May 22, 2017

Legal Drug Use Can Lead to a DUI

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 4:50 pm

When most people imagine a DUI, they think of someone abusing alcohol or taking illegal drugs, then getting behind the wheel and causing an accident. However, that’s not always the case.

Did you know that even legal drug use (like taking necessary prescription or over-the-counter drugs) can result in a DUI (called an OVI in Ohio) charge?

In Ohio and many other states across the U.S., impaired driving laws are written in such a way that they include legal drug use. As a result, normal, otherwise law-abiding citizens find themselves in trouble for impaired driving—even though it was done unintentionally.

Over the counter medication can result in a dui

How does this happen?

Ohio OVI law considers whether a person was operating a vehicle and whether he or she was unable to drive safely because of the influence of an alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of both. Under this law, it’s possible to be arrested for OVI for making an unsafe driving maneuver while taking a prescription drug—even if the two are unrelated.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario: it’s spring, and your allergies are acting up. You take the recommended dosage of Benadryl because it best eliminates your allergy symptoms. Also during the day, you take your prescribed high blood pressure medication. Each of these medications makes you a little sleepy, but combined, they interact to make you feel rather tired. On your way home from work, you accidentally rear-end someone at a stop sign. When the police arrive, you apologize profusely and say that you are always a good driver, but the medications you’re on make you drowsy. The police then arrest you for driving while under the influence of drugs.

In this scenario, the arresting officer would say that you admitted to impaired driving. It wouldn’t matter to him or her that many people, including those who take medication and those who don’t, can feel tired while driving. It also wouldn’t matter that your tiredness might not have even been the cause of the accident: your foot might have slipped off the brake, for example. You would face the many severe penalties of an OVI conviction, including a suspended license, heavy fines, and even jail time.

Although the above scenario might seem far-fetched, it actually happens more often than you think. Many medications—including ones for pain management, insomnia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even allergies—can cause drowsiness. In fact, drowsiness is one of the most common side effects listed on warning labels. In many cases, people aren’t aware of the effects of taking more than one prescription medication. In other cases, people are pulled over for a different traffic offense, like swerving, and charged with an OVI when admitting that they take prescription drugs.

Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, which has more clear-cut signs (decreased coordination, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and a high blood alcohol content), drugged driving is more difficult to define and prosecute. There are few officers in the U.S. who have received proper training on recognizing impaired driving caused by drug use, according to The New York Times. In addition, the complex chemistry of drugs makes it unreasonable to set legal limits on the level of prescription drugs in the blood: medications effect many people differently, and they can also linger in the blood for weeks after taking them. People who are simply taking their necessary medications as directed could be unfairly punished under such a law.

Many individuals are fighting back against baseless, prescription drug-related DUI charges. In Georgia, DUI charges against a women taking her prescribed medication were recently dismissed after the charges were found to have no merit.

If you take prescription medication, you are, unfortunately, at a higher risk of an OVI. You can reduce your chances of an OVI arrest by doing the following:

  • Always take your medication as directed.
  • Read the warning label on your medication fully, and talk to your doctor about any activities that you should avoid while taking your prescription.
  • Avoid mixing medications unless approved by your doctor.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while on your prescription medication.
  • If your medication makes you drowsy while driving, try changing the time of day that you take it (unless you are required to take it at a certain time).

If you are facing OVI charges in Ohio, you can fight them. A skilled attorney will work to have the charges dismissed or to effectively represent you during the administrative and criminal proceedings.

The experienced OVI lawyers at Casper & Casper will advocate fiercely for you, in and out of the courtroom. We will fight to help you keep your license and minimize or avoid the penalties of an unjust OVI conviction.

Contact us for a free consultation today.

Sources:
- NOLO
- The New York Times

May 9, 2017

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover, Exactly?

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 12:30 am

You’ve been injured at work, and you’ve heard that workers’ compensation will cover your bills. But what does workers’ compensation cover, exactly?

Let’s have a look at what workers’ compensation covers. You might be surprised by the types of compensation offered by the program.

Medical Care

Workers compensation covers more than just medical care

This is one of the most well-known and important benefits of workers’ compensation. Health care is extremely expensive, and most people who have been injured at work need help paying for their medical bills.

Workers’ compensation covers hospital and medical expenses necessary to diagnose and treat your injury or illness. This includes the following:

  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor visits
  • Diagnostic exams
  • Medications
  • Surgeries
  • Medical equipment (such as a wheelchair)
  • Counseling
  • Pain management

In Ohio, you are allowed to choose your own health care provider, as long as he or she is certified by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

It’s important to point out that workers’ compensation generally does not cover experimental treatments. If you or your doctor believe that an experimental treatment would help in your case, it’s best to talk to a lawyer to see if you can get the treatment covered.

