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The Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our everyday life.  Some things have been put on hold or delayed.  While we continue to navigate the difficult circumstances and delays caused by precautions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, people are continuing to suffer injuries in car accidents, in pedestrian and bicycle accidents, due to slip-and-falls, due to defective products as well as many other accidents caused by the fault of another.

Injured parties can bring personal-injury claims to seek compensation for their injuries even during the COVID-19 outbreak. After a period of closure, the Pennsylvania courts have re-opened. As part of a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, courts, insurance entities and attorneys are practicing social distancing and conducting their work by telephone, video conferences and emails.

Tips to remember if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another

COVID-19 has changed the environment for handling personal injury claims from the scene of the accident to the courtroom.  At the injury scene, it is still essential you gather information to assist with your claim, but because of social distancing and the risk of catching the virus, this is more difficult.

Fortunately, cell phones make it possible to capture details on the camera while maintaining social distancing. If you are involved in an accident and need urgent medical attention, it is important that you do not delay seeking treatment.  It may be possible to have your injuries assessed by a medical professional through a telehealth visit.

Holding a virtual consultation by videoconference with your medical professional will allow you to obtain an injury report and a treatment plan.  However, if you have been seriously injured, it is imperative that in person medical help is sought.  Although we are living in unusual times, the basics of making a successful claim for personal injury have not changed.  You should remember the following tips:

  • Document and gather as much evidence as possible at the accident scene.

Unless you need immediate medical attention, you should still try to gather the information you will need to pursue a claim when your accident happens. If you are in a car accident and do not need immediate medical attention for your injures, use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident location and the damage to the vehicles involved. Take pictures of the other driver’s contact information and insurance details or write this information down.

If there are witnesses to the accident or people who stopped to help, have them provide you with their names and phone numbers via a text message or email.  Gathering this type of information is not just important for automobile accidents, but also when you suffer injuries from a slip or trip-and-fall, a pedestrian or bicycle accident, motorcycle accident, or due to a defective product.

  • Seek medical attention quickly.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be hesitant to go to the emergency room or seek treatment from a healthcare professional. Failing to seek treatment could have a long-term impact on your health. When you seek treatment, you should keep a list of the medical facilities and medical providers you have seen and the treatment that has being recommended. While you might have gone to an Emergency Room for an acute injury your PCP may be able to see you the same day due there being less urgent appointments any given day for a doctor’s office due to Pandemic.

  • Discuss your case with an experienced lawyer.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess the impact of your injury on your life and work.  He or she will be able to investigate all sources of potential recovery to compensate you for the injuries you have sustained.  Retaining an experienced lawyer will ensure that your case is presented in the best possible way and that you obtain full value for your claim.

  • Do not delay in pursuing your claim.

It is still important to not delay seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another.  Delaying a consultation with an attorney can have a detrimental effect on the outcome of your case.

The dedicated and experienced attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to helping you with your personal injury claim during these trying times.  The personal injury attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are available conduct a virtual consultation to discuss your claim over the phone, by a video-based call or by email.  We are committed to complying with all state guidelines and taking precautionary steps to protect our clients and our staff.

COVID-19 and the restrictions that are currently in place due to this pandemic should not affect your right to claim compensation for personal injuries which may be an integral part of maintaining your financial stability during these uncertain times.  The attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to working with you to obtain a successful outcome. Contact our firm today at (866) 466-5789 or through our website contact form.

How Will a Personal Injury Settlement Impact my Social Security Benefits?

It is difficult enough to have a debilitating injury in which you cannot work or only do limited work. Getting Social Security disability benefits helps, but the approval process is complicated and frustrating, and there are countless hoops that you have to jump through in order to start receiving benefits. On top of all this, getting injured in an accident adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

If the accident was someone else’s fault, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. The problem of course is – you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the disability benefits that you went through so much trouble to get approved for in the first place. A large monetary award to compensate you for your injuries is nice, but you depend on your Social Security disability benefits to make ends meet.

