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Posted by on Apr 22, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Smart Steps Toward Obtaining Your Social Security Disability Benefits

On the surface, applying for Social Security disability benefits looks like a simple process — you fill in an application and then wait for approval or rejection. Unfortunately, that process also includes a minefield of of potential sticking points, each of which can lead to a small but critical error barring from much-needed payments. Here are some smart tactics that can help you sidestep these mistakes and smooth the way for a successful Social Security disability application.

Lawyer Up

Unless you have an obviously devastating long-term or permanent disability or already have a detailed understanding of Social Security forms, your smartest first move will be to engage a Social Security lawyer, such as Todd East Attorney at Law. This type of professional can provide instant expertise so you don’t have to grope blindly through the complex process by yourself. An attorney will also know exactly what types of supporting data need to be gathered (and where to get them), how to decipher the sometimes-tricky terminology in the application forms and how to make the best possible case on your behalf. If you end up having to go to court to fight for your claim, you’ll be glad you already have this expert in your corner.

If you’re already in dire financial straits at the time of your disability application, you may wonder how in the world you’re supposed to pay for attorney on top of everything else. The good news is that a Social Security lawyer will work a disability case on contingency, getting paid only if you’re awarded your benefits. The lawyer then receives a percentage of the back pay awarded to you by the Administration (or a flat fee of $6,000, whichever method comes out to less money). The only caveat is that you may have to pay a small sum for the attorney’s out-of-pocket expenses, win or lose.

Fill in the Blanks (Correctly)

Social Security disability forms distribute a dizzyingly long list of disability categories across a two–part Listing of Impairments. In many cases the terms are by no means self-explanatory, and it’s all too easy to classify yourself under the wrong disability. This is a critical reason to have a Social Security lawyer handle the documentation. You’ll also have to provide a large body of medical documentation going back as far as the earliest signs of your impairment. Your attorney can track down and obtain the exact records you need to present your case.

Simply submitting the wrong forms of forms can derail your Social Security application right from the beginning. This is an easier trap to fall into than you might think because there are different types of Social Security benefits, each of which requires its own specific application. For instance, if you’ve paying tax dollars into Social Security over a certain period of years, you may qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), in which you need to fill out that application form. If you haven’t been able to make those payments, then you may need to apply for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) instead. Fill out the wrong form for your situation, and you can expect to have your application denied.

Update Your Data Before the Hearing

If your application for disability has been denied twice by Social Security, you still have the option to taking your case to court in a hearing. In certain circumstances, you may not even have to make an appearance in court yourself — your Social Security lawyer may be able to persuade the judge to issue an OTR (“on the record”) ruling ion your favor based on the evidence presented. 

Updating your information for the hearing can be a major factor in your success or failure. That’s because Social Security disability claims place a high value on the “recency” of your medical documentation, defining 90 days as “recent.” This means if that if you don’t add supportive medical data from the previous 90 days into your claim, you may lose your case on that basis.

Put these intelligent tactics to work for your Social Security claim, and you’ll have a better chance of receiving your disability benefits. Good luck!

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Posted by on Mar 31, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Reasonable Suspicion And Pretext–Their Impact On DUI Stops

Police officers in today’s society have a tough job. They are required to enforce the law but must also respect the rights of every citizen while they do so. To put this issue in perspective, imagine that someone in your neighborhood is planning to rob your home. You’d like them stopped before the crime happens, but you don’t want police to accuse everyone on your block of plotting a crime. 

This means that police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is happening before a person can be detained for any reason, even in the case of a DUI. That way, your rights are protected. However, the actual definition of reasonable suspicion is murky. Knowing a little bit about it–and how it governs police behavior before and during a traffic stop–can help you behave in a way that could help protect you from misconduct.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion In a DUI Stop?

Impaired motorists often make themselves obvious to everyone around them. They exhibit many signs of reduced functioning, including:

  • Swerving inside a lane
  • Driving too slow or too fast
  • Drifting across the center line
  • Inconsistent acceleration or braking

If you’re seen driving in a way that is consistent with an impaired driver, the officer certainly has the right to stop you and investigate further. Often, this stop will lead to a request for field sobriety tests and possibly a breathalyzer. Depending on the law in your state, your options for refusal or failure of these tests will vary.

However, motorists are often detained and questioned when they have not displayed any signs of impaired driving. Some people point out that this practice of finding any pretext by which to detain a motorist contributes to racial profiling, but the practice is also used frequently to investigate a suspected DUI incident.