Rehabilitation and Re-Education

Some workplace illnesses or injuries prevent a person from immediately returning to work. If this is your case, workers’ compensation can pay for your rehabilitation. Rehabilitation includes medical and therapeutic care (like physical therapy) needed for you to regain your ability to do your job.

If your injury or illness permanently prevents you from returning to your former job (but you are still able to work), rehabilitation includes training, tuition, and other expenses necessary to allow you to find a different job.

Disability

If your injury or illness has resulted in a disability, workers’ compensation covers this. There are four main types of disability benefits, depending on the type and duration of your disability:

Temporary partial disability: Your injury or illness prevents you from doing some parts of your job; however, you will be able to fully perform all parts of your job in the future.

Temporary total disability: Your illness or injury prevents you from doing any part of your job right now, but you will be able to return to your job in the future.

Permanent partial disability: Your illness or injury causes permanent damage that will forever prevent you from doing some parts of your job.

Permanent total disability: Your illness or injury causes permanent damage that prevents you from ever returning to your job. Note that you don’t have to be helpless to be classified as having a permanent total disability. You just have to have an injury or illness that doesn’t allow you to work at your former job or a similar job.

If an injury or illness has left you with a disability, you should know that you may have several types of compensation available to you. In addition to workers’ compensation, you may be able to collect benefits from Social Security Disability. This is because workers’ compensation is a state program, while Social Security Disability is a federal program. You may have earned compensation through both programs through your employment and Social Security taxes.

Death

If your loved one has passed away due to a workplace injury or illness, you may be able to apply for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation covers burial expenses, allowing you to give your loved one a proper funeral. In addition to funeral costs, this program is designed to compensate for the financial support lost to the deceased’s family.

People who may collect benefits through workers’ compensation include any dependent of the deceased person, including the following:

  • Spouse
  • Dependent children under the age of 18
  • Dependent children between the ages of 18 and 25 who are attending an educational institution full-time
  • Dependent children 18 years of age or older who have a physical or mental disability

In Ohio, this benefit is ongoing. Family members receive this benefit until they are no longer eligible.

If your loved one had already settled a workers’ compensation claim for his or her injuries, that does not mean that you can’t file a workers’ compensation claim for his or her death. You may file at any time within two years of the death.

In addition to the benefits above, there are a number of other benefits available for special circumstances. For example, firefighters, police officers, miners, and others who are exposed to hazardous materials and develop an illness as a result may be able to collect benefits to allow them to change jobs, if they have been advised by their doctor to do so.

Workers’ compensation offers a wide range of benefits to help the injured worker. If you have been injured, you should know that you do not automatically receive these benefits. Applying for and receiving workers’ compensation benefits can be a long and difficult process. After a work-related injury, it’s a good idea to talk to a workers’ compensation attorney to learn whether you qualify and the types of benefits you might earn under this program.

Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Casper & Casper for a free consultation. We are located in Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, and Middletown for your convenience. We’ll answer all your questions, and, if you choose our firm, we will handle your case for you—so you can focus on getting well.

Sources:
- NOLO
- Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

May 1, 2017

Nationwide Driving Deaths on the Rise after Years of Decline

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 6:00 pm

In 1972, driving deaths in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 54,589. Recognizing this as a public health crisis, the U.S. government—along with newly created non-profit organizations—worked to reduce the death toll. Campaigns advocated for the installation and use of seat belts and air bags, warned drivers of the dangers of drinking and driving, and pushed states to improve their road infrastructure. As a result, traffic deaths fell around 40 percent by 2010, to 32,999.

The number of driving-related deaths and injuries has been trending downward for more than 30 years… until now.

nationwide, driving relating deaths are on the rise... contact Casper & Casper for legal help

The National Safety Council (a non-profit that works with federal auto safety regulators) reported recently that, in 2016, the U.S. saw the largest year-to-year increase in traffic deaths in more than 50 years. From 2015 to 2016, traffic deaths rose 8 percent. In a two-year span (from 2014 to 2016), deaths rose 14 percent.

Why the sudden, sharp increase after so many years of decline? Experts can point to a few things: the economy, lax enforcement, and cell phones.

The U.S. economy has been improving and the unemployment rate has dropped. When people are employed, they drive more—to go to work and to do fun activities they can now afford. It makes sense that the more a person drives, the greater the risk that he or she is involved in an accident. Still, this doesn’t fully explain the increase; the number of driving deaths taking into account the number of miles driven has also increased.

Under-funded police departments across the country have been forced to reduce the number of troopers on patrol. With fewer police cars on the road, many drivers are emboldened to speed and drive recklessly, knowing that the likelihood of getting caught is low.

