Social Security Disability Is Not Welfare

One aspect of our practice is working with some of our injured clients to help them get through the Social Security Disability Insurance process. We don’t have to do this with all of our clients. Some of our clients suffer injuries that they will be able to recover from pretty quickly.

But the ones who won’t recover from their injuries or illness-- the ones who will be unable to live the lives that they lived before; the ones who won’t be able to go back to the jobs that they had for a very long time, or any other job for that matter, these are the clients that we help get through the Social Security Disability process.

After all, this is what Social Security Disability Insurance is for. It’s an insurance policy that’s designed to provide you with some form of income in the event that you get hurt or are medically unable to work and support yourself. There has been a tendency in the media lately to make it seem like SSDI is simply welfare under another name; that it’s easy to get, and that you don’t have to be injured or sick to qualify for it. We can tell you that this is not the case.

SSDI is not “welfare.” The concept behind “welfare” is that you receive state or federal money subsidies because you can’t afford to live on your salary. Some point to this study by This American Life  as evidence that people on disability are lazy or mooching for a free handout, or are using disability as an income resource when they cannot find a job.  According to The Washington Post, where This American Life got it wrong is that the vast majority of disability applicants are denied, and there are quality diagnoses that are very stringently applied to be approved.   

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Colonial Parking Faces Lawsuit for Serious Injury

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for the Washington Post, but not the sort of columnist that grabs national headlines or gets invited to cable talk shows. She covers Washington, DC, the place where regular people work and live, and not Washington, DC, the political center of the universe.

Mostly, it’s locals who read and appreciate her columns, and we certainly count ourselves among that number. Today she had a great article that illustrates what an injury case actually is, and what punitive damages are actually supposed to be. Normally we get the cartoonish characterizations and negative portrayals in the media, so it’s nice to see a positive and accurate reflection of the sort of work that we do.

The case in question involves what is called “premises liability.” When someone opens up a store or place of business, it involves a little more than simply throwing open the doors. The business is obligated to make sure that its customers don’t get hurt. This means simple things like keeping the floor dry, or letting them know when the floor is wet. It also means making sure that any stairwells are adequately lit, and that anything that could fall on someone is adequately secured.

In this particular case that Ms. Dvorak was covering, the business in question was a parking lot in a hospital. A six year old fell into an open airshaft and plummeted two stories onto concrete. Miraculously, he’s still alive.

He had to undergo surgery to fix his wrists and scalp, and not surprisingly, he still suffers from nightmares four years later.

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Senseless Teenage Accident Deaths in Ohio

 

As far as car accidents go, you really can’t get much worse than this:

“A car crash in Ohio this weekend killed 6 teens. The Honda Passport was carrying eight teenagers when it crashed into a guardrail just south of Warren, about 60 miles east of Cleveland, on Sunday morning. The two survivors ran to a nearby house after the crash in order to call 911. Unfortunately, emergency responders could not save the other passengers.”

The car did more than hit a guardrail. It flipped over and landed in a pond, where it began to sink.

If you are able to do the math, that means there were 8 kids in that car. Nobody was wearing a seatbelt, and the vehicle was overloaded, and who knows what triggered the accident, but the number of kids in the car and their lack of seatbelt use certainly made the outcome much worse than it would have been otherwise.

It appears that the car was speeding as well, and it also turns out that the car had been stolen. It is unclear if all of the kids in the car knew that the car didn’t actually belong to the driver. They are still waiting on the toxicology reports to come back, so we don’t know yet if the one who was driving the car was drunk or high.

There is not one element of this incident that doesn’t fall under the definition of “senseless.” It was senseless of the kid to steal the car. It was senseless for all those kids to pile in and not wear their seatbelts. It was senseless of the driver to speed.

This is the sort of tragedy that usually teenagers do to themselves. Their brains are wired in ways that steer them towards risky decisions, and they have a tendency to not consider the consequences. It takes time and experience to get over those impulses, and unfortunately, not all of them make it.

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Greenberg & Bederman Argues For Tougher Tavern Liability

Every client that we represent at Greenberg and Bederman is important to us. Every case that concludes favorably means that we helped an injury victim avoid being taken advantage of. We help the injured get the financial compensation to recover, and move on with their lives. That means a lot to us, and we know it means a lot to our clients.

It’s rare that we get to work on a case that might fundamentally alter the way our state views injuries and liability. The vast majority of the clients we represent involve issues that fall squarely within the parameters of established law. But now we have an opportunity to help a client by pointing out a flaw in the Maryland state code, and if we are successful, the changes that it would bring about in Maryland would not only help our client, but make the entire state more safe.

 

Between 2006 and 2011, there were 3381 fatalities in Maryland that occurred due to drunken driving. The number of injuries is much higher than that.