If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who also has in-depth knowledge of the Social Security disability program. Not every personal injury lawyer out there handles disability claims, you need to work with someone that thoroughly understands both of these areas of the law and how the two intersect in cases like yours.

Will I Lose my Social Security Disability Benefits if I Recover a Personal Injury Settlement?

As with most legal questions, the answer always starts with – it depends on the unique circumstances of your case. With this question specifically, it depends largely on which program you are receiving your Social Security benefits under; SSDI or SSI.

If you are receiving benefits through the regular Social Security Disability insurance program (SSDI), then your personal injury settlement will generally not affect your benefits – even if you receive a large amount. There are a couple side issues that you should be aware of, however, which we will cover shortly.

If you are receiving benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, then it is possible that your benefits could be jeopardized by a personal injury settlement. There are some things you can do to address this issue, however, which we will also cover in a little while.

Personal Injury Settlements and SSDI

SSDI (or sometimes referred to as SSD) benefits are funded through the Social Security Trust Fund, and eligibility is determined based on the number of work credits that the disabled person has accumulated. If you have a qualifying disability and you have worked the required length of time and paid into the program through taxes, then you will qualify for benefits. Therefore, receiving a large monetary award does not impact your eligibility.

Now, there are a couple separate issues that you should be aware of as you prepare to pursue a personal injury claim. First of all, your settlement award will probably not be as much as a lot of people with the same type of injury as you because you are not working or only doing a limited amount of work. Those who are working full-time when they get injured can usually collect compensation for lost wages and lost future earning capacity, but these damages may not be available in your case if you were receiving SSDI benefits when the accident occurred.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the defendant (in your personal injury case) is likely to bring up the fact that you have a pre-existing health condition (the one you are collecting benefits for) as a way of undermining your claim. They might try to argue that your injuries would not have been as bad if you did not already have a health condition, which could result in a lower award.

To effectively address this possibility, be sure to seek immediate medical attention after your accident, keep all of your subsequent appointments, and follow the advice of your doctor and attorney. As long as you got treated for your injuries right away and fully document everything, you should be able to minimize the effectiveness of the defendant’s argument.

Personal Injury Settlements and SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program that is funded by general tax revenues rather than through Social Security taxes. This is a needs-based program in which qualification does not depend on work credits, but rather on the income and assets of the recipient.

If you were to receive a fairly significant personal injury settlement, it could put you over the asset threshold that is necessary to qualify for SSI benefits. This could mean the suspension of your benefits, which would be catastrophic.

It is unfair to have to choose between receiving the full and fair compensation you deserve for an injury you sustained through no fault of your own and receiving the monthly benefits you need to survive. But unfortunately, this is how the program is set up.

Thankfully, there are some ways to protect your SSI benefits and still receive your personal injury settlement. One possibility is to do a “spend down”, which means spending enough of the settlement funds on exempt resources and that the items purchased are solely for the benefit of the disabled recipient to put you back under the allowable threshold.

You could use the funds to pay off your home mortgage, make modifications to your home to help accommodate your disabilities, pay off your existing debts, or a number of other things. The problem of course is that once you have spent the money, you no longer have it available for future emergencies and other important expenses that may come up.

Another possibility is to set up a special needs trust (SNT). With this option, the proceeds from the settlement are placed directly into the trust without affecting your SSI benefits. The funds within the trust can be used for expenditures that are not covered by SSI, such as transportation, certain therapies, and nursing care.

Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Further Help with Social Security Benefits and Personal Injury Claims

If you are receiving Social Security benefits and you got hurt through no fault of your own, you should not have to choose between keeping your benefits and obtaining the just compensation you deserve. At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we understand the dilemma you are facing, and we are here to help you successfully navigate the complexities of these two areas of the law.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789. We look forward to serving you!

How Social Media Use Can Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

In today’s world, social media has become a large part of our everyday life. Before even thinking twice, it is commonplace to let family, friends, and even strangers know what is going on in your corner of the world through status updates, photos, videos, and tweets.