Perhaps most troublingly of all, American drivers have become complacent about their safety on the road. Today’s cars are much safer than earlier models: they have seat belts, of course, as well as air bags throughout the car, rearview cameras, antilock brakes, assisted driving, and more. Americans now feel comfortable taking their eyes off the road to answer a text message, read an email, or even scroll through Facebook. According to a survey done by the AAA Foundation for Road Safety, 40 percent of drivers admitted to reading a text message while on the road, and 31 percent admitted to typing one. Despite these findings, the vast majority—70 percent—disapproved of hand-held cell phone use.

It’s pretty clear that, for some drivers (nearly a third), using a cell phone while driving is not that big a deal. Sadly, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the road has the potential to cause an accident. While many people think that reading or typing a message takes no time at all, the reality is very different: the average text message typically takes a person about five seconds to read. At 55 miles per hour (not even the speed limit on many major highways), a person could travel the length of a football field in five seconds—all without a glance at the road in front of them. This kind of inattention can be deadly on the highway, when traffic can suddenly slow to a crawl, as well as on rural roads, when a deer could suddenly jump in front of a car.

In 2015, distracted driving (talking, texting, or surfing the web) was found to be the direct cause of 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries. That’s nearly a third of all injuries on the road.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply tell drivers about the danger of distracted driving. As the AAA Foundation for Road Safety shows, many drivers who know the risks continue to use their electronic devices.

Smartphones can be rewarding in an addictive way: who hasn’t felt a jolt of excitement or an urgency to respond after hearing the ping of a new text or email? In our society, a person is expected to be reachable at all times. For drivers who have trouble disconnecting while on the road, other solutions are being explored. Some apps, for example, use GPS and movement to determine when a person is driving and prevent him or her from using a phone (except to call 911).

At Casper & Casper, we’ve seen many times over the devastation that distracted driving can cause. Our personal injury lawyers have worked with clients who were injured or whose family members were killed by a distracted driver.

We urge everyone to put down their phones while behind the wheel. If you still feel tempted to check your phone, we recommend putting the phone in your bag (or glove compartment) and turning the phone on silent or using an app that locks your phone while driving. Over time, you can kick this very dangerous habit.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident with a distracted driver, contact the personal injury lawyers at Casper & Casper in Cincinnati, OH. We’ll let you know your options during a free, no-obligation consultation.

Sources:
- USA Today
- The New York Times
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Newsweek

April 25, 2017

Hiring Freeze May Make Disability Case Delays Worse

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 1:50 am

The Social Security Disability program is a labyrinth. It is full of confusing regulations, requirements, and exceptions. (We cover one of the many common misconceptions about SSDI in a previous post.)

A small mistake on your paperwork, a lack of preparation, or a missed filing deadline can mean that your claim is delayed or even denied. Unfortunately, this happens often, particularly to people who try to go through the system without the help of a skilled attorney. Up to 70 percent of first-time claims are denied.

People who have been injured or face a long-term disability need Social Security Disability to pay their bills and support themselves. They simply can’t go without an income while they aren’t able to work. If their claim is denied because of some small paperwork error, they are forced to appeal. As a result, there is a huge number of appeals that have to be processed.

Bloomberg reports that the backlog for appeals yet to be processed is 526 days, almost a year and a half. This means that about 1.1 million people who are appealing their case have to wait more than a year to see an appeals court judge and make their case.

social security disability claims  can take 526 days to process

Unfortunately, the delay is likely to only get worse. In the article, Bloomberg notes that President Trump’s federal hiring freeze will worsen the backlog.

Why? There are around 1,650 judges responsible for looking over the claims of people whose applications for Social Security Disability were denied by state agencies. While that may seem like a large number of judges, it isn’t enough to clear the backlog and process appeals claims in a timely manner. For a judge, processing a SSDI claim properly includes reviewing hundreds of pages of medical records, expert assessments, and other paperwork. (Now, imagine that task multiplied by more than a million!) Last year, the Social Security Administration announced that it wanted to streamline the process and hire an addition 250 judges (bringing the total to 1,900) to help do so.

The federal hiring freeze is a temporary halt on hiring federal civilian employees. (The freeze grants exemptions to staff needed for national security or public safety reasons and also allows other exemptions on a case-by-case basis.) The order is designed, according to the administration, to help balance the budget and create a more efficient government.

While these are laudable goals, not everyone agrees that the hiring freeze will achieve them.

President of the Association of Administration Law Judges union Judge Marilyn Zahm said, “There may be a hiring freeze on federal employment, but there’s no freeze on people getting older, people getting sicker, people having injuries and accidents, and people needing disability insurance.”

