WORKERS' COMPENSATION - SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY - MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - PERSONAL INJURY - PERS

Archive for 2016

Do I Pay Taxes on My Workers’ Compensation Settlement?

No. Neither the IRS nor the State of Ohio treats workers’ compensation benefits as income for tax purposes.

You will have to have been injured or made sick on the job and then fight through a tough claims process; the silver lining to this process is the tax-free status of a workers’ comp claim.

Money from other disability programs, pensions, and limited work can be taxed. The following table shows the typical ways that federal and state tax collectors treat the types of payments commonly available to temporarily or permanently disabled workers.

Is My Disability Benefit Taxed?

Private or union pension payments collected after becoming disabled Yes, this type of income is taxed, as is the standard Social Security benefit if it combines with other sources of income to total more than $25,000 in a calendar year.
Social Security Disability Insurance SSDI is taxed as income only if the recipient’s total income rises above the threshold for paying income tax.
Supplemental Security Income No, SSI is not taxed.
Veterans Affairs disability payments No, cash benefits from the VA are not taxed.
Workers’ Compensation No type of workers’ comp benefit is taxed. This tax-free status applies to monthly benefits checks, lump sum payments, settlements, and payments made to the surviving spouse or dependents of someone who died in a work-related incident.

Wages and salary earned after returning to work with a partial disability and while still receiving benefits from workers’ comp or another program is fully taxable as income. Getting advice from your Cleveland workers’ comp attorney about filing taxes in ways to make clear distinctions between what gets taxed and what is exempt can help you avoid penalties and audits for misreporting income.

To speak with a workers compensation lawyer in Cleveland, call Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also reach out to us online. We offer free consultations to potential clients, and we handle all types of disability, personal injury, and wrongful death cases.

How Are SSDI and SSI Different?

SSDI and SSI are the principal disability benefits programs operated by the U.S. federal government. While both are available to the same groups of people whose physical, mental, or emotional health leaves them unable to work, the programs use different eligibility criteria. As summarized on the Social Security website, the basic differences are that

Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.

The Cleveland disability attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman have helped many families and individuals navigate the SSDI and SSI application and appeals processes. Based on our experiences, we share the following outlines of how the federal disability programs operate.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Applicants for SSDI must be at least 18 years old, not currently receiving other payments through Social Security, and suffering from a medical or psychological condition that the federal government recognizes as disabling. The condition must keep the applicant out of work for at least 12 months or be considered fatal within the near future.

A final requirement is that applicants must have paid into Social Security for at least several months before requesting SSDI benefits. This means that a disabled child can only receive SSDI benefits through an eligible parent or legal guardian. Special eligibility rules also apply to full-time U.S. residents who are not citizens but who have contributed to Social Security through paycheck deductions labeled as F.I.C.A.

Any person who seeks SSDI benefits has an undeniable right to consult and work with a lawyer who specializes in handling Social Security Disability cases. Exercising this right can reduce the possibility of having a first-time application denied. Hiring an attorney who represents SSDI applicants is particularly recommended when appealing a denial becomes necessary because satisfying requests for additional information, meeting tight deadlines, and working through the multiple layers of bureaucracy can become overwhelming without a knowledgeable guide and caring ally.

Proving eligibility for SSDI requires submitting the following, as well as other information and forms:

  • Medical records with diagnoses and prognoses
  • Treatment plans and documentation of compliance with rehabilitation programs
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medication records
  • Employment records and pay stubs going back at least 15 years (when available)
  • Military service records (if applicable)
  • Workers’ compensation award information (if applicable)
  • Tax forms

When approved, SSDI payments arrive twice each month. The average monthly disbursement during 2016 was $1,166, or $583 per deposit.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI payments can be awarded in addition to or separate from SSDI benefits. They are available to permanently disabled U.S. citizens, to people who are older than 65, and to people who can confirm they are legally blind by presenting evidence that their corrected vision is worse than 20/200.

Prisoners and residents of care facilities are not eligible for SSI, nor are couples who have income and financial resources that exceed $3,000 per month. Children and single adults can qualify to receive SSI payments if they have financial resources of less than $2,000 per month.