What Is a Pretext Stop?

Essentially, a pretext stop is when an officer believes that a significant crime–such as a DUI–is happening. However, they cannot articulate the reason for their suspicion in a way consistent with the requirements of having reasonable suspicion. To execute the stop, the officer then finds any minor traffic violation to detain you and begin investigating.

Often, police officers are given quite a bit of latitude in establishing the pretext for a traffic stop. That said, their power in these situations is not absolute. For example, if you’ve been pulled over for speeding and the officer notices that your speech is slurred, they can begin investigating your level of impairment. However, if no signs of impairment exist, they technically should not press that issue.

What Can You Do?

Only a legal expert can tell you exactly what your rights are in any specific situation. Unfortunately, this analysis almost always comes after the fact. You’ve already been detained, investigated, and charged by the time you contact your lawyer. That’s why it is important to know how to best protect yourself in a general sense before you’re subjected to a traffic stop.

The first thing you should do is to politely ask the officer for the reason behind the traffic stop. You have a right to know why you’re being detained. In the event that the stop goes poorly, your representation will need to know what the reasonable suspicion or pretext was. Having the officer state it will reduce the chances that it changes later.

Second, limit your answers to short sentences. This isn’t to mask any slurring or anything like that. People are naturally nervous in a traffic stop. Stuttering or tripping over your words could give the impression to an officer that you’re impaired–even when you aren’t. Brief answers help eliminate this possibility.

Finally, do not show anger or defensiveness. Many people become angry when they’ve been drinking, for a variety of reasons. Any combativeness on your part could be construed as a sign of intoxication–leading to further investigation and the establishment of reasonable suspicion.

While you’ll certainly need the help of a legal expert if you’ve been unlawfully detained or charged, the best time to begin protecting yourself is during the stop itself. By understanding how reasonable suspicion and pretext impact your traffic stop, you can properly set the stage for your attorney to be an effective advocate for your rights.

Talk with a traffic law attorney or click here for more info.

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Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Uncategorized |

3 Big Differences between Child Support and Alimony

During your divorce, you may have discussed the subjects of alimony and child support with your divorce lawyer. Both of these are types of financial support one spouse must pay another, but there are several key differences between them that you should know about. As you are working through your divorce proceedings, it is important to understand the following three differences between child support and alimony.

The Purpose of Each

Child support is a type of payment from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent to help him or her financially support their children children. If you have kids and you obtain custody rights of the kids, your ex-spouse will most likely be required to pay you child support each week or month. The court calculates this amount based on both of your incomes, and it can often be garnished from a person’s wages to make sure it is paid. This money is designed to help you provide food, shelter, and clothing for your children.

Alimony, on the other hand, is a type of support designed to help provide for a spouse who earns significantly less than the other spouse. This money has nothing to do with the kids involved, and it can be awarded when a couple does not have children. It is harder to convince a court you need alimony in comparison to child support, and you will not even be eligible for collecting alimony if your marriage was short lived and if you earn about the same income as your spouse.

Tax Consequences of Each

The second big difference with alimony and child support involves the tax consequences of each. Child support payments you receive are not considered taxable income. This means that you do not have to report them on your tax return, and you will not have to pay taxes on this money.

Alimony is taxable income. When you collect alimony payments, you will have to report all of them on your income taxes, and you will have to pay taxes on the payments. Because of this, you may end up with larger tax liabilities at the end of each year.

You should also realize that your ex-spouse will not be able to write child support payments off on his or her tax return, but he or she will be allowed to write off alimony payments made to you.

Length of Time Each Must Be Paid During

The third difference to understand is there can be differences in the length of time your ex must pay each of these to you. When it comes to child support, most states require payments to be made until a child turns 18 to 21 years old. Each state has different rules, and the rules are different for kids in college and kids that are not in college. In either case, you can expect to receive child support payments until your children reach the age of 18 or so.

With alimony, there may not be a set amount of time a person must pay it, and every state has different rules. In most cases, alimony is a temporary form of support. It may last until you have had enough time to receive training for a better job, or it may only last until the divorce is finalized. Your ex may also have the right to ask the alimony to stop if you get remarried or have a significant positive financial change in your life.

Receiving alimony and child support can be helpful during and after a divorce, but these forms of support will not typically last forever. If you have questions about this subject, contact a divorce lawyer like Andrew H P Norton in your area to schedule an appointment.