In addition to the union, several former heads of the Social Security Administration—both Republican and Democrat—have expressed concerns that the hiring freeze will prevent the agency from properly serving the American public.

At Casper & Casper Law, we are also concerned about the hiring freeze. Our Social Security Disability attorneys work in the system every day, helping injured and sick people successfully complete their claims. We understand how frustrating it is to be denied access to the help that you need and deserve.

We believe this news highlights why it is so important to get a Social Security Disability claim right the first time. If you have been injured or have a mental or physical illness that will prevent you from working for more than a year, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. Whether or not you qualify will depend on how long you have worked, how recently you have worked, and a number of other requirements. Even if you do qualify, the success of your claim is not guaranteed: it depends on the proper completion of paperwork, compelling testimony at your hearing, and other factors.

We strongly recommend talking to a local Cincinnati, Ohio, Social Security Disability lawyer about your case. After speaking with an attorney, you’ll know if you qualify and have a better understanding of your options. With an attorney’s help, you will have a higher likelihood of getting your claim approved. Perhaps best of all, you’ll be able to focus on taking care of yourself instead of attempting to juggle your medical needs with a long and confusing court case.

You shouldn’t have to wait years to get the benefits you need. We want you to know that we will fight to get you your benefits, including backpay and retroactive benefits from the start of your disability, as soon as possible. You don’t have to go through this difficult time alone.

To get your questions answered, contact Casper & Casper for a free consultation. Our firm has offices in Cincinnati, Dayton, Middletown, and Hamilton, Ohio, for your convenience.

April 6, 2017

What to Do if You or Someone You Love Struggles With Alcohol

Filed under: OVI Defense — Casper & Casper @ 5:55 am

At Casper & Casper, our team includes attorneys with extensive experience defending clients against OVI (DUI) charges. As a result, we’ve witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of alcohol abuse on individuals and communities. Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, we’ve collected some helpful advice on beginning to deal with a drinking problem—or helping someone you love who may be facing alcohol addiction.

How can you tell if you’re drinking too much?

In general, if you’re a man who regularly consumes more than four alcoholic drinks in one day or a woman who consumes more than three drinks in a day—or someone who drinks frequently but in lower amounts (14 per week for men, 7 for women), it could be time to take a closer look at your drinking.

Ask yourself if you’ve ever ended up drinking more than you intended, had a hard time cutting down on your drinking, or gotten into situations where your drinking increased your chance of getting hurt (driving, swimming, walking in dangerous areas, having unsafe sex).

Have you given up or cut back on other activities in order to drink, or found that your tolerance for alcohol had increased and you needed to drink more in order to get the same effect?

If any of these warning signs apply to you, the first thing you should do is take steps to stay safe. Make sure you have a designated driver, or take a taxi or an Uber, when you go out. Avoid using machinery, swimming, or any other activities that require you to keep your head.

Second, practice pacing yourself. It takes about two hours for an adult’s body to completely break down a single alcoholic drink, so choose to have no more than one alcoholic drink per hour, followed by a non-alcoholic one.

Third, pay attention to how much you’re drinking. Marking drinks on a calendar can be a great way to get a general idea of the quantity and frequency of your alcohol consumption. Notice how you feel afterwards, and whether there are negative repercussions to your drinking—socially, physically, in your career, etc.—that you may have been ignoring.

If you decide it’s time to quit, there are many great resources online and in your community. Here are a few:

Rethinking Drinking

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcohol Screening

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Recovery.org

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

What can you do if you suspect someone you love is drinking too much?

It can feel overwhelming when a loved one seems to be in the grip of alcohol addiction. You can’t control their actions, and you may not even be sure how to bring up your concern with them.

It may be useful to think of alcohol addiction as a disease rather than a failure of willpower. A combination of genetics, psychological and social factors determine why one person can drink to excess at times but never develop a dependence, while someone else descends into a downward spiral.

If you choose to confront someone about his or her alcohol use, it pays to go in with a game plan. Approach the person with an attitude of compassion, not accusation, and never begin this conversation when you suspect your loved one has been drinking.

Talk about the specific effects their drinking has had—on you, on their job, on their health. Offer your help and support, including, if you’re willing, attending a meeting or support group with them.

But whatever you do, don’t take on the responsibility for another person’s recovery. You’re not responsible for their alcohol abuse, and you can’t force them to change. In addition to the resources mentioned above, Al-Anon can help you navigate complicated feelings around loving someone who drinks too much.

By Daniel R. Allnutt

Doug Casper

At Casper & Casper, Daniel focuses his practice on representing Workers’ Compensation claimants and OVI defendants.