The Social Security Administration considers the following things to be income and financial resources:

  • Pay for work
  • Other Social Security benefits
  • Workers’ comp payments
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Veterans’ benefits
  • Cash contributions from friends and family members
  • Food and shelter provided at no charge
  • Cash savings
  • Investments like stocks and bonds
  • Insurance policies with cash value
  • Land and housing
  • Vehicles

Selling or giving away possessions in order to qualify for SSI benefits can result in ineligibility for up to three years.

During 2017, the average monthly SSI benefit for an individual was set at $735. For couples, the average SSI payment was $1,103 per month. These amounts get adjusted each year.

As with applying for SSDI benefits, anyone who requests SSI payments can work with a legal adviser and representative. If you need assistance from a disability lawyer in Cleveland, call Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also request a free consultation by completing this online contact form.

How to Appeal a Short-Term Disability Denial

Many public and private programs exist to provide short-term disability benefits to injured and ill workers in Ohio. These include

  • Ohio Workers’ Compensation
  • Personal and company insurance
  • Funds like the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.

(more…)

Winning a Medical Malpractice Case

A surgeon’s mistake. A physician’s misdiagnosis. An error by an OB/GYN during delivery. A prescription dispensed in the wrong dose or to the wrong patient. Failure to properly sterilize equipment and surfaces.

Medical malpractice takes many forms. When a health care practitioner, hospital, or clinic fails to do everything appropriate to care for a patient, the consequences can be dire. More than 250,000 deaths occur in the United States each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent treating injuries and illnesses that would not have occurred had doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and health care facility managers exercised extra caution. (more…)

Personal Injuries You Can Seek Legal Action Against

Knowing when you can take legal action for a personal injury requires understanding who can file an insurance claim or civil lawsuit and who can be named as being responsible for causing the personal injury. You must also be able to identify the reason the personal injury occurred and name all the harms suffered. (more…)

Commons Types of Intentional Torts

A person or a company commits an intentional tort when they act in ways that they know will cause harm. That simplified definition covers both parts of the legal term—intent and injury, which lawyers call a tort—but it does not really explain what types of action count as intentional torts. (more…)

Why You Need a Long Term Disability Attorney

If you or a member of your family can never work again, you need long-term disability benefits. And if you live in Northeastern Ohio and need long-term disability benefits, you must seek out advice and representation from a dedicated Cleveland long-term disability attorney. Here are four reasons why that’s true. (more…)

Understanding Your OPERS Disability Benefits

The most important thing to understand about applying for disability benefits from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) is that you will probably be turned down if you can claim disability benefits from another state or federal program. The strongest claims for OPERS disability come from people who never paid into Social Security, the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System, or the Ohio School Employees Retirement System. Exclusion for multiple eligibility is not automatic, however. (more…)

How Employment Lawyers Help Both Employees and Employers

Employment law covers hiring, firing, workplace policies, and benefits. Recognizing this makes plain how a Cleveland employment lawyer could help an employee or an employer in any given negotiation or lawsuit. An employment lawyer’s knowledge of federal and state laws and practices regarding discrimination, rights, and contracting often proves invaluable when issues between workers and management arise. (more…)

Why You Should Protect Yourself With a Social Security Disability Lawyer

Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can make the difference between becoming a true burden on family and friends and living independently with a debilitating illness or an incapacitating physical or mental condition. Federal budget pressures and constantly evolving administrative rules, however, continue to make securing SSDI benefits increasingly difficult. (more…)

Can You Sue for an Intentional Tort?

