How a Car Accident Victim Can Receive Injury Compensation and Disability Income 

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Key Points:

  • If you are injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you may have a legal claim against the driver who hit you and be entitled to compensation for your damages. 
  • In most cases, receiving disability benefits for a car accident will not affect your personal injury claim or settlement. 
  • Georgia does not offer a state disability program for car accident victims, but disabled workers can seek support through social security insurance programs. You may also qualify for state workers’ compensation benefits if your injury or illness is work-related. 
  • Car accident victims who are unable to work may also qualify for benefits through private short-term or long-term disability insurance policies, which may be provided by employers or purchased individually. 

When you are injured in a car accident, you and your family may experience significant financial hardships if you are unable to work. If the accident was not your fault, you may have a legal claim against the driver who hit you and be entitled to compensation for your damages. Depending on the type and severity of your injuries, you may also be eligible for disability benefits through federal, state, and/or private insurance programs.  

Is a Car Accident Settlement Possible Even if You Receive Disability Income for the Car Accident?

Yes. In most cases, receiving disability benefits for a car accident will not affect your personal injury claim or settlement. However, disability benefits can impact the amount of compensation you receive in your car accident settlement. For example, if you received social security disability payments before your car accident, your settlement may not include compensation for lost income or reduced earning capacity.  

Is Disability Income Possible Even if You Win a Car Accident Settlement? 

Yes. Receiving a personal injury settlement for a car accident generally does not affect your disability benefits. For example, social security disability insurance (SSDI) is based on your work history and disability status. There are income limits on what you can earn through work before you are disqualified, but unearned income and assets do not count towards the limit for SSDI. That means a lump sum personal injury settlement will not cause a reduction or stop your SSDI payments. You can continue to receive your SSDI payments until you can return to work, reach retirement age, or are no longer considered disabled. 

However, supplemental security income (SSI) is a needs-based program for low-income people with disabilities or those over 65. If you receive a large lump sum settlement that increases your resources, your SSI benefits may be reduced or eliminated. 

Does Georgia Offer a State Disability Insurance Program for Car Accident Victims? 

No. Georgia does not offer a state disability program for car accident victims, but disabled workers can seek support through SSDI and SSI programs. You may also qualify for state workers’ compensation benefits if your injury or illness is work-related. 

Does the Car Accident Victim’s Profession Matter When It Comes to Qualifying for Disability Income? 

The victim’s profession can be a factor when determining whether they qualify for disability income because it matters how much the injury limits their ability to work. For example, a construction worker with a back injury may be more likely to qualify than an office worker with the same injury because the construction worker’s job is more physically demanding. 

In addition, some professions tend to pay better than others, and a person who earns a substantial annual income may not qualify for disability because they exceed the income limits of the program. 

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance? 

If you have been injured in a car accident and your injuries have prevented you from working for at least a year (or are expected to), you may be eligible for social security disability insurance benefits. For purposes of SSDI, it does not matter how you were injured (i.e., who was at fault) or whether your accident was work-related. 

You can seek coverage by showing that there are no jobs you can do with your new limitations or that your limitations meet the criteria in a disability listed by the Social Security Administration, the federal agency that offers retirement, survivor, and disability benefits to eligible individuals. 

Car accident victims can show they meet the listed criteria with medical documentation proving they suffer from conditions such as leg or arm fractures, back injuries, soft tissue injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if you do not meet one of the disability listings, you may still qualify for benefits if you can show that you lack the physical or mental capacity to work. If you qualify, benefits usually continue until you can work again on a regular basis. 

To receive SSDI, you must also meet non-medical requirements. First, you must be under the retirement age. Second, you must have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years and earned 40 work credits. Third, you cannot exceed the earned income limit, which means you are not eligible for benefits if you earn over $1,550 a month.  

Keep in mind that any money you receive from a car accident settlement is not considered earned income, which means it would not affect your ability to receive SSDI. Supplemental security income provides payments to disabled people with low income and few resources, so a large settlement may affect your ability to receive SSI benefits. 

Securing SSDI benefits can be a challenging process for several reasons. First, the definition of a disability is strictly interpreted, so it can be hard to qualify. Second, gathering the necessary medical documentation can be difficult and time consuming. Third, the application process is lengthy, and many applications are denied at the initial stage, requiring an appeal to be successful. Fourth, there is often a waiting period before benefits begin, which can create financial hardship after a car accident. Finally, conditions like depression or post-traumatic stress can be harder to document and prove than physical impairments. 

Is Workers’ Compensation a Form of Disability Insurance? 

Yes. Workers’ compensation benefits are available through a state insurance program paid by your employer and can cover medical, rehabilitation, and income losses if you are injured on the job. Under the law, any business with three or more workers, including regular part-time workers, are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance. If you are injured in a car accident while performing job duties, you should be covered and receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. 