Daniel joined Casper & Casper as an Associate after having a general practice for the previous five years. Prior to this, he was employed by the City of Middletown as their Assistant Prosecutor. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law, and 2002 graduate of Miami University with a B.S. in Business Marketing.

Sources:

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Source 1, Source 2 and Source 3

Rethinking Drinking: Source 1, Source 2 and Source 3

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Quit Alcohol

March 21, 2017

Are Psychological Conditions Covered by Ohio Workers Compensation?

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 7:36 pm

It has been well established that working day in and day out can result in physical injuries—whether from an unexpected accident or the repetitive motions of the job.

Sometimes, however, it’s not the body that is injured but the mind.

Psychological conditions can be caused by the job itself or by the workplace environment. A person may experience stress, anxiety, depression, or another mental-health condition in the course of his or her employment. Other psychological conditions, such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) may result from a traumatic incident in the workplace.

Psychological conditions are very real and very damaging to the people who suffer from them. As such, they deserve to be taken seriously.

Are psychological injuries covered by workers compensation?

Unfortunately, psychological conditions are not covered on their own by Ohio workers’ compensation.

In fact, a 2013 Ohio Supreme Court ruling found that an employee’s psychological or mental-health claims only have to be covered by workers’ compensation if that mental-health “injury” is directly related to a physical injury. In this case, a truck driver attempted to collect workers’ compensation for the physical and mental harm he sustained in a highway accident. The accident involved the death of the other driver, who drove into the back of the claimant’s dump truck. As a result of the fatal accident, the truck driver alleged that he developed a stress disorder. Although the court allowed the driver to collect compensation for his physical injuries, it denied his claim that the accident and his stress disorder were linked.

The court likely ruled this way because it is more difficult for claimants to legally prove cause and effect for psychological conditions than for physical injuries. A physical injury from an accident at work is very definitive. There is an exact time and place that the accident occurred. The individual can file a report at his or her workplace and will have medical records supporting the claim. He or she may even have witnesses to the accident. Other physical injuries, like repetitive stress injuries, are somewhat more difficult to prove, but still easier than a psychological condition. A typist who develops wrist problems can prove, with testimony from a doctor and other evidence, that the repetitive typing motions of his or her job caused excessive strain on the wrist joint.

With many psychological conditions, however, the sufferer cannot specify a moment in which the condition was “caused.” Many people don’t even recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other disorders until the condition is quite severe. Still others may deny that they need help because they do not want to appear weak or “crazy” or because they fear the social stigma surrounding mental health issues. The ambiguity of psychological conditions allows insurance company attorneys to argue that an employee’s condition could have been caused by marital or family troubles and not a workplace injury—thereby letting the employer off the hook.

If you suffer from a psychological condition such as stress or anxiety caused by your job, you will not be able to collect compensation unless you can prove that the disorder is directly related to a workplace injury. This is where having an experienced attorney on your side can be very beneficial. An attorney will have the knowledge and experience necessary to fill out all forms completely, gather all the evidence needed to prove your claim, and represent you effectively in court. Workers’ compensation is a complicated bureaucratic system to navigate on your own, and the chances of success are higher with an attorney.

If you have not suffered a physical injury and cannot receive workers’ compensation, other avenues may be available to you.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to individuals with a “medically determinable” (meaning able to be diagnosed by a doctor) physical or mental impairment. If your psychological condition prevents you from working, temporarily or permanently, you may be able to make a claim under SSDI. Whether or not you qualify for SSDI will depend on several factors, including the number of years you have worked. Applying for SSDI, like workers’ compensation, is a task that is best undertaken with a Social Security Disability lawyer’s assistance.

In other cases, filing a lawsuit may be appropriate. For example, an individual who develops anxiety due to workplace harassment would not be able to collect workers’ compensation. However, he or she may be able to file a suit against the employer for allowing a hostile work environment.

You don’t have to go through this difficult process alone. Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Casper & Casper Law today. We’ll be there to answer all of your questions and help you determine whether making a workers’ compensation claim is appropriate in your case. Our firm has offices in Cincinnati, Dayton, Middletown, and Hamilton, Ohio, for your convenience.

Sources:

- NOLO: here and here
- Social Security Administration
- The Columbus Dispatch

March 7, 2017

Are SSI and SSDI the Same Thing?

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 5:37 pm

When you have a long-term illness or disability and struggle to pay your bills, aid programs can be the light at the end of a very long tunnel. The trick to reaching that light is understanding the difference between various aid programs and their requirements for eligibility.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) are two programs that are both administered by the Social Security Administration and that offer benefits to disabled individuals. However, this is where the two program’s similarities end. It’s important to know the difference between the two so that you don’t waste time, money, and energy applying for the wrong program.