 

In 2008, one of those fatalities was Jazimen Warr. Jazimen Warr was not drunk. Jazimen Warr was not driving.  Jazimen Warr was just a 10 year old little girl.

 

She was riding in a car driven by her grandfather on Route 270 in Maryland. A man named Michael Eaton slammed into the back of her car at around 90 miles an hour. For the better part of a day he had been sitting in a bar in Gaithersburg, where he consumed 17 beers and three shots of whiskey.  He paid his tab, left, and then got into his car.  Her drove onto the highway, and then slammed into the Warr family's car.

 

Obviously, Michael Eaton committed a serious error in judgment. He was  irresponsible and negligent, and as a result Jazimen Warr died. But we believe that Michael Eaton was not alone in culpability. What about the bar that continued serving him enormous amounts of alcohol without cutting him off? What about the bar that let an obviously inebriated man walk out without even checking to see if he was calling a cab? And can we also consider that the bar is located in the suburbs in the middle of a parking lot, with no easy access to public transportation? If he didn't call a cab or a friend, how else was he supposed to get home except to drive himself? 

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The Sequester Cuts Will Hurt

 

There are lots of regions and cities in the area that are known for the way their citizens earn a living. Some states and counties have mines, some have plants, some have factories, some have ranches and farms.

Even if these industries go away, these jobs still remain part of the local identity. They even name professional sports teams after them. The Green Bay Packers, The Houston Oilers, The Hartford Whalers, The Edmonton Oilers, and the Milwaukee Brewers were all named to reflect a source of employment and regional pride to those areas.

Here in the Washington, DC area, the source of employment is the government. A huge percentage of the population either works directly for the government, is working for a company that is working for the government, or is working to influence the government on behalf of one cause or another. This can be a bit of a bone of contention for people who don’t live in the area or understand how the system works. As far as they are concerned, “government worker” equals “lazy, overpaid, ineffective and unnecessary.”

Right now, our government finds itself in dire financial straits. There are multiple reasons for this, and each side of the political spectrum likes to point the finger at causes that they don’t like and conveniently avoid the causes that they do. People on the right side of the political spectrum will blame it all on so-called “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and government benefits in general. People on the left side of the political spectrum like to blame it on heavy defense spending, the cost of fighting two wars over ten years, and the financial sectors misadventures in the housing market in 2007 and 2008.

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If You Are A Passenger In A Car Accident

 

Where is the most dangerous place to be in a car?

Many of you are probably thinking that the driver’s seat is the most dangerous place. But if you think of the way roads and driving directions are set up, the passenger seat is really the most dangerous place. If you take two cars going in different directions on the same road, the drivers have the entire width of their respective cars separating them. In other words, if two cars traveling in opposite directions get into an accident, the two parts that will most likely come into contact with each other are the passenger sides. You can also consider that a driver’s natural instinct is to steer away from danger, which usually involves putting the passenger between himself and the accident.

Being a passenger in a car involves a bit of trust. There is precious little that a passenger can do to stop an accident, whether it is the fault of another driver or the one driving the car. This is something that you should definitely keep in mind in the event that you get into a car accident and you were in the passenger seat. That means nothing about the accident was your fault.

Car insurance policies don’t just cover the drivers. They cover anybody who is a passenger in that car as well. You don’t have to fill out paperwork or pay a premium. The minute you sit in the passenger seat, the policy covers you.

There are mandatory minimum levels of insurance that have to be purchased in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Virginia has an uninsured driver option, where you pay a certain amount every year in order to drive without insurance, but most people don’t do that.

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Ray Lahood Was Good For Transportation Safety

While we can’t underestimate the importance of safe, responsible and careful driving, that is unfortunately only one part of the equation. The safest and most responsible driver in all of Maryland can get in his car, go out on the road, do everything right, and still get blindsided by a driver who is doing the wrong thing.

“The wrong thing” has multiple definitions once you get behind the wheel of a car. It could mean speeding, it could mean changing lanes without signaling or checking your mirrors, it could mean using your mirrors to check your hair, makeup or personal appearance while you are driving, it could mean driving while drunk, driving while under the influence of legal prescription drugs or illegal prescription drugs, or it could mean driving while sending a text, changing the song on your iPhone, or turning around to have a conversation with someone in the back seat.

Believe it or not, we have had clients who have been injured due to drivers doing every single one of those “wrong things,” and unfortunately the number of cases that we get from distracted drivers has remained more or less constant since we founded our practice almost thirty years ago. Cars might change, safety technology might change, but for the most part, people really don’t change all that much.

We have noticed over the past few years that there is one sort of accident has at least dropped off a bit, and that is accidents due to texting while driving.

It seems counter-intuitive to say that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. After all, texting is the preferred method of communication for people under the age of 40 these days. Hundreds of millions of texts are sent every day in the United States. It doesn’t affect your reflexes like alcohol, texting doesn’t result in poor decision making, and you don’t wake up with a hangover like you can with alcohol.