To receive workers’ compensation coverage, you had to be performing a task for the benefit of your employer at the time of the crash. For example, if you were running an errand related to your job, such as meeting a client, you are performing a work-related task. On the other hand, if you were simply going to a restaurant during your lunch break or running a personal errand, that may not be considered “on the job.”  

When deciding whether workers’ compensation coverage applies, the circumstances of the task you are performing matters more than whether the car you were driving was owned by your employer. In other words, you can perform work-related tasks in a personal vehicle just as you can perform personal errands in a company car. 

Keep in mind that even if you accept workers’ compensation benefits from your employer, you still have the right to seek damages from an at-fault driver who injured you in a car accident. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be entitled to more compensation than workers’ comp is obligated to pay.  

For example, if you are hit by a drunk driver and suffer serious injuries, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well as compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress. However, the workers’ comp insurer will only cover your medical expenses and lost wages because it is not required to pay for noneconomic losses or punitive damages. 

Claimants may face challenges when seeking workers’ comp benefits when the employer or insurance company disputes that the accident was work-related or claims that the injured worker was not an employee who is covered (because they may be an independent contractor or freelancer). 

In Georgia, people who qualify for workers’ comp benefits may also qualify for other benefits such as SSDI, unemployment compensation, and short-term or long-term disability coverage.

What Is Short-Term Disability Insurance? 

As the name implies, short-term disability (STD) insurance provides benefits if you are unable to work for a short period of time. STD coverage is private insurance you must purchase or get through your employer—there is no state-run program or requirement in Georgia. 

The purpose of STD insurance is to help cover expenses when you are unable to work because of illness or injury. This type of insurance generally applies to accidents or illnesses that are not work-related, since workers’ comp applies to accidents and illnesses related to work; however, the terms of your policy may provide broader coverage. Typically, STD policies will cover a portion of your income (e.g., around 60 percent of your average wage) for a specified period, such as three to six months. 

To qualify for benefits after a car accident, you must meet the terms for coverage under your insurance policy. For example, many policies have a mandatory waiting period before you can get access to benefits, though the period is usually less than 14 days, and many policies have no waiting period at all. In addition, for coverage to apply, you must be unable to work for a certain time, with the determination made by a medical doctor. 

If the insurer challenges the doctor’s determination or requires additional medical documentation, it may deny your coverage. In addition, you may face more challenges getting STD benefits for illnesses rather than injuries because injuries are typically easier to prove. If you receive payments from a STD policy and then collect workers’ comp, Georgia law allows an employer/insurer to receive a credit for the STD payments.

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What Is Long-Term Disability Insurance?

Like STD insurance, long-term disability (LTD) insurance coverage may be provided by employers or purchased by individuals. If you have LTD coverage and are unable to work because of an accident or illness, you may be eligible to receive payments whether the accident is work-related or not. Whether you are covered after a car accident depends on the terms of your policy.  

If you also qualify for workers’ compensation or social security, the amount you receive from your LTD policy may be offset by those benefits. If your injury was not work-related and you receive a personal injury settlement, it likely will not affect your LTD benefits unless there is an offset clause in your policy.  

How much LTD pays depends on the terms of your policy, but it is generally a percentage of your wages (e.g., 50 to 80 percent) minus other benefits. The terms of your policy also determine how long you will receive benefits and what types of disabilities qualify. Though the definition of “disabled” varies by policy, the basic criteria is that you have a medical condition that prevents you from working in your own occupation or any other occupation for which you are qualified. 

Most LTD plans will continue to pay benefits until you reach a specific age, often 65 or 70. There is often a waiting period (e.g., 180 days) before LTD benefits kick in, but STD coverage might bridge the gap until then. 

Car accident victims seeking LTD may face challenges when seeking coverage. For example, the insurer may argue that you do not meet the definition of disabled because it can be hard to prove that you cannot perform the essential duties of your job or any occupation for which you are qualified. This is especially true if you have a white-collar job or an occupation with flexible duties. 

In addition, the insurer may challenge the doctor’s determination or claim you need more medical documentation to prove your claim. The insurer may also argue that you had a pre-existing condition that you did not accurately disclose. 

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Is MedPay Insurance a Form of Disability Insurance?  

No, MedPay is not disability insurance. MedPay insurance is an optional add-on to auto insurance policies that helps pay for medical expenses related to vehicular accidents. MedPay can cover expenses for you, your passengers, and any pedestrians injured in a car accident. It can also cover medical costs if you or a family member are riding as a passenger in another vehicle or are injured in a car accident as a pedestrian, bike rider, or public transportation rider.  

If you have MedPay, you can receive coverage regardless of who was at fault for the accident. 

MedPay acts as a supplemental policy that is used to bridge the coverage gap between your other insurance policies (i.e., auto and health insurance). For example, MedPay can help pay for out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance not covered by other policies as well as medical expenses not covered by health insurance, including funeral costs. 

MedPay does not cover medical expenses that exceed your policy limit, wage reimbursement, childcare costs, pain and suffering, and medical expenses related to an accident you caused while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

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