Social Security Administration statement

Below, we explain the main differences between SSI and SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The Supplemental Security Income is a program funded by general taxes that serves individuals who are blind or disabled as well as those over 65 years of age.

This program is need-based, which means that you must have limited income and assets (less than $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple) in order to be eligible for the program. It is designed to provide basic needs, helping people who would otherwise be unable to pay for food and shelter.

SSI offers cash benefits, paid on the first of every month. The monthly payment is calculated by starting with the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) of $735. (Each year, the FBR is adjusted to account for inflation and cost of living increases.) Then, any countable income is subtracted, and finally the state supplement (if any) is added. In addition to this, SSI offers access to Medicaid, a joint state and federal health insurance program, in order to help pay for health care costs.

SSI, unlike, SSDI, is not tied to your work history. This means that you can apply for SSI regardless of the number of years you have worked.

In the SSI program, there is no waiting period to receive benefits. If your application is accepted, you will begin receiving benefits on the first day of the month after your acceptance.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance is a program funded by payroll taxes. This means that your eligibility for this program is directly tied to your work history. The program offers cash benefits as well as health insurance through Medicare.

SSDI determines whether a person may receive benefits through a somewhat complex system, based on covered earnings which are the wages you paid Social Security taxes on while working. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) to come up with your monthly benefits amount. To find your AIME, the SSA will look at what you earned over up to 35 working years. Your PIA, on the other hand, is the total of three fixed percentages taken from your AIME. As you can see, it’s a fairly complicated algorithm.

To give you an idea of the payments that people on SSDI receive, in 2017, the average benefit amount is $1,171 a month. The max monthly benefit amount is $2,687.

In addition to this system, SSDI requires that an individual pass two tests: the “recent work test” and “duration of work test.” The requirements for each test vary based on the person’s age. The older you are, the longer you must have worked in order to be eligible. Like the name suggests, the recent work test requires you to have worked in recent years. If, for example, you apply at age 24, you must have worked for 1.5 of the past three years. The duration work test requires you to have worked a certain number of years total. If you became disabled between the ages of 31 and 42, you need to have earned 20 credits and worked five years.

The SSDI program, unlike the SSI program, also offers benefits to the disabled individual’s family. Spouses, ex-spouses, minor children, stepchildren, and even grandchildren can qualify for SSDI benefits. In some circumstances, the surviving family of a person with disabilities may collect benefits.

A spouse qualifies for benefits if he or she cares for the disabled person’s minor children (up to age 16) or if her or she is 62 years old (or older) and can’t get Social Security benefits alone. An ex-spouse can get benefits upon turning 62 if he or she was married to the disabled individual for at least 10 years and the disabled individual never re-married.

The amount of auxiliary benefits (those given to the family) is up to 50 percent of the disabled person’s monthly amount. The maximum family amount is 150 percent of the disabled individual’s benefits. For example, if you are eligible for $1,000 monthly and have a spouse and two children, your maximum family amount would equal $1,500.

In addition, since getting approved for SSDI can take quite a bit of time, when you are approved, you may qualify for back pay. The number of months of back pay will depend on when you applied and the date the Social Security Administration approved you (also known as your established onset date).

If you have not worked enough to be eligible for SSDI, you may still be able to get SSI benefits if you can show that you have financial need.

In the SSDI program, there is a five-month waiting period before you begin to receive benefits. There are some exceptions to this rule; if you are applying for dependent benefits, for example, you do not have to wait.

In some cases, a person can receive both SSI and SSDI benefits. This can happen if the person receives very little assistance from SSDI. In this case, the person may receive SSI benefits to bring his or her total benefits to $735 (the FBR). It’s important to note that a person still has to meet the means requirement of SSI to receive benefits from both programs. A disabled individual with a high income or a lot of assets won’t qualify for SSI, no matter how little he or she receives from SSDI.

We’re Here to Help

Navigating the SSI and SSDI programs can be very complicated, and it can be difficult to do on your own. These programs deny 70 percent of first-time applications; Casper & Casper Law is here to make sure that yours isn’t one of them. We’ll advocate on your behalf so that you receive the SSI or SSDI benefits that you are entitled to.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Sources:

- Social Security Administration
- NOLO: here, here, here, and here
- Photo Credit: complexsearch Flickr via Compfight cc

February 20, 2017

Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 8:44 pm

Like many questions asked of lawyers, the answer to the question “Should I refuse to take a breathalyzer test?” is that it depends.

This may not be the most satisfying answer, but it’s the one that any good, responsible lawyer will tell you. Keep reading to find out the factors that should influence your decision.