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There Is No Medical Malpractice Crisis

 

One particular challenge that plaintiff’s attorneys have to deal with often doesn’t actually have to do with the law as much as it has to do with public relations.

A lot of people believe that plaintiff’s attorneys, injury lawyers, or medical malpractice lawyers sue everyone, all the time, for no reason, and for millions of dollars. None of this is true, but one of the reasons people think it is true is because they get this false narrative recited to them all the time. They hear it on talk radio, they hear it on cable news, they see it in the plots of TV shows, and they hear politicians bring it up more or less constantly. And when politicians bring it up, they always use the word “crisis.”

The message is usually about a lawsuit “crisis,” or a medical malpractice “crisis,” or a tort case “crisis.” And they always make it seem like the entire judicial system is about to collapse because personal injury attorneys are able to file lawsuits. And the lawsuits are always referred to as “frivolous.”

Here’s an example of what we mean. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is attempting to lure more doctors to his state, and he’s proposing a few measures to bring this about. Some of them are ideas that we think are great. For instance, he wants the state to spend about $2 million annually to help pay off the student loans of 20 doctors who agree to come to Iowa and commit to five years practice in rural parts of the state. We think that’s a fantastic idea, and we would be willing to bet that that sort of thinking would work in the more rural parts of Virginia or Maryland as well.

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The Dangers of Mirena IUD's

 

We don't have a lot of faith in Bayer's ability to make safe birth control. We have no problems with their aspirin. They've been pretty good at making that for about a century now. But their track record with birth control is less than stellar.

Their last foray into the market involved two separate types of pills. One was sold under the name Yasmin and the other was given the shorter and punchier name of Yaz. What these two pills had in common was an ingredient called drospirenone, which is a synthetic variation of progestin.

With some women who used them, Yaz and Yasmin had an occasional tendency to do other things than prevent pregnancy. It lessened severe forms of acne in some women, and some women lost a little bit of weight as opposed to gaining it (which unfortunately happens with a lot of women on birth control,) and some women stopped suffering from a particularly bad condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD.) During an ill-advised marketing campaign, Bayer took these occasional occurrences and made it seem like they would occur for everyone. They also broadened the scope of what these conditions were. "Severe forms of acne" became just regular old "acne," and premenstrual dysphoric disorder became "PMS." These conditions are not the same thing, but that didn't stop the commercials that pretended that they were.

Predictably, Yaz and Yasmin became huge sellers for Bayer. If you are a woman who wants to take birth control pills, we can't imagine that you would be upset about one that prevents PMS, acne, and weight gain.

Exaggerating the benefits is one thing, but failing to mention the other, less positive side effects of Yaz and Yasmin is quite another. There is a risk of blood clotting with practically every birth control pill on the market, but the risk for users of Yaz and Yasmin is significantly higher. We believe the reason for this is the new ingredient in these pills.

Blood clotting is a serious problem. Users of Yaz, Yasmin, and the generic version Ocella started to experience deep vein thrombosis, which is  blood clots in the bigger veins in the legs. After awhile, these larger blood clots start to fragment into smaller ones. These smaller clots travel through the blood stream, which leads to things like cardiac arrest, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms. And since the market for Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella was higher than any other birth control pill, and since the risk for blood clotting was higher, you had thousands of otherwise perfectly healthy women being hospitalized or even dying.

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Greenberg & Bederman Sponsors NAMI

 

In helping people obtain their Social Security Disability benefits, we frequently work with individuals living with mental illness. Even claimants who begin a claim with purely physical maladies may wind up dealing with the symptoms of depression or anxiety by the end of a case. Unfortunately, the myths, social stigmas, and effects of mental illness often mean that the people who need help the most are unable or unwilling to get it.

                Since 1979, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has been helping erase the stigma of mental illness through education, support, advocacy, and research. They provide a network of support to individuals and families, dispel myths, and help shine light on the issues surrounding mental illness. As a non-profit, NAMI receives most of its support through private donations. One major way they achieve this is through a series of walkathons around the country.

                Greenberg and Bederman is proud to be sponsoring the Maryland NAMIWalks in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on May 18, 2013. The Walk will help raise money for the organization to continue its work. It will also help to raise awareness about mental illness.

                With one out of every seventeen adults living with a mental illness, and one out of four adults experiencing a mental health disorder in a given year, the odds are you know someone who has been affected by mental illness. We encourage you to join us on May 18 to help NAMI raise money and awareness for this important issue.

Greenberg & Bederman is a personal injury lawfirm located in downtown SIlver Spring, Maryland.  Greenberg & Bederman handles social security disability denials, and SSI denials.  For a free consultation, please call us at 800-800-1144 and ask for our Social Security Disability attorney ELi Baumwell, or fill out a free consultation form.