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Can I Apply for Disability During My Jones Act Case?

Can 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. In fact, you absolutely should apply for short- and long-term disability if you have a maritime injury case. Here’s what short-term and long-term 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 within a year of your accident. 

All it takes is three forms. One you give to your doctor, one you fill out, and one your company fills out. These applications may give you significant rights to recover disability payments even during your Jones Act case.

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance Explained

Disability policies are held with an entirely separate company from 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 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%.
  • Long-term disability insurance – coverage begins once you have met or exceeded the specified start date of your short-term insurance, 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% 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 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. Disability claims have 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.

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 continue to pay you. Companies may tell you not to apply for short-term or long-term disability because they want to control your case. They want you to wait for that weekly or monthly check in the mail from them.

We always recommend that our clients apply for short-term disability and then eventually long-term disability. Some policies may not cover job-related injuries, but go ahead and apply anyway. The important thing is to take control of your future and your income. You don’t want to rely on the company to send you the weekly or monthly checks.

However, most disability insurance policies do take credit for any maintenance payments you receive, meaning your disability payments will be reduced by that amount, but because disability payments are usually much higher than your maintenance payments, you still end up getting additional money from your disability policy.

Types of Long-Term Disability Insurance 

Let’s say you’ve been injured on the job offshore or on a vessel and now can’t go back to work. 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 (LTD) policies provide. Let us explain how to evaluate different types of insurance policies and how to apply for long-term disability after your injury.

There are two types of LTD policies:

  • Two-year policies
  • Policies that can pay you benefits well beyond two years, until you turn 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 Long-Term Disability Policy

All LTD policies state that during the first two 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 two 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. These are what we call “two-year policies” since most people can usually find work somewhere.

Other LTD policies say that you are still disabled after two years if you cannot earn substantially the same amount that you were earning when you were injured. 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

Returning to work can have a significant effect on the types of disability payments you can receive. If you apply for disability while working, you risk not qualifying for benefits and seriously limiting your options. Alternatively, if your company forces/rushes/convinces you to return to work after you have a long-term disability policy in place, then your policy may stop paying you. 

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, which you could have received until you were 65 years old. Talk about narrowing your options for your future.

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
  • Your injuries prevent you from being able to return to work

In addition, 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
  • Test results (X-rays, CT scans)

Get Started on Your Short-Term or Long-Term Disability Application 

The Young Firm can assist you with the short-term or long-term disability application process. We have dealt with plenty of disability policies for our clients and know how they can help you tremendously after an offshore injury.

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, or call 504-680-4100.

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