Should I refuse a breathalyzer test? Women pulled over by cop.

Consequences for Refusal

There are significant consequences for refusing to take a BAC test:

  • 1st refusal: Automatic one-year license suspension
  • 2nd refusal: Automatic two-year license suspension
  • 3rd refusal: Automatic three-year license suspension
  • License re-instatement fee of several hundred dollars at the end of suspension

 
If you have any previous OVI convictions on your record and refuse a BAC test, the court will likely increase the length of time of your suspension.

These penalties can apply even if you are not convicted of an OVI. This is a very important note: many drivers think that, by refusing to take the Breathalyzer, they are avoiding all penalties by avoiding an OVI conviction; however, they may still end up with penalties from the refusal.

If you do refuse a BAC test, know that all is not lost. You are allowed to appeal an automatic license suspension for a number of reasons.

You Decide

With all that said, why would you want to refuse to take a chemical test? One reason is that, if you take the test and your results show that your BAC is more than 0.17, the penalties and charges you face will be more severe. Another is that it may be more difficult for prosecutors to build a case against you if you refuse to take all field sobriety and chemical tests.

It is up to you to decide whether or not submitting to a BAC test is in your best interests.

If you are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving, the best thing you can do is to calmly cooperate while asserting your rights. Besides giving the officer your identifying information, you are not required to answer such questions as, “Have you been drinking tonight?”

These types of questions are designed so that you incriminate yourself. Instead, you may politely tell the officer that you will not answer any more questions without the advice of an attorney. Remember that, while the officer may seem to be just chatting with you, he or she is actually looking for evidence to use against you. You also do not have to submit to field sobriety tests (such as the walk-the-line or pen tests). It is not a crime to refuse to take them.

After an Arrest

Whatever you decide, know that Casper & Casper is here to help you fight an OVI charge and license suspension.

We are a team of experienced and understanding OVI defense attorneys in Middletown, Ohio who know what it takes to successfully overcome OVI-related charges and penalties.

We’ll work with you to develop a plan for your specific case. Depending on your unique situation, we will advocate to appeal your automatic license suspension or restore driving privileges lost from an over-the-limit test result. We will also work to avoid an OVI conviction or lessen the penalties you face.

If you are facing OVI charges, contact Casper & Casper today for a free consultation. During this consultation, we will listen to you, let you know your options, and help you determine the best path to take to fight your charges.

 

Sources:

February 9, 2017

Shop Local, including Attorneys

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 4:12 pm

There are lots of reasons why people buy goods from national corporations: a large selection of products and free two-day shipping, for example. When it comes to some things, however, local is simply better.

why it is better to shop local

An attorney is one of those things.

Why is it in your best interests to hire a local attorney? Read the top reasons, below, you should consider hiring a local lawyer to resolve your legal issue.

#1 You can easily get recommendations for a local attorney

Local law firms have a reputation, good or bad, in their community. People who have lived in your community for years, including your friends and neighbors, will be able to tell you their experience with various firms. When you ask around, you will get recommendations from people you know and whose opinions you trust. You’ll be able to find out which law firms just look good on paper and which will truly go the extra mile for their clients.

If you want to know more about an out-of-town law firm, you won’t be able to get the same in-depth information. You can look them up online, but it can be hard to make a decision by reading brief reviews written by people you don’t know.

#2 A local attorney will be more accessible

There are three things that most people look for in an attorney: experience, a professional and caring demeanor, and access. While it’s true that you can find experienced, professional attorneys in and out of town, you will only get the best access to your attorney if he or she is local.

If your attorney is local, you will be able to have face-to-face meetings with him or her more often. The firm’s office will be nearby, which means you’ll be able to stop in to ask questions or drop off documents. You’ll also be able to reach your attorney in an emergency, and he or she will be able to arrive more quickly.

Conversely, if your attorney is out-of-town, you will likely do a lot of your business over the phone and by mail. This can slow down the process considerably and cause you a lot of extra hassle. In addition, you may speak to a lot of paralegals and junior associates and have little contact with your actual attorney. You’ll likely end up feeling like a number, instead of the person with important needs and desires that you are.

#3 A local attorney will be well-known within the community

A good local attorney who has practiced for years in your community will be well-respected by members of the legal profession. This attorney will have experience working with other lawyers, judges, physicians, and other professionals in the area. He or she will have intimate knowledge of the local courts and will be familiar with their procedure’s peculiar quirks, giving him or her an advantage in legal proceedings.

A local attorney will have worked hard to maintain a reputation of professionalism and integrity among his or her peers. Having an attorney who is well-respected in the community can only improve your experience.

