Dog bite injuries and SSDI benefits?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was mauled by three dogs about a month ago. I suffered severe injuries, and I am unlikely to work again for at least 12 months. I have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dog, but I was wondering if I might also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? I plan to eventually return to work but need help with income replacement until that happens.”

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Social Security Disability Insurance Overview

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is wage replacement benefits for workers who have suffered a severe injury or debilitating condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and does not allow the employee to work or perform what the SSDI considers “substantial gainful activity.” Workers must also pay Social Security taxes and generate what the SSA calls “work credits” to qualify.

You did not mention whether you have consistently worked, but assuming you have, you should meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI. So, whether or not you can qualify for SSDI for a dog bite will depend on whether the SSA considers your condition severe and whether they agree that it will keep you from working for 12 continuous months.

How do I prove my dog bite injuries are disabling?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two methods they use to determine whether a claimant is disabled. First, they review whether the claimants condition is listed in the SSA Listing of Impairments, a listing of conditions and associated symptoms that they consider automatically disabling, or whether the claimant’s condition is as severe as a listed condition.

Dog bite injuries are not a listed condition, but this does not mean that your condition may not have caused other injuries which are listed. For example, if your injuries caused severe liver, intestinal, or kidney injuries, you may meet a listing. Additionally, certain musculoskeletal  injuries such as severe fractures or amputations could also be disabling.

What if your condition does not meet or equal a listing? You will need prove that you are disabled under a medical vocational allowance, which is the second method the SSA uses to determine you are disabled. Under this process, you will need to provide evidence that you do not have the functional capacity to work.

Although it’s possible to win benefits through a medical vocational allowance, most claimants who do not meet a listing will be denied SSDI benefits the first time they apply and must file an appeal.

Personal injury awards and dog bite injuries

Although you did not ask this question, it’s important to note that receiving a personal injury settlement will not eliminate your chance to receive SSDI benefits. Claimants who do not qualify for SSDI benefit and who apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), however, may eliminate their right to SSI benefits if their personal injury settlement is too high. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions. Under some conditions, there are methods you can use to create special trusts to receive your settlement award and SSI.

Bottom line:

Dog bite injuries can be severe and even fatal. If you have been mauled by a dog and suffered severe dog bite injuries which will not allow you to work for at least one year, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.

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