Car accidents are, unfortunately, a part of life. They happen every day and can lead to debilitating mental and physical repercussions. According to one study by Esurance, for every 1,000 miles you drive there’s a 1 in 366 chance you’ll be in a crash. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that every year roughly 1.3 million people die as a result of car crashes.
If you were in a car accident and are struggling financially because you can’t work, you have options. You may be able to file a claim for short-term disability after a car accident if it’s covered by your insurance. If not, your state might offer state-sponsored short-term disability coverage. If neither option is available, you may also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both are government programs that provide cash payments to disabled Americans who meet certain thresholds.
As you weigh your options, here’s an overview of short-term disability after a car accident and how it might impact your car accident recovery.
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What Is Short-Term Disability?
Short-term disability provides cash benefits to employees who become disabled or injured due to non-work-related injuries and who can’t work for a short period (usually less than six months). It typically kicks in after a set period of time that a person has a disability, referred to as the “elimination period.”
This type of insurance must be paid for before it’s needed and can be purchased by the insured, their employer, or the state (if mandated). Short-term disability insurance is offered privately or through an employer. Most employers provide this type of insurance as a premium benefit; but a few territories and states require it, including: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico.
To qualify for one of the above-mentioned state-mandated plans, you must meet specific criteria, which typically includes the following:
- You must be disabled for at least a week.
- Your injury must not be work-related.
- You must complete your state’s minimum income requirement.
- You must have had your job for a specific time.
- You must provide documentation of your injuries, treatments, and disability.
- You must agree to receive these payments for less than 30 weeks (or 52 weeks for California).
If you’re in a state where short-term disability isn’t state-mandated, you can purchase it yourself, or employers can buy it by paying monthly or quarterly premiums. Once the insured has been approved, cash payments are made for a set period, usually six months or less. Short-term disability payments replace a percentage of your weekly or monthly income and pay between 40 percent to 80 percent of your base salary.
How To Obtain Short-Term Disability After Car Accident
Although there is no specific policy for short-term disability after a car accident, some individuals use their short-term disability insurance benefits after they’re injured in a car accident. They often use these cash benefits for such things as:
- Mortgage and rent payments
- Childcare costs
- Credit card payments
To claim benefits in states which provide state-sponsored plans, you have to apply, meet their requirements and then be approved to collect the cash payments.
If you live in a state that doesn’t have state-sponsored plans and you or your employer didn’t purchase short-term disability insurance, you may be eligible for SSDI and SSI. Both are government programs that provide cash payments to disabled Americans. However, to qualify for these benefits, you must demonstrate that you have long-term impairments after an accident that inhibit your ability to work and support yourself.
Some common impairments from a car accident might include:
- Back and brain injuries
- Hearing or vision loss
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Your local Social Security office has more information about which conditions are covered, the application process, and how to apply for benefits.
Can You Qualify For Unemployment After A Car Accident?
The short answer is “no.” However, the government pays unemployment benefits to individuals who aren’t currently working. To collect unemployment benefits after a car accident, you must be physically able to work, willing to work, and actively seeking work. If your current injury prevents you from working or seeking employment, you wouldn’t be eligible for this type of assistance.
How Short-Term Disability After A Car Accident Can Impact Your Settlement
In the settlement process, both sides to a legal proceeding agree to settle the case for a certain amount of money. The process typically occurs before a civil trial starts and, once agreed upon, it typically is the endpoint of a lawsuit. If you’ve been receiving short-term disability after a car accident, it could be used as a basis to reduce your settlement amount because the disability payments mitigated, or reduced, your damages.
Unlike the settlement process, when you submit a claim through your insurance company, you make a legal demand to be compensated for any car accident injuries under the terms of your pre-paid policy. If the adjuster agrees, you receive compensation from the insurance company regardless of any settlement.
Similarly, if you’ve been approved for SSDI, you’re receiving cash benefits due to a disability. Could a car accident settlement negatively impact SSDI benefits? The answer is no. A personal injury settlement would not impact your SSDI payments. They are two different events, severing two unrelated purposes. You receive SSDI when:
- You’ve worked enough hours to have insured status.
- You’re currently disabled and unable to work.
- You’ve met eligibility requirements before you filed.
A settlement might impact other needs-based government benefits, like SSI whose purpose is to provide cash benefits for low-income people who can’t work full time due to their long-term disabilities. In this case, the cash benefit may put some individuals over the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) that is updated yearly. As you determine whether you’re eligible for short-term disability and the impact it might have on your case, it’s always best to seek legal counsel to ensure you fully comply with existing laws.
Do You Need Short-Term Disability After A Car Accident?
If you have questions about short-term disability and aren’t sure what you qualify for or how it might impact your case, an experienced professional can help. Get in touch today for a free review of your case.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.