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Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Divorce And Underwater Mortgages — An Underwater Dilemma

If you currently owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth, you are not alone. According to MarketWatch, there are more than 4 million homeowners in the United States who owe their banks 20 percent more than their houses are worth. In the best possible situation, you could try to live in your home until the housing market recovered and your house became more valuable. But if your marriage is ending, you may be required to sell your house as part of the divorce proceedings. So what are your options for selling your home if it is underwater?

Consider a Short Sale of Your House

If neither you or your soon-to-be ex can afford the mortgage payments after your divorce or if neither party has a desire to continue living in your underwater home, you could try to sell your home for less than the amount of money that you owe your mortgage company. This is known as a short sale. Generally, it is considered a better idea than letting the house go into foreclosure because, according to the New York Times, a short sale will have less of a negative impact on your credit history. Plus, having a foreclosure on your credit history can also affect other aspects of your lives. For example, some employers are leery of hiring a person with a bankruptcy on their record. 

But short sales are not simple, so you may want to seek legal representation during the process to protect your interests. The bank that owns your mortgage is definitely going to have high-powered lawyers representing their needs, and they are going to try to get as much money from you as possible. Remember, during a short sale, you will be selling your home for less money than you owe the bank. And banks are not in the business of giving away their cash. So in order to recover part of their losses, the bank’s lawyers may attempt to:

  • Garnish your wages
  • Attach your bank accounts
  • Pursue payments in the future

A lawyer from a firm like Iannello Anderson can look over the final paperwork from the bank to ensure that it does not contain wording that could hold you liable for the balance of the loan in the future. Another reason you may need a lawyer during this process? Real estate agents are not allowed to offer legal advice even if they know the answers. And, finally, you may not have a choice of whether or not you want to hire a lawyer as some real estate firms are now requiring that short sellers hire legal representation. 

One Party Keeps the House

If either you or your spouse wants to continue living in the house, the other party could receive a credit for the negative equity during the divorce proceedings. For example, if you and your spouse have total assets of approximately $500,000, and your home has a negative equity of  $50,000, the spouse who keeps the home will end up with $50,000 in marital debt. In some cases, the judge may give the person keeping the house a credit for $25,000, which is half of the negative equity. This situation may be appropriate for you if:

  • The party who wants to stay in the house can afford to pay the mortgage on their own. 
  • The home may be worth more in the future and a spouse is willing to take that gamble and continue paying for and living in it. 

In some cases, the divorcing parties may decide to cut their losses and zero out the negative equity, which means that it will not be factored in during the division of assets.

Divorce is tough enough in the best of times, but it can be especially gut-wrenching when a house with an underwater mortgage is involved. Unfortunately, there are typically no winners in this scenario, and the best you can hope for is to protect your interests as best as you can. 

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Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Uncategorized |

3 Mistakes To Avoid When Answering Questions At A Disability Hearing

For many people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits, one or more hearings are necessary to finally be approved for benefits. Therefore, it’s important to know what to expect at a hearing and what mistakes you might make or might have made in a previous hearing that you should avoid in the future. Take a look at some common missteps that people seeking disability benefits make so that you’ll know what to avoid in the future.

Exaggerating Your Disability

When asked about the severity of your disability, it can be hard to know how to answer. Of course, you want the court to understand the seriousness of your medical issue. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand the nature of a chronic condition – you may have run into friends and family members who see you on a good day and don’t understand why you can’t work, not realizing that the bad days outweigh the good, or that you would not be able to perform any job duties on days when your symptoms were in full force. If you suffer from an invisible disability, you may even have been accused of faking.

All of this can lead to an understandable impulse to exaggerate the severity of your symptoms in order to be taken seriously. You may be tempted to say that you never have good, pain-free days, or that nothing that you can do relieves the pain. However, you should remember that in this case, you’ll be talking to people who deal with the details of disabling conditions every day. They’re aware that symptoms usually ebb and flow and can often be relieved with pain medications or other treatments. If you inflate the severity of your symptoms, you’ll be less likely to be taken seriously.

Downplaying Your Disability

Another common mistake is downplaying the extent of your disability. Once again, this can be a side effect of living with a disability – you may find yourself frequently reassuring worried family members or friends that you’re not in any immediate pain or danger, or that you can do things for yourself. If this is the case, it can become second nature to insist that your symptoms aren’t that bad, and that you’re OK.

