Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. According to the CDC, motor vehicle accidents are responsible for sending 2.3 million people to the ER yearly, costing the US $44 billion in medical care and lost work.
While those numbers are disturbing, the correlation with workplace accidents is perhaps even more shocking. The CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes are America’s leading cause of workplace-related fatality. So, what happens if you get injured in an accident on the way to work?
Here’s what you need to know about getting social security benefits if you get injured while commuting to work.
Do You Have a Qualifying Disability?
The good news is that you don’t have to be on your way to work or at work to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The bad news is that you must have a qualifying disability.
Social Security disability benefits are meant for long-term disabilities that will prevent you from doing your job. This benefit isn’t to be confused with short-term disability through your insurance or Workers’ Compensation, which is meant to cover you until you can return to work. The general threshold for calculating whether a disability is short or long-term is one year. In other words, if you’ll recover in under a year, you’ll likely be deemed ineligible.
There’s a long list of disabilities that could render you eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), ranging from mental health disorders (PTSD, Bipolar) to injuries (brain trauma, chronic neck pain) to illness (diabetes, cancer). It’s not the injury that makes the difference; it’s how it impacts your ability to work. You must prove that your condition precludes you from working to get SSA.
Do You Have Enough Work Credits?
SSDI falls under the SSA umbrella. In addition to proving that your condition prevents you from working, you must also have sufficient work credits to be eligible for support.
The work credit system is based on how long you’ve paid payroll taxes— in essence, paying into the program. SSA will calculate your eligibility and benefits based on how long you’ve been working and how much you’ve paid in. The current estimate is that $1,510 of income equals one credit, and you can earn four per year. Most adults require around 20 credits earned within the decade before applying. Working with a Social Security Disability attorney can help you clarify your eligibility.
Are You Receiving Workers’ Compensation?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the other type of SSA benefit and doesn’t take your work history into account. This benefit could be a viable option if you don’t have sufficient work credits.
However, if you’re receiving Workers’ Compensation to cover the short-term disability, you may be deemed ineligible or have your benefits reduced. Again, working with a knowledgeable attorney can help determine the best path forward.
Was Your Claim Denied?
Being on your way to work rather than at work isn’t a reason for your claim to be denied. If you’ve been denied, there’s another factor. The decision could be related to your income, the duration of your condition, or failure to complete documentation or treatment protocols.
You have 60 days to appeal the decision if your claim is denied. Getting clarity on why it was denied will help determine your next steps.
Will SSA Be Sufficient?
Finally, consider whether your SSA benefits will be sufficient. You might be eligible for additional coverage depending on the nature of your condition and circumstances. Social Security covers a loss of wages; it doesn’t cover medical costs or lost potential earnings. You could also be eligible for Workers’ Compensation or a personal injury case if your accident was related to a company vehicle or company negligence.
Discuss your options with an attorney for guidance in submitting an application and exploring your options.