Life After Personal Injury
You suffered a painful, debilitating accident. Your life will never be the same.
It wasn’t your fault – but it is part of your life now. A structured settlement can be a great, but challenging, fresh start. Monthly payments can mean guaranteed income for a considerable time to come, while a lump sum payout can provide that extra capital you need to move on.
In our guide, we lay out what to do after winning a serious personal injury case so you can make an informed decision about your future.
Know Your Rights
If you suffered a personal injury that resulted in a disability, you have specific rights at work, in your community, and when you go to rent a home.
Your Rights at Work
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents companies with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals with a disability. This includes hiring, training, pay, and other privileges of employment.
Your Rights in Your Community
The ADA also states that those with a disability get an equal opportunity to benefit from government programs, such as public education, public transportation, voting and recreation.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that children with disabilities have a right to a free public education in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to the child’s needs.
Your Housing Rights
The Fair Housing Act protects those with a disability in several ways. During the leasing process, it is unlawful for a landlord to deny a tenant’s application because he or she has a disability. Even in instances of renting a unit that has a no pets policy, a landlord can be expected to make an exception for a service animal. Furthermore, once living in a unit, disabled tenants have a right to make reasonable access-related modifications to the property.
Analyze Your Debt
Sometimes waiting until you and your health care providers fully understand your condition can take a while, prolonging the time between your injury and your day in court. Unfortunately, bills don’t wait for doctors or lawyers.
To stay afloat during this time, get all of your bills together in one place. You can use an online budgeting tool or just a simple excel spreadsheet to stay organized. By creating a tally of all of your medical related expenses, you can know where all your debt is, and how much it’s costing you per month.
Know Your Options
Structured settlements provide a stable financial outlook for thousands of Americans. Having a reliable stream of income each month provides not only stability, but also peace of mind.
However, settlement owners shouldn’t feel like they are trapped by the monthly payment option. Owners have the option of selling a portion of their payments for a lump sum.
Reasons to sell:
- Making accessibility renovations to a home
- Funding an education
- Starting a business
The right to sell payments gives an individual a wider variety of options or the ability to have extra cash in an emergency.
When an Adult Was Injured
Understanding Disability Benefits
A structured settlement doesn’t automatically prevent you from collecting other benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal program which provides supplemental income to those who have become disabled. Part of the set of initiatives included in the Social Security Act are sometimes called SSDI or Title II Benefits.
Many people who are able to win a personal injury case also qualify for SSDI. Three main criteria determine if someone qualifies:
- Must be considered disabled from a medical perspective.
- Must have little income.
- Must not be working or working and making less than what’s considered a substantial gainful activity level. For 2015 those amounts were less than $1,820 a month for blind individuals, and less than $1,090 for those who were not blind.
Applying for Disability Benefits
The process the Social Security Administration goes through to determine if an individual qualifies for SSDI is as follows:
- Is the individual currently performing a substantial gainful activity? If yes, disqualified. If no, next question.
- Is the individual’s medical impairment severe? If no, disqualified. If yes, next question.
- Is the individual’s impairment meeting or exceeding the severity required in the agency’s listing of impairments? If yes, the claim is approved. If no, evaluate further with subsequent questions.
- Can the individual perform the work they did before the impairment? If yes, deny. If no, next question.
- Can the individual perform any work in the economy? If yes, deny. If no, the claim is approved.
Just like waiting for your structured settlement case took time, waiting for SSDI requests can be another lengthy process. Conservative estimates say the process can take up to eight months.
Becoming disabled doesn’t have to mean living a life without a fulfilling career. In fact, 37 percent of people with disabilities are employed. Unfortunately, your disability may prevent you from being able to perform the same kind of work you have in the past.
That’s where education comes in. By going through a new university or vocational training program, you can learn the skills you need to start a new career.
Parts of your life may have changed dramatically, but your dream of becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t have to. Individuals with disabilities are actually twice as likely to start a business.
While unfortunate, this kind of situation can work well for disabled Americans. Becoming an entrepreneur can be a path to both flexibility and stability, which works great for someone who has unique needs. Owning your own business allows you to tailor your work experience around you, while taking control of your own financial future.
When a Child Was Injured
Learning that a child has a disability can send shock waves through a family. An alarming number of personal injury victims are children whose parents have fought hard to ensure their child has a chance at a normal life.
A structured settlement can provide your child with the best chance they have at a happy future – something that each and every parent wants to provide their child. But doing that can be different when your child has special needs.
Special Needs Parenting Support
No one knows everything when they set out to raise a child. The same is true for parents of special needs children.
Finding support is key. Parent to Parent USA groups exist across the country to help parents find support and guidance in being a parent to a disabled child.
Other parents find joining support groups as a way to combat the feelings of isolation and stress that can come from all the unknowns of parenting a child with special needs. Support groups are structured in all sorts of ways. Some are mother only/father only, while others are specific to the particular disability – for instance for children with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.
Education for the Special Needs Child
Regardless of physical or intellectual delays, your child can get an education tailored to their abilities.
Both the Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 work to ensure that children with disabilities receive a public education appropriate to their condition. The education process is planned by a team, which includes educational professionals as well as the parents. The team comes up with what’s called an “Individualized Education Program,” or IEP, which is a written plan for your child’s education.
Taking Care of Your Emotional Needs
Some people may not know how to act around someone who’s suffered a severe personal injury. They may have the best intentions, but lack the experience to know how to approach the situation. Like in any relationship, communication is key. It’s perfectly okay to let people know it’s okay to treat you like they did before the injury, as well as what your new limitations are.
By communicating frankly, you will learn who you can rely on. You may be surprised by how many people in your life are willing to lend a hand.
Even with people in your life to encourage you, it can help to make connections with others who understand your condition. Support groups can bring together people with the same disability for both emotional support and tips for coping with new challenges.