If you were involved in a serious car accident and suffered catastrophic injuries that prevent you from working, you might qualify for financial compensation from one of the Social Security Disability (SSD) programs. However, applying for benefits, documenting your eligibility, and compiling the required medical evidence can be a daunting process. It can also be stressful while you focus on your recovery.
You do not have to take these steps or navigate the disability benefits process alone. A personal injury lawyer can review your case and explain whether you can receive disability benefits after a car accident. They can also help you explore additional financial recovery options.
What You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Benefits After a Car Accident
The Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two disability programs that offer monthly payments to those who qualify.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Pert the SSA, to qualify for SSDI after a car accident, you generally must:
- Meet the SSA’s definition of disability. According to the SSA’s Code of Federal Regulations § 404.1505, this means you must have a disability that is expected to result in your death and/or prevent you from working for at least one year.
- Have worked long enough throughout your career to earn a certain number of “work credits.” In 2023, you can earn up to four credits per year, with one credit awarded for each $1,640 of income, per SSA. Generally, workers must have at least 40 credits to qualify for SSDI, but some exceptions may apply.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
To qualify for SSI, you generally must:
- Be disabled, blind, or over age 65
- Have low income and limited assets. Per the SSA, as of 2023, you must make less than $914 per month as an individual or less than $1,371 per month as a couple.
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Car Accident Injuries That May Qualify for Disability Benefit
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a “Listing of Impairments” (also called the “Blue Book”) with a high likelihood of qualifying for benefits. If you have a disabling condition that appears on this list, it could be easier to establish your qualification.
Car accident injuries may qualify for disability if:
- They lead to physical disability or mental incapacity
- You cannot engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA)
- You cannot return to your previous job
- You cannot perform less-demanding work
Some examples of injuries that may qualify for disability benefits include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A severe TBI can cause a lifetime of cognitive disabilities, impulse control issues, and sensory deprivation. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, car accidents are a primary cause of TBI. Its life-changing symptoms can include the following and more:
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Lack of motor skills or coordination
- Vision problems
- Difficulty speaking, reading, and writing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal injuries can leave you with temporary or permanent difficulties, including paralysis in varying degrees. According to the Mayo Clinic, types of spinal cord injuries can include:
- Complete: Loss of all feeling and function below the injury site
- Incomplete: Some function and feeling remain below the injury site
In addition to your ability to move freely, paralysis can also affect your ability to breathe without mechanical assistance. It can require lifelong in-home medical support.
A catastrophic car accident can cause limb damage that leads to amputation, severely impeding your physical agility. While prosthetic devices can often replace missing limbs, the process can be long and frustrating. It can include:
- Complete healing of the amputation site
- Choosing and being fitted for a prosthetic device
- Emotional recovery with mental health care support
- Adapting to wearing and using the prosthetic device
Your medical records will reflect the loss you experienced. They will also note your prescribed treatment protocol, including physical and occupational therapy requirements.
Assessing Your Residual Functional Capacity After a Car Accident
If your car accident injuries do not appear on SSA’s Listing of Impairments, you may still be able to recover benefits based on your residual functional capacity. According to the Code of Federal Regulations § 416.945, the SSA will determine your RFC based on:
- Your ability to stand
- Your ability to walk
- Your gross motor skills
- Your fine motor skills
- Your ability to understand and remember instructions
- Your ability to communicate
If your RFC is impaired, and you cannot perform even light or sedentary work, you could qualify for monthly disability payments. The SSA will also account for your necessary medications and their toll on your mental and physical capacity.
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Do You Need a Disability Lawyer After a Car Accident?
If you were seriously injured in a car accident, your injuries could qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. While you can generally receive disability benefits after a car accident if you cannot work for a year, the application process can be complicated and frustrating. In fact, the SSA denies about two-thirds of initial applications.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help With Your SSD Claim
If a disability attorney represents you, they can help you apply for the appropriate SSD program. They will collect your medical records and bills to prove the severity of your injuries and how they have affected your life.
If the SSA denies your initial benefits claim, your lawyer can help you with an appeal. The appeals process has several complicated steps and stages, and trying to navigate them on your own can be overwhelming. Your SSD benefits attorney can help you gather additional documentation and walk you through the appeals process to give you the best chance of successfully winning compensation.
In addition to SSD benefits, if the car accident wasn’t your fault, you may be eligible to pursue financial recovery against the responsible party via a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Your car accident lawyer can explain your legal options.
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Your Initial Car Accident Disability Case Review With Kaine Law Is Always Free
Learn more about your right to disability benefits by contacting our case evaluation team at Kaine Law today. Our personal injury attorneys are ready and waiting to assist you.