Frequently Asked Questions from Travis Miller Attorney at Law PLLC
Personal Injury – Car Wrecks, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Injuries at Work
I’ve been in a car wreck. It wasn’t my fault. Do I need a lawyer?
It depends. This is a tough question to answer without knowing the specific facts of your case. The fact is that many times you can successfully resolve minor car wreck claims without a lawyer. If we believe you could resolve your claim without hiring a lawyer, we will tell you so free of charge. However, if your situation involves serious injuries, lost wages and/or property damage, you may be wise to hire a lawyer to help. Either way, Travis Miller offers a free consultation, and there is no obligation.
What will the lawyer do for me?
This is another tough one because each case is so different. We can’t speak for all law firms, but our firm tries to get you your life back. Some cases can be resolved with a few phone calls and a letter or two. Other cases are much more complex, requiring a jury trial or an appeal to the Supreme Court of West Virginia.
We often say to our clients, “Let us worry about your case. You worry about getting better.” What this means is we take care of all the phone calls from insurance companies and bill collectors. We handle all the paperwork. You focus on recovering from your injuries.
At Travis Miller Attorney at Law, we can:
- Stop the calls from the insurance companies
- File all needed claims with the at fault driver’s insurance company and/or your own insurance company
- Obtain all needed documents and records for you
- Look for insurance coverage to pay your medical bills
- Help you find all possible insurance policies that may cover your claim
- Prepare your case for settlement negotiations
- If need be, prepare your case for trial
I see many big law firms advertising on TV. Why should I hire Travis Miller?
Because we operate differently but achieve excellent results. Some of these big law firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year just on advertising. Think about how many cases it would take to justify that type of advertising budget. These same firms may only employ three to ten lawyers. It becomes pretty clear your case is not going to receive much personal attention at these firms.
We don’t operate like that. We only accept a limited number of personal injury claims. This way we can give each case the individual attention it deserves. This strategy also allows us to have available the resources needed to take your case to trial if needed. At our office, you will be able to deal directly with the lawyer handling your claim.
Social Security Disability
Why do I need a lawyer?
First, statistics show claimants who hire a lawyer to assist them with their claim have a much higher approval rate than claimants who represent themselves. Second, the Social Security Administration has lawyers. The Social Security judge that will hear your case is a lawyer. You need a lawyer on your side. Third, Social Security rules and regulations are extremely complex and detailed. Laws regulating a Social Security Disability claim range from decisions issued by the United States Supreme Court to internal policy manuals used at the local field offices. Fourth, a lawyer can help your claim go through the appeal process faster. This is important because these claims can take a very long time and you don’t want to add any unneeded delay.
What is a benefits consultant?
That’s a good question with no clear answer. First, benefits consultants are not lawyers. Lawyers must earn an undergraduate college degree and then complete law school. After that, lawyers must pass a multi-day examination in order to be licensed to practice law. Once licensed, West Virginia lawyers are governed by the West Virginia State Bar and held to a strict code of conduct and ethics.
Second, the Social Security regulations say a claimant may appoint any person as a representative that is “known to have a good character and reputation” and “is capable of giving valuable help to you.” However, there is really no way to measure either of these criteria. This means that an individual who has no specialized education, no training and no experience can hold himself or herself out as able to represent claimants in Social Security claims.
Furthermore, the regulations do not require a benefits consultant to tell you up front he/she is not a lawyer. Some of the early warning signs you are not dealing with a lawyer are the words “advocate” or “consultant.” Lawyers are called lawyers or attorneys. Also, look closely at the business name. Does it include words such as “lawyer,” “attorney at law,” “legal group,” etc. If not, you are likely not dealing with a lawyer’s office.
Third, to make matters worse, benefits consultants CANNOT represent you at all appeal levels available in your claim. Social Security Disability claims sometimes require appeal to a United States federal court. A licensed lawyer is the only representative that can file this type of appeal. If you hire a benefits consultant to represent you, you will have to hire a lawyer to appeal your claim to federal court if you want representation at the court level.
How do I know if I’m dealing with a lawyer?
This one is easy. Just ask. You should simply ask during the very first phone call or email, “Are you a lawyer?”
Does it cost the same to hire a lawyer as it does a benefits consultant?
