can-i-apply-for-disability-if-im-pursuing-a-jones-act-case
09/04/2019

Can I apply for disability if I’m pursuing a Jones Act case?

Written by Vuk Vujasinovic

Protect Your Financial Future

A question we get quite often is “Can I file for long-term or short-term disability if I’m pursuing a Jones Act Maritime Injury Case?” and the answer is, Yes! As an injured seaman, you can apply for short-term or long-term disability after a maritime injury regardless of any maintenance and cure you’re receiving or any advances from your company. (Please consult with a Board Certified Attorney before cashing any company checks after a maritime injury.)

Your financial independence may depend on it. Think of a disability policy as a financial safety net that will be there for you and your family if and when the company checks stop coming. Many times your company will try to convince you not to apply for disability to ensure that you remain dependent on their checks. Companies do this to control the outcome of your case and shift leverage in their favor. They are not looking out for your best interest.

We always encourage our Jones Act clients to apply for short-term disability and eventually long-term disability when necessary. We want to empower our clients to take control of their financial future and of course the income they’ll receive while they recover from their injuries. Why should you have to depend on company checks from the very company whose negligence caused your injuries in the first place? We believe you shouldn’t have to depend on company checks.

The Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Disability

It is pertinent to note that when you apply for disability insurance you are doing so with an entirely different entity that is completely separate from your employer. This works in your favor because it ensures that you will not become dependent on company cash to pay your bills. Our team at VB Attorneys can help you explore alternative financial solutions.

Employers sometimes offer private disability insurance coverage as an optional opt-in. Often times this kind of disability insurance is known as a “group policy”. You may have also purchased your own disability insurance through an “individual policy”. Group and Individual policies are private disability plans and the available benefits are subject to the policy and type of coverage you purchased. It is important to know the difference and consulting with a good attorney who knows how insurance companies operate is always recommended after a maritime injury.

Short-Term Disability Insurance

  1. If approved, you must wait a specified amount of time after your injury has passed to begin collecting benefits.
  2. Short-term disability coverage is only offered for a specified amount of time.
  3. It will only cover a fixed portion of the income you’ve lost due to your injury.

You’ve been hurt in a maritime accident. The extent of your injury has left you unable to work in the industry and you’re worried about how you and your family will move forward without the income you used to receive every month. What do you do now? Long-term disability policies could provide an answer. What if I told you that applying for long-term disability could get you paid 60% of your salary until you’re ready for retirement?

Long-Term Disability Insurance

  1. Once long-term disability insurance is approved, it provides 60% of the monthly salary you had before your injuries.
  2. You are eligible to receive these benefits until you are able to return to work.
  3. OR It may continue for however long it takes for you to reach the age of retirement.

A word of caution: How does one define “disabled”? All long-term disability policies will provide coverage for the first 2 years after your offshore injury. You are considered “disabled” if you can not return to your position at work. You then qualify to receive benefits for 2 years. Here’s where you need to be cautious, because not all long-term disability policies provide you the same benefits. Some long-term disability policies change how they define “disabled” after 2 years. These long-term disability policies only protect you if you can not return to work at all (and depending on the intensity of the injuries pretty much anyone can return to an “occupation” even if that means working at a McDonalds.) Which means if you choose the wrong policy, you could be out of luck after 2 years.

Nevertheless, if you choose the right long-term disability policy you can expect to receive benefits until retirement if you are unable to work and earn close to or the same wages as before your maritime accident.  I strongly suggest that anyone looking into disability insurance consults with a Board Certified Attorney.

Returning to work

Oftentimes your company will pressure you into returning to work before you’ve reached MMI or Maximum Medical Improvement. It may seem they are eager to have to back to work because they “need you” or so you can “get back on the horse” and “move on” with your injuries. They may tell you that you’ll be able to “take it easy” on your first weeks back and that they won’t dock your pay, they may encourage you and entice you with money or empty promises that they’ll take care of you if you just come back to work for them. But the truth is that returning to work before you’re ready is a common mistake many injured seafarers make. 

Returning to work before you’re ready is likely the worst thing you can do for your health and for your Jones Act Case. Not only will returning to work cut you off from your disability payments, but it will also devalue your claim. You see, by returning to work big insurance companies will say you were “never that hurt” to begin with and that “your injuries were never serious”. In these circumstances, companies do their best to apply financial pressure. To make matters worse, they’ll use your time at work as proof that you can still earn what you used to earn before your offshore injury. 

Returning to work before you’re ready makes your case much harder to win, discontinues your disability benefits, and puts your financial future at great risk. Do not jeopardize your financial security.

Filing for disability

It won’t cost you a penny and you lose nothing if you’re denied.

After an on the job injury filing for disability can be easier than you may think. There are only 3 forms that need to be completed, one for your doctor, one for your company, and one for yourself to fill out. In order to file for disability, you’ll need to prove that you:

  1. Are seeking care from a qualified physician.
  2. Have suffered from a debilitating injury.
  3. Are unable to return to your job due to your injuries.
  4. Are willing to present any and all medical documents that support your claims.
    1. Physician statements and doctor’s notes.
    2. Treatment records.
    3. Test Results, X-Ray, MRI, and CT Scans.

Our team of Board Certified Lawyers at VB Attorneys can help you with your disability application process and your Maritime Injury. We provide this service to all our Jones Act clients because we believe in empowering people and helping our clients take control of their financial future. We step in and fight for you when negligent companies cause injuries. Call right now to speak with a Board Certified Attorney at 877-724-7800, or for more information visit the following link https://vbattorneys.com/practice_areas/jones-act-claims-maritime-injuries/

Vuk Vujasinovic

Vuk Vujasinovic

09/04/2019