Yes, you can sue for an intentional tort. The very name of the legal concept indicates that a victim can request compensation from the perpetrator because, in legalese, “tort” means “harm.” Your right to hold a person or company that harmed you accountable cannot be denied. (more…)

Understanding Your OPERS Disability Benefits

The most important thing to understand about applying for disability benefits from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) is that you will probably be turned down if you can claim disability benefits from another state or federal program. The strongest claims for OPERS disability come from people who never paid into Social Security, the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System, or the Ohio School Employees Retirement System. Exclusion for multiple eligibility is not automatic, however. (more…)

What to Do After Your Social Security Disability Has Been Denied

You must do five things upon learning that your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has been denied:

  • Remain calm
  • Refuse to accept that initial no as a final answer
  • Read all the documentation the agency sent along with its rejection letter
  • Consult with a dedicated Columbus disability attorney
  • Appeal (and, maybe, appeal again)

Stay the Course

Taking the first two steps are essential because you were no doubt counting on receiving benefits you spent a lifetime paying toward. SSDI funds comes from the F.I.C.A. with holdings you miss every time you get paid. The program exists to provide beneficiaries with cash to pay rent or a mortgage, buy food, and afford essentials like clothes once they become too disabled to continue earning regular paychecks. Unlike Ohio Workers’ Compensation, the federal Social Security Administration awards benefits even when a disabling condition does not arise from a work-related incident.

Becoming angry and discouraged when your government fails you is understandable but counterproductive. Many, if not most, first-time SSDI applications get denied for reasons ranging from insufficient and incorrectly completed paperwork to questions over the nature and degree of disability. Correcting errors and clarifying misinterpretations are possible, but a notice of intent to appeal that includes the general grounds for appealing must be filed within a month of receiving the rejection letter.

Learn Your Options

You must know why you can appeal the SSDI denial and be able to explain the reason to the agency. The agency’s letter and supporting documents should provide all the information needed for figuring that out, but the material is likely to be phrased in language that obscures the meaning. Learn what you can, then pick up the phone to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable Social Security lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, who can translate the bureaucratese to everyday English.

You have the right to work with a legal advisor and representative from the second you decide to start thinking about maybe applying for SSDI benefits. If you did not exercise that right before having to appeal, now is the time to enlist the assistance of someone who knows the ins and outs of Social Security Disability Insurance, someone who has navigated the system successfully in the past, and someone who has well-established professional relationships with the staff of the local Social Security office.

Fight

Receiving SSDI benefits can require going through four levels of official appeals and taking the federal government to civil court. That is daunting but doable. Few cases progress so far, but recognizing that the SSDI appeals process can be so complex and protracted should offer hope as much as it intimidates. Success is possible at each stage, and your SSDI appeals attorney can connect you with health care and other resources to tide you over while fighting for federal disability benefits.

If you need help with a Social Security case, contact the legal team at the Columbus, OH, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman. The first consultation will cost you nothing, so do not hesitate to reach out online or to call (800) 678-3318.

Why File a Wrongful Death Case?

Justice, fairness, and the need recover financially from the unexpectedly loss of a family member who contributed to household expenses top the list of reasons to file a wrongful death insurance claim or civil lawsuit. As far from the popular misconception of wrongful death settlements and judgments as lottery wins and cash-ins as possible, most of the money suffering families receive goes to cover unpaid end-of-life medical bills, funeral expenses, and the lost wages of the deceased person. And since the money comes from individuals or corporations whose negligent or reckless actions resulted in an innocent person’s loss of life, wrongful death payments constitute only part of what is due on a debt that can never be repaid in full.

The need to compensate those we have harmed is a cornerstone of all ethical philosophies. A wrongful death case represents the ultimate claim to have those who inflicted the severest harm live up to their obligations as members of society. The Cleveland wrongful death attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman are honored to play a role in making sure this happens. Here, we take the opportunity to explain the grounds for, and the process of, making wrongful death claims.

Causes for and Steps in a Wrongful Death Case

Anything that can cause a personal injury can also leave a person dead. This includes car accidents, medical malpractice, dangerous and defective products, and nursing home abuse. When a person or company is found to have exercised insufficient care and caution to prevent the incident that resulted in death, that individual or organization can be held liable for a wrongful death.

The first stages of making a wrongful death case is usually to work with a wrongful death lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio, to collect evidence that deceased victim suffered the terrible fate because of negligence or recklessness. Calculations and descriptions of the financial and emotional tolls taken by the loss of a husband, wife, mother, father, son, or daughter must also be prepared.