Yes and No. The Social Security Administration allows benefits consultants to charge the same fees as a lawyer. All of the benefits consultants we are aware of charge the same fee as a lawyer. However, what we often see when folks come to us after being represented by a benefits consultant is that the case was not properly developed by the benefits consultant. We then have to attempt to go back and obtain the missing evidence and needed evaluations. If nothing else, this costs additional time that could have been avoided had the claimant hired a lawyer first.
What is the fee to hire a lawyer?
Fees in Social Security Disability claims are regulated by the Social Security Administration. In fact, the Administration must review and approve every request to charge a fee. Our office uses what is called a contingent fee agreement. This means you do not owe any fee unless we win your claim and you receive past due benefits. My office does not charge any fee until you win your claim.
The guy at my local Social Security office told me he would help me file the claim. So why do I need a lawyer?
This is likely true. A claims representative at your local Social Security office will help you file a claim. However, there are two important facts you need to know. First, Social Security employees are under no duty to represent your best interests. They will help you file the claim but not necessarily in the best way. Second, a claims representative at your local office is not involved in actually making disability decisions. Therefore, that representative may not be familiar with what information is or is not important to a successful outcome in your particular claim.
What about these out-of-state firms I see advertised on TV and on the internet?
It is true there are many out-of-state firms advertising they can represent you in your claim. Because Social Security is a federal program, it does not require the representative to even have an office in the same state as you. This means that an office in California will say they can effectively represent you in West Virginia. In fact, there was recently a law firm from Los Angeles California advertising in our West Virginia phonebooks. These firms also frequently advertise on the internet. One sure sign that a website is from an out-of-state firm is when the website does not state where the firm is located or provide a physical address.
What is worse is that most of these offices are not even lawyer offices. When you deal with these out-of-state firms, you most often deal with a number of case managers. These case managers are not the person who will represent you at your hearing. These firms most often contract with various offices across the country. When your case is set for a hearing in West Virginia, the firm you originally hired will send someone from the office closet to you to your hearing. The day of your hearing is often the first time you will ever see or speak to the actual person representing you at your hearing.
These out-of-state firms do not meet with you, they do not know your doctors and they often are not lawyers.
We do not feel this is good way to conduct business. If you do, we probably cannot change your mind. If you are considering hiring an out-of-state firm, we would encourage you to call us to discuss this decision. The call is free and there is no obligation. After speaking with us, if you still feel someone from California or New York can more effectively represent you, then we wish you luck.
How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
The easiest way is to call our office. We can help you file your application usually in the same week in which you call. This is also the best way to ensure you have correctly and accurately completed your application and the numerous required forms. The application forms are like the foundation of a house. Once the foundation is built, it is extremely difficult to fix mistakes. Since there are no upfront fees, it can make sense to hire a lawyer right from the start of your claim. You can also call your local Social Security office to file a claim. You will be given a telephone appointment several weeks in the future to file your claim over the phone with a Social Security representative. Finally, you can go to www.ssa.gov to file your claim online.
I’m over 50 years old? I have heard it’s easier to get Social Security disability after 50?
Yes and no. The answer to this question is very complicated. In general, the disability rules can relax at age 50. However, this is not automatic. Whether or not you get the advantage of the relaxed rules is dependent on the particulars of your individual case. This determination will largely be made based on the forms you complete with your initial application. We at Travis Miller Attorney at Law have dealt with countless cases involving this situation and are extremely familiar with the rules in this area. If you are over 50, we strongly urge you to call us today to discuss your case.
Veterans Service Connected Disability Benefits
What conditions can qualify for benefits?
Almost all medically diagnosable conditions can qualify for disability benefits if:
- You have a current disability
- You had an injury, a disease or some event that occurred while in the military, and…
- The current disability must be connected to the injury, disease or event.
What kind of information do I need to support my claim?
The most common types of evidence used in these claims are military service records and VA medical treatment records. However, many veterans do not realize you can also use medical records from private medical providers. You can also use statements from friends, family and fellow soldiers. We can also refer you for private physical and psychological disability evaluations if this type of evidence is not currently available in your record.
How long does this take?
The simple answer is it takes a long time. It can take 8 – 12 months just to receive the initial decision after you file your claim.
What if my condition has gotten worse?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, we can appeal a rating decision, assist you in filing a claim for an increased rating or possibly seek reopening of a prior claim.