#4 A local attorney may be less costly

When you hire a local attorney, you won’t have to worry about paying high travel costs, like mileage, hotel stays, and meals. Since your attorney is local, he or she will be able to quickly and inexpensively travel to attend meetings, interview witnesses, and represent you in court. This means, of course, more money and less worry for you.

#5 Supporting a local attorney means supporting your community

An attorney is in many ways a businessperson. He or she may work at a firm that employs, in addition to the attorneys, a number of paralegals, receptionists, and other professionals. These are people who live and work in your community. By supporting them, you are ensuring that the money you spend stays in the community. We believe this is something you can feel good about.

Choosing an attorney is an important decision, and we hope that the information above helped you feel more confident making it. Whether you decide to go with a local or an out-of-town attorney, make sure to hire one who cares about you and your success.

At Casper & Casper Law, we care about our community and the people in it. We want the opportunity to help you.

Our team of attorneys are experienced in personal injury, workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability, and OVI law. If you have a legal issue in one of these areas, contact us for a free consultation. We’d be happy to sit down with you, discuss your needs, and, if you choose us, determine how we can get the best possible outcome for your case.

January 31, 2017

What If I’m Hurt on the Job but off the Clock?

Filed under: General — Casper & Casper @ 1:29 am

Workers’ compensation seems pretty simple on the surface: an employer pays for workers’ compensation to cover its employees’ work-related injuries, regardless of who was at fault. In return for this coverage, the employee is not permitted to sue the employer to pay for the injury. Instead, the employee makes a claim through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance and is paid for his or her medical bills.

Does workers compensation cover my injury if I'm off the clock?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple at all. Read on to learn the rules applied to determine whether or not an injury is covered by workers’ compensation.

The Work-related Rule

In order for an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, several criteria have to be met. One of these is that the injury be work-related. That means that the employee was injured in the course of his or her employment (while the employee was performing the duties of his or her job).

If a construction worker drops a hammer on his foot while working at a construction site, this is a fairly clear-cut case of a work-related injury. If the same construction worker drops a hammer on his foot while hanging up a picture frame at home, he cannot make a workers’ compensation claim.

In many other cases, however, determining whether an injury was “work-related” can be tricky. Often, it is up to the court—making a decision based on the arguments of the attorneys involved—to decide whether an injury counts as work-related.

Take the example of an employee who gets into a car accident while on his or her way to work. You might think that any injuries sustained in the car accident are work-related (after all, the injured person was driving to work); however, in Ohio, accidents to and from work are not often covered by workers’ compensation. This is called the “going or coming” rule, which states that workers’ compensation doesn’t apply until the employee arrives at his or her workplace. Still, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the employee was injured in a car accident while traveling on a business trip, he or she would be covered. If an employee is injured while running an errand for his or her employer, he or she may be covered.

Another common injury is one that occurs while on the employee’s lunch break. Say that an employee trips and breaks an ankle while walking to a nearby restaurant for lunch. This injury wouldn’t be covered by workers’ compensation. However, if the employee had been walking to the restaurant to pick up lunch for everyone in the office, he or she might be covered. Similarly, if the employee sprains an ankle while in the employee cafeteria located on company premises, it’s possible that the injury will be covered.

Other potentially work-related injuries include those sustained while at a company picnic, retreat, or even a team-building softball tournament.

The On the Clock Rule

Another criterion that is important to workers’ compensation claims is whether the employee was “on the clock.”

Like the work-related requirement, the on-the-clock rule is not always straightforward. It does not mean that injuries are covered only if they happened during business hours or a scheduled shift. If an employee visits the office after business hours and injures himself, he would not be covered. However, if his boss knew of and approved the visit, the employee may have a claim. Further, in the examples given above, the employees that were traveling for work or getting lunch for the office were not “on the clock” in the traditional sense, but their actions were still done in the course of their employment—making it possible that their injuries would be covered by workers’ compensation.

If all this seems confusing, we understand. It can be extremely difficult—particularly when you are injured—to navigate the maze of rules, regulations, and exceptions involved in workers’ compensation law.

If you have been injured on the job, we strongly recommend contacting an attorney for advice. A good workers’ compensation attorney will determine if you have a claim, explain the process, and walk you through the steps. Having an attorney will also make it more likely that your claim is accepted and that your settlement is fair.

The attorneys at Casper & Casper have years of experience handling every aspect of workers’ compensation claims. Our attorneys are caring, dedicated professionals who will work with you beginning to end, from compiling your medical records to representing you at your workers’ compensation hearing. We want you to get the compensation you need and deserve.

Let us take care of your claim so that you can focus on getting better. Call us today at 1-800-784-2889 for a free consultation.

Sources:
- NOLO
- Insurance Information Institute

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