Once all of that information is presented to an insurance company, things can become confusing and contentious. Rather than agree to pay adequate compensation, insurance company representative may try to blame the deceased victim for causing his or her own death. Even if a settlement is offered, it is often much too low to be meaningful. Having representation from a skilled and caring Cleveland wrongful death lawyer as negotiations with insurers proceed can be invaluable for families who do not want to become victims a second time.

When an insurance company refuses to settle in a timely and fair way, the case goes to trial in civil court. The whole legal process involving depositions, motions, testimony, and deliberation can take years to reach a conclusion. To ensure families are not deprived of justice through insurance company delay tactics, Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman wrongful death attorneys work on contingency, meaning we only get paid if our clients succeed with their claims.

What Can Be Claimed in a Wrongful Death Case

As with personal injury cases, the majority of any settlement or judgment resulting from a wrongful death case represents compensation for economic damages. As noted above, the direct costs of suddenly and unfairly losing a loved one include burial expenses and family travel for the funeral, lost financial support from future earnings, and hospital or emergency care bills accrued in the period leading up to death.

Noneconomic damages, which are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering,” can also account for a good deal of a wrongful death payment. When a family member dies, the person’s spouse loses what lawyers call “consortium” (i.e., love and sex), children lose a parent’s care and guidance, siblings lose advice and support, and surviving parents lose a very part of themselves. Exact dollar values cannot be assigned to those losses, but each deserves compensation.

A final type of claim that can be made following a wrongful death is one for punitive damages. Asking for punitive damages is usually only possible when the responsible party acted recklessly by, for example, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or by knowingly selling a deadly product. Assessing punitive damages constitutes a noncriminal punishment and serves as a warning to others who might commit the same harmful act.

If you have additional questions regarding a wrongful death case, contact Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman online or call us at (800) 678-3318. A consultation will cost you nothing.

Important Steps to Take After a Slip and Fall Accident

Before discussing how to respond after suffering a slip and fall injury, let’s get clear on what constitutes the problem.

Recognize When Liability May Exist

“Slip and fall” is such a broad category of personal injury that it can help to define what a slip and fall is not:

  • Not car accident-related
  • Not medical malpractice
  • Not patient or family member abuse and neglect
  • Not caused by a dangerous or defective product

Eliminating other forms of personal injuries leaves a general description of slips and falls as physical injuries and wrongful deaths suffered outside one’s own home. A slip and fall can occur at someone else’s home, a business, or a public venue like a stadium, parking garage, or park. Examples of cases handled by slip and fall lawyers include

  • Falling down stairs
  • Falling off balconies, raised walkways, and ladders
  • Tripping over obstacles
  • Slips on wet and oily floors
  • Being hit by falling or airborne objects
  • Drowning
  • Electric shocks and electrocutions
  • Assaults by customers or staff in stores
  • Poisonings, including illnesses from spoiled or incorrectly prepared food served in restaurants and sold in stores
  • Smoke inhalation

The common thread in each type of case an Ohio personal injury lawyer would treat as a slip and fall is that his or her client got hurt because a property owner or other responsible party proved negligent in protecting the victim’s health and safety. For instance, a homeowner who has a pool in the backyard has legal duties to restrict access and take other measures to prevent drownings. Similarly, a store owner has an enforceable obligation to ensure that all products displayed at eye level or higher remain securely in place. And a hotel owner must meet all applicable business codes and keep all railings, carpets, and fixtures in proper repair.

Act Quickly

As with any type of personal injury, the first step to take after suffering a slip and fall is to seek medical care. Even minor cuts and bruises sustained on other people’s property may merit a trip to your physician or an emergency room, especially if you were struck in the head. Deep tissue injuries, head trauma, concussions, and structural damage to joints are not always instantly apparent but can produce long-term difficulties.

