HomeLibraryMaritime Injury ClaimsCan I Apply for Disability During My Jones Act Case?

Can I Apply for Disability During My Jones Act Case?

Man in wheelchair by the waterCan you file for short-term disability or long-term disability if you’re also pursuing a Jones Act maritime injury case? The answer is yes. And in fact, you absolutely should apply for short-term and long-term disability if you have a maritime injury case. Let me explain to you what short term and long disability means to you and why you should file.

Even if you’re receiving maintenance and cure or other benefits (including advances from your company), you should always apply for your short-term or long-term disability. 

It doesn’t cost you anything. There’s no penalty if you’re denied it. You want to do this within a year of your accident for sure.

All it takes is to fill out three forms. One you give to your doctor, one you fill out, and one your company fills out. That’s all it takes to apply for short-term or long-term disability typically.

Always apply for short-term or long-term disability after a Jones Act injury. It may give you significant rights to recover disability payments even during your Jones Act case.

You Gain Financial Independence

Filing for short and long-term disability allows you to stop waiting around for the company’s check and hoping that they’ll be going to keep paying you. Companies will even tell you not to apply for short-term or long-term disability. A lot of times they’ll do that because they want to control your case. They want you waiting for that weekly or monthly check in the mail from them.

We always, always recommend to our clients if you get hurt on the job, you should apply for short-term disability and then eventually long-term disability. Some policies may not cover job-related injuries, that’s okay, go ahead and apply and they’ll tell you that. The important thing is you want to take control of your future and the income you’re going to get. You don’t want to be relying on the company to send you the weekly or monthly checks to rely on.

However, most disability insurance policies do take a “credit” for any maintenance payments being paid to you. This means your disability payments will likely be reduced by the amount of maintenance that you are receiving at that time. But because disability payments are usually much higher than your maintenance payments, you still end up getting additional money from your disability policy.

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance Explained

The first thing you should know is that your disability policies are with an entirely separate company than your employer. Many people think that their employer is the one that actually pays them disability payments. That’s not true. Disability is almost like your auto insurance.

Private disability insurance typically may be offered as voluntary coverage through your employer. This is known as a “group” policy. You may also have elected to purchase your own disability coverage through an “individual” policy.

Group and individual policies are private categories of disability insurance, as opposed to Social Security disability insurance, which is offered through the Social Security Administration. Your available benefits depend on the terms of your policy and the type of coverage purchased.

The two categories of private disability insurance are:

  • Short-term disability insurance – Benefits are paid once you have passed a specified period of time after your injury. For instance, payment may not begin until seven business days after the injury occurs. Short-term disability coverage is offered for a specified period of time, such as six months. It covers only a predetermined portion of your lost income, such as 60 or 70 percent.
  • Long-term disability insurance – Coverage begins once you have met or exceeded the specified start date, such as 60 or 180 days from the onset of disability. Long-term disability insurance may continue for anywhere from two years after injury until the point you reach the age of retirement (typically age 67). Like short-term disability, long-term disability benefits compensate only a portion of lost wages, such as 60 to 80 percent of gross monthly earnings.

It may help to examine the details of your policy to determine coverage limits and duration of benefits. In some cases, you may use your short-term coverage almost immediately after an injury to ensure there is no lapse in benefits before your long-term coverage kicks in.

It is very important to understand that your short-term disability and long-term disability insurance policies are separate from any rights that you have under maritime law in regard to maintenance and cure. This is also true in regard to any potential Jones Act claim which you may have after your accident and injury. This claim actually has nothing to do with any claims that you may have against your company for maintenance and cure and/or under the Jones Act. Although some large employers will administer the short-term disability payments, it is still a separate claim and you should always pursue and file disability claims even if you are receiving maintenance payments.

Why Your LTD Policy is the Hidden Secret of Your Injury Claim

You’ve been injured on the job offshore or on a vessel and now can’t go back to work and make what you used to. But what if you could get paid 60% of your salary until you were 65 years old?  Well, that’s exactly what some Long Term Disability policies provide.  And this is one reason why your company never discusses your policy with you or encourages you to apply for LTD after your injury.

There are two types of LTD policies:

  • “Two-year policies”
  • Policies that can pay you benefits well beyond two years, including even up to 65 years old

So how do you get the extended benefits? The secret is how your LTD policy defines ‘disabled’.

Reading the Fine Print in Your LTD Policy

All LTD policies state that during the first 2 years after your injury, you are ‘disabled’ (and therefore entitled to disability benefits) if you cannot perform the job you held at the time of your injury. Basically, if you can’t return to your position, you get LTD benefits for the first 2 years.

Then, LTD policies change dramatically. Some policies say that after two years (or ’24 months’) you will be ‘disabled’ under the policy only if you cannot return to ‘any’ occupation.  Well, these are what I call ‘two-year policies’ since anyone can usually become a greeter at Walmart or some other ‘occupation’.

Other LTD policies say that you are still disabled after two years if you ‘cannot earn substantially the same’ you were earning when you were injured.  Basically, these policies almost serve as a long-term workers compensation policy and continue to pay you if you can’t earn close to what you used to earn when you got hurt.  This is a tremendous benefit.

Rushing Back to Work Can End Your Disability Benefits

One final thought.  If you do have an LTD policy, even one that pays you for just two years, hopefully, you can see how rushing back to work too soon could seriously limit your options.  If your company forces/rushes/convinces you to return to work too early, then your LTD policy will stop paying you.  So by returning to work you are not only saying that your injury was not serious and you can earn what you used to earn (this will make your injury case much harder to win), but you may also be terminating your own LTD benefits, benefits you may have received until you were 65 years old. Talk about narrowing your options for your future.

We have dealt with plenty of LTD policies for our clients.  Call us about your policy to learn how it can help you tremendously during your offshore injury.

An Overview of the Disability Application Process

Application requirements vary based on the type of benefits sought. For instance, the medical documentation required for payment on a short-term policy may be less strict than for payment on a long-term policy.

During the application process, You should be prepared to prove:

  • you are seeking care from a qualified physician;
  • you have suffered a debilitating injury; and
  • your injuries prevent you from being able to return to work.

You may be required to provide an assortment of medical records and documentation to support your disability claim.

Evidence of a disability may include:

  • official diagnosis;
  • treatment records;
  • physician statements; and
  • test results (x-rays, CT scans).

The Young Firm can assist you with the short-term or long-term disability application process. We offer this service on a complimentary basis for our maritime and Jones Act clients. Learn more by contacting our offices to schedule a free case evaluation. Call 504-680-4100.

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