However, in your disability hearing, you’re not there to reassure anyone or convince anyone that you can be self-sufficient – you’re there asking for help. Downplaying your symptoms is counterproductive. When asked about the severity of your pain or the frequency of your symptoms, it’s important to be honest and accurate. Don’t worry about what you think sounds best or least upsetting. Just tell the truth.

Giving Vague Answers

One more mistake to avoid is vague or indirect answers to questions about your condition and your symptoms. The judge at your hearing will expect someone who is truly suffering to be able to describe exactly how they are suffering, so use the most descriptive language possible. Don’t just say that you have pain – describe the pain. Is it throbbing or stabbing? Burning or stinging? Shooting or aching? Words like these paint a clearer picture of what you’re experiencing. It also helps to give time frames. Do you have five minutes of intense shooting pain multiple times a day, or five hours of aching, throbbing pain starting when you wake up in the morning?

You’ll also want to come prepared with clear examples of how your disability ha affected your ability to work and impacted your daily life. Were you fired from your last job because you were no longer able to lift or you kept missing work due to needing medical care? Were you unable to attend a family function because of pain, depression, or anxiety? Are you unable to lift your small children, or sit on the floor and play with them? Specific examples will help make your case stronger.

It’s also a mistake to go to a hearing without an attorney to help you prepare your case. An expert in disability law can do a lot to prepare you for your hearing and ensure that you get the result you’re hoping for. If you don’t have legal representation yet, meet with a disability attorney, like those from Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law, in your area before your hearing to find out how they can help you get your benefits.

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Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 in Uncategorized |

5 Tips For Managing Your Expense Records During A Personal Injury Case

Whether you’re trying to win compensation after a car accident or need help to deal with the consequences of a dog bite, records of your expenses are crucial. The court won’t meet your demands for awarding a specific amount of money unless you have hard proof that the injury really cost you that much. Use these five tips to make sure you’re building a complete portfolio of expense records as you prepare for your personal injury case.

Request Letters From Work

Don’t just assume your pay stubs or tax records will be enough to prove your last income due to the injury. Request letters on the company masthead from your boss, manager, and the payroll department at your employer. Each letter should outline how much money you receive on a weekly or monthly basis, how long you were away from work, and whether you’re still employed or no longer work there due to your medical complications. If you’re having trouble contacting your employer because they let you go in violation of your state’s employment law, let your lawyer handle the requests instead of just skipping this crucial form of documentation.

Collect Medical Receipts

If your health or car insurance company is footing the bills for your emergency room trips and your physical therapy, it’s easy to forget to collect receipts. Unfortunately, many insurance companies provide hard-to-decipher payment records that don’t include the co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses you were responsible for paying. Get separate print outs every time you visit a healthcare professional for treatment related to the injury, including the following:

  • Therapy sessions for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety
  • Physical therapy to restore your ability to function
  • Acupuncture and massage, as long as the providers are licensed according to your state’s requirements.

Remember Travel Expenses

Your personal injury claim expenses go beyond just what you’re billed from the emergency room and your lost wages. Add up the gas costs and plane fares from your travel related to the case, including trips to the doctor, lawyer’s office, and scene of the injury to collect evidence. It’s best to keep these trips separate from other errands and tasks so you can prove each expense deserves to be included in the final award amount. Taking a quick vacation while you’re already traveling to see your lawyer will make it harder to convince a judge to take your travel expenses seriously.

Photograph Everything

Police investigators tend to take fairly good photographs at the scene of an accident, but you’re on your own when getting visual documentation of other types of personal injuries. Start taking photos as soon as you physically can to capture as much evidence as possible that would affect the amount you receive. For example, photographs of your injuries can prove that your medical expenses were warranted, no matter what an expert witness for the opposing side might claim. You can also make backup copies of your expense records and receipts with a decent digital camera to prevent any accidental or purposeful destruction of evidence from ruining the case.

Estimate Future Costs

Finally, get professional help from a disability lawyer when trying to estimate the long-term impact of the injury on your future earning power. Your personal injury attorney can provide you with a recommendation, or they may already have the extra expertise needed to handle this task for you. A professional projection of lost income and ongoing medical treatments is far more compelling than a few numbers you’ve added up on your own. The projection needs to take inflation and other factors into account to be accurate over a period of decades for you to get enough money to cover your actual future expenses, especially if you are completely or partially disabled by the injury. For more information, see a website such as http://caminezlaw.net.

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