Going to a doctor starts a paper trail that documents the incident and its consequences. Other information to compile includes

  • The location and time of the injury, complete with the street address and, if relevant, business name
  • The identity and contact information for the property owner, business manager, and/or official who has responsibility for making the property safe
  • Insurance coverage information for the property owner, etc.
  • Witness descriptions of the event that left you injured
  • Your own description of the event
  • Medical records related to the injury
  • Notes on phone calls and printouts of emails with all insurance company representatives

The time to contact a Columbus personal injury attorney regarding filing an insurance claim or civil lawsuit to receive compensation for a slip and fall is as soon as you believe you will be treated unfairly by the person or corporation that neglected the duty to provide adequate protections. Businesses, in particular, often contest slip and fall claims or promise compensation only to offer settlements that come nowhere close to covering medical bills, lost wages, and other injury-related costs.

The Ohio personal injury attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman have helped many people who suffered slip and fall injuries. If you would like to discuss a possible case for free, contact our Columbus offices by calling (800) 678-3318 or schedule an appointment online.

 

Tips on Preventing Car Accidents

As Cleveland, Ohio personal injury attorneys, members of the Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman legal team help many car accident victims. We love helping people hurt by negligent and reckless drivers receive the insurance settlements and civil lawsuit awards they need to pay medical bills, cover lost wages, and get on with their lives. Truth be told, though, we’d rather see everyone on the road operate safely and respectfully. That would mean less work for us, but the benefits to all Ohioans would be worth the sacrifice.

Almost every crash can be prevented or avoided. Here are seven ways to make that happen.

Stay Sober

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently organized the causes of car, truck, and motorcycle accidents into the general categories of driver-related, vehicle-related, and environment-related. Driver error lead to the most wrecks, and topping the list of reasons fatal driver-related crashes occur is operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI), which is what Ohio statutes call drunk and drugged driving. OVI clouds judgment, blurs vision, slows reaction time, and causes drowsiness. Resisting the urge to climb into the driver’s seat after consuming to much alcohol or getting high saves lives, not the least of which will be the life of the potential drunk or drugged driver.

Stay Awake and Alert

Falling asleep at the wheel is a major factor in many of the most serious wrecks involving commercial truck drivers. Long shifts and short rest periods imposed by tight deadlines and pay systems that reward covering the most miles in the smallest number of hours create dangerously drowsy truckers. Any driver, however, constitutes a clear and present danger if he or she has gone days without sleeping properly, or even just stayed up around the clock for a single day.

Put Down Your Phone

Anything that takes a driver’s hands off the steering wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off the task of driving and the actions of other drivers is a potentially fatal distraction. Using phones to talk and text are particularly problematic, but no driver distraction is completely safe. One that teens, in particular, must recognize is interacting with passengers instead of focusing on operating safely.

Go With the Flow

Do not speed or impede traffic. Slow down when ice or rain slickens pavement. Signal turns and lane changes. Brake for yellow lights and yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks. Obey caution signs in and around construction zones. Never cross double yellow lines. Do not tailgate.

Anything that takes your vehicle out or against the flow of traffic puts you at risk for causing or falling victim to a traffic accident.

Check Your Blind Spots

Pedestrians, bike riders, and motorcyclists get hit, injured, and killed all the time by drivers whose only excuse is “I never even saw them.” Taking the time to look prevents a lot of tragedies, as does turning one’s head before changing lane instead of just trusting the view in the rear view and side mirrors.

Keep Your Car in Proper Repair

The vehicle-related crashes catalogued by NHTSA result from cars and trucks losing wheels, stalling out on interstates, experiencing tire blowouts, catching fire, and having loose cargo fly out of truck beds or trailers. Performing proper maintenance and securing loads protects everyone on the road.

Know When to Give Up the Keys

Driving safely requires mental focus, adequate vision, physical coordination, and, unless a vehicle has been modified, both feet and both hands. Anyone who loses those capabilities due to age, illness, medication, or injury should let someone else take the wheel.

If you need to speak with a Cleveland car accident injury lawyer because someone else ignored any part of the foregoing advice on how to prevent a crash, call Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman at (800) 678-3318. You can also schedule a no-cost case consultation by contacting us online.

 


Cleveland OH Workers Comp Lawyer
Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman
6100 Oak Tree Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland Ohio 44131 USA
Tel: (216) 328-2125 Fax: (614) 221-7308 Map