But if you have been injured in an accident and are pursuing a personal injury claim, social media can pose some hidden dangers. It might be tempting to share the details of a car accident, slip and fall, or other traumatic event on social media, but doing so could have negative consequences for your case. There are also other ways that using social platforms can impact your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.

How Social Media Can Mess Up Your Claim

Let us say you were involved in an accident with a large truck and sustained a back and neck injury. You decide to pursue a personal injury claim against both the truck driver and the trucking company since your injuries require medical treatment, and you are unable to work.

You are determined to get better and decide to see how much this injury has limited your movement by heading over to the gym. You post about your efforts on social media and even give everyone another update later when you go out to dinner with your family.

Even if your injuries and pain are legitimate, and you are unable to work, your social media updates tend to contradict this and could undermine your claim. An insurance company will use any evidence it can get its hands on to downplay your injuries and even allege outright fraud.

Many personal injury cases are challenging enough without the injury victim giving the defendant justification to deny a claim or offer much less than your case is worth. In short, social media can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

Why You Should Not Share on Social Media

When you file an injury claim, the primary objective of the insurance company and defense attorney is to diminish your claim as much as possible so they can limit the defendant’s liability. These parties, therefore, will look for any and all evidence that either proves the accident did not happen as you claim or that your injuries are not severe enough to justify a fair settlement.

Even though you believe your social media posts are meant to update friends and family, they might be used as evidence against you. A large part of many personal injury cases is non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering and mental anguish. It will be difficult to justify these damages if you are posting updates on social media of yourself socializing with friends and family, even if you were in physical and emotional pain at the time.

Even when you believe you are being cautious, you might still post something that can be used against you. Check-ins, photos that you take, and comments from friends and family all have the potential to contradict your claim and undermine the efforts of your legal team.

Who Can See Your Social Media Activity?

Every social media platform allows you to control who sees your activity through its privacy settings. Often, these settings are difficult to access, and many people are unaware that they have the option to make such adjustments.

Even if you do not have an active personal injury case, it is simply a good practice to lock down your privacy settings to protect your personal information. Why do you want people you do not know looking at your photos and status updates?

When you adjust your settings, be sure to turn off access to your content to anyone that is not a connection. Likewise, you can disallow “friends” from sharing your content. But even this will not prevent someone from taking a screenshot of your content and reposting it or forwarding it to someone else if they felt compelled to do so.

It is vital to remember that even adjusting your privacy settings on social media will not necessarily protect what you post from people who are interested. The best plan of action is to simply not post anything that can be used to undermine your case.

Tips on Social Media Use When Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim

To protect your rights and get the best outcome possible for your personal injury case, we recommend that clients follow these social media guidelines:

  • Avoid posting about your case – at all – and ask friends and family not to post about your accident or injury as well.
  • Limit all activity on social media until your personal injury case has been resolved.
  • If you must post on social media, review the content thoroughly before doing so, and consider the potential consequences.
  • Before using social media, check your privacy settings to make sure that no one outside of your direct connections can see your activity.
  • Avoid accepting new friend requests or adding new connections while your case is ongoing. It is certainly possible that someone from the insurance company, defense counsel’s firm, or a person connected with the defendant will try to gain access to your information.
  • Avoid posting any frustrations about your case on social media.

Your personal injury attorney’s job is to build the strongest case possible so that you can get the compensation you deserve after a serious accident. Unfortunately, posting on social media is rarely going to help your case.

Call an Experienced Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Firm

The best way to prevent insurance companies from using information against you is to keep the details of your personal life private. Avoid speaking with anyone about your accident. Do not share information or allow family or friends to discuss your life on social media. Insurance companies are known for trying to convince accident victims that they are not injured or that someone else is responsible.

The seasoned personal injury attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman understand the tactics that insurers use to avoid paying what they owe, including attempting to collect information on social media. We will put our extensive experience and knowledge to work on your behalf to fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today at 412-391-9860, toll-free at 866-466-5789, or message us online to schedule a free case evaluation.