seizures during which you black out), then a family member would be the best witness to describe the condition.

I was injured in a crash where a truck driver was at fault. Can I receive money for time I missed at work?

You can recover lost wages when you have missed time from work due to injuries from the accident. In order to recover the lost wages, you need to have doctor’s verification of the time missed along with verification from your employer for the time you missed along with what amount of money you earned.

Is it the judge’s job to try his or her best to deny my case?

No. The judge’s job is to make a fair and impartial decision, based on all the evidence in your case, as to whether or not you are disabled. Although you may feel like the judge is “on the other side” during your hearing, know that the Social Security Administration technically does not have any representation at the hearing.

How long will it take to get a decision from the judge?

A judge usually makes a decision within 2 to 3 months of the hearing. However, the wait can be longer. It can also be shorter. In very rare cases, decisions are made and delivered within a week or two.

What if the judge denies my claim too?

If the judge denies your claim, you have the option of appealing the judge’s decision to the Social Security Appeals Council. However, the Council will only review the decision if the judge has made an error of law. If the Council determines that the judge has made an error of law that resulted in an unfair decision, the Council will either overturn the judge’s decision or send the case back for a new hearing.

Can a judge make a decision on my case without a hearing?

Yes. This is called an On the Record Ruling. A judge can make a decision on your cased based solely on the evidence in your Social Security file. However, you or your representative must make a request in writing that the judge do this.

What if the Appeals Council doesn’t give me a new hearing?

If the Appeals Council doesn’t give you a new hearing, you have the option of filing a suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court.

How long does the entire appeals process take?

The appeals process may last for over 2 years in some instances. However, the good news is that once you win your case, you get back benefits covering the time that you spent waiting for your appeal to be processed.

Is there any way to speed up any of this process?

No, in a majority of circumstances. However, in some cases, such as when a claimant is threatened with the prospect of being homeless, a claimant may claim that they have a “dire need” for their claim to be processed quickly. If the hearings office agrees that the need is severe enough, it will flag the claimant’s file for quick processing and scheduling. Also, a request for an On the Record Ruling speeds up the process because a hearing may not be necessary.

Can’t I just file a new claim?

Absolutely. Even if your original case is still on appeal, you may file a second claim at the initial level. In some instances, your second claim may actually be approved. The disadvantage is that you won’t get the back benefits secured by your original claim. However, some benefits are better than no benefits.

How much will I get if I’m approved?

Your monthly Social Security Disability Insurance payment will depend upon several factors. The most important factor is how much money you have paid into Social Security over the years. You can easily determine how much you will receive by requesting a copy of your Social Security Statement.

If you are approved for Supplemental Security Income, your monthly amount will be based on how much income you have and how many assets you own.

Do I get back-pay for all the time I have to wait on an appeal?

Generally, yes. It depends on when you became disabled. For Disability Insurance Benefits, there is a five month waiting period for benefits to start from the time you became disabled. There is no waiting period for SSI. Other than these conditions, you will generally get all back benefits you are owed through the time that you win your appeal.

How long will it take me to get my first check after I am declared disabled?

Generally, it takes 2 to 3 months for the Social Security Administration to process a favorable decision and start sending checks.

I am required to pay child support. Can my Social Security benefits be seized to fulfill a child support obligation?

Yes. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, these benefits may be seized to fulfill your child support obligation. However, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income, these may not be taken for child support purposes.

I have applied for benefits and Social Security wants to send me to a doctor. Should I go?

Yes. If disability determination services asks you to see a physician at a scheduled time, you must go or they will make a decision on your claim based on the information they have. This will usually end up in a denial.

My doctor says I’m disabled. So why haven’t I been approved?

According to Social Security, you have to meet their standards of disability. These standards for determining disability are much stricter than your doctor’s standards. In order to be declared disabled by social security, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. You are not involved in any substantial gainful activity (In other words, you are not doing a job that earns you more than $860 per month in 2006)
  2. You have a severe mental or physical impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months
  3. You are unable to perform any past work
  4. You are unable to perform or to be trained to perform any other less demanding work

But I’m already receiving disability payments from military, long-term or short-term disability coverage. Isn’t that enough to prove I’m disabled?

Unfortunately not. Social Security has its own regulations that are separate and distinct from those of the military or private disability insurance providers. Although getting disability from another source may help to prove that you are disabled for Social Security purposes, it does not mean you will automatically be approved for Social Security benefits.

So I’m not completely disabled. I’ve been declared 60% disabled by someone else. Can I get partial social security benefits?

No. With social security benefits, it’s all or nothing. You are either disabled or not disabled. However, if your condition keeps you from doing any past work or any other kind of full-time work, you are disabled by Social Security’s standards.

I was injured on the job and I’m getting Worker’s Compensation payments. Can I receive Social Security disability benefits too?

Yes, most likely, if you are approved for Disability Insurance benefits. However, your benefit amount may be reduced depending on how much you receive in Worker’s Compensation payments.

You will most likely not be able to receive Supplemental Security Income if you are receiving Worker’s Compensation payments. However, this depends on the amount you receive.

I’m receiving private insurance and/or disability benefits. Will that reduce my Social Security disability payments?

If you are receiving Disability Insurance Benefits, any sort of private insurance, long/short-term disability or military disability will not reduce the amount of your Social Security benefit.

However, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income, the amount you receive from any other disability payment source will reduce your SSI payment.

Authority: 49 U.S.C. 102, 301, 322, 5331, 20140, 31306, and 45101 et seq.
Source: 65 FR 79526, Dec. 19, 2000, unless otherwise noted.

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