Wednesday, November 16, 2011
These are benefits you may have obtained through your employer. It is basically a contract between you and the insurance company. You (or your employer) pay premiums, and you are entitled to benefits if you become "disabled" (the standards may not be the same as Social Security). If you want to know your rights, you need to go to the contract. It's provisions will almost always be included in an employee manual. The law regarding these benefits is governmed by a federal statute called ERISA. You need an experienced attorney to deal with these matters. We can give you a referral to such an attorney and assist him in providing information about your Social Security case. DO NOT believe that the insurance case worker is most concerned about you, and DO NOT accept a referral to one of their advocates for your Social Security case. The advocate may be more concerned about his relationship to the insurance company than about you.
If you have previously been entitled to workers compensation benefits, we may be able to obtain further benefits once your Social Security case is won. However, disability must be "caused" by your injury. (What is a cause is legally complicated.) The injury may have been 20 years ago, if you reported it to the Labor Commission. DO NOT sign a settlement agreement with the insurance company without legal counsel. You may be signing away all your future rights and benefits.
We have seen a proliferation of national firms taking Social Security cases. Are they better than a local attorney? The answer is no. An attorney who practices locally knows the judges with whom he is dealing. All judges have different ideas about the law and about different kinds of evidence. Second, if your local attorney has done a good job in the past, he has a good reputation with the judges. It is a sad fact that all the national firms have terrible reputations with judges. They will typically send a junior attorney or paralegal out the day of your case, who will meet with you for the first time at the hearing. I have heard of many cases where they did not even have the medical file. When you call their offices, you will never talk to the same person twice. They typically hire a bunch of low-wage unskilled employees to answer their phones. It is a racket. And they charge the same fees.