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Working While Applying for Social Security Disability

If you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and/or SSI benefits, then either you have been forced to stop working entirely or are making and doing less that what Social Security calls “substantial gainful activity.” Whether you are disabled in Social Security’s view is tied directly to your physical and mental ability to perform work activities. In order for your attorney to help you on your claim for benefits your attorney needs to know immediately if you perform any work for money while your claim is pending. It is even a better idea to talk to your attorney before you return to work in any capacity – – including self-employment! That way your lawyer can advise you on how this work may affect your claim.

If you think your health has improved while your claim is pending and you believe there may be work you can perform at some point, please tell your attorney. If you are our client, we’ll certainly help you any way we can. You may want to consider contacting Georgia Vocational Services (or your state’s equivalent of this agency) to inquire about retraining for lighter or different work than that you have performed in the past. People are generally happier and make more money working for pay rather than when forced to rely on Social Security Disability Insurance and/or SSI because their physical and mental health prevents them from working. So talk to us about plans of returning to the workforce if you are fortunate enough that your health improves. Health improvement is always welcome news! Remember that working will likely impact your pending Social Security disability case in some way, so always discuss it with your attorney.

Why Personal Injury is Important to Us

In the late ‘80s in Georgia, two attorneys named Ken Smith and James Wallis established a law firm after winning a very successful personal injury case. The case was argued in front of a jury and the victim’s compensation was over $800K, and was awarded in Fulton County, GA.

The case launched Smith and Wallis to begin their own practice, and the firm became well-respected for the attorneys’ strength and willingness to fight for their clients.  I  joined the firm in 1993 and it became known as Smith, Wallis & Scott.   Today, we have two fantastic, younger, partners with Joseph Brown and Isabel Aidun.

New faces have joined the team, but we’re still rooted in the strong foundation Ken and Jim built. In addition to Social Security disability and workers’ compensation, personal injury law services remains a cornerstone of our practice.

When we speak with folks we’re representing on the Social Security and workers’ comp side of our practice, they’re often surprised to learn we also do personal injury law. Given the confines of Social Security disability and workers’ comp law, clients aren’t adequately compensated for pain and suffering. In personal injury law, we learn the extent to which an injury has affected a client’s life. We learn the intimate parts of their daily lives so we can best represent them and fight to secure them fair compensation for their injuries. We often feel we can do more for our clients in this area of law than in the other areas that where compensation is limited by the law’s constraints.

In a personal injury case, a person has been hurt by another party, and those injuries affect every living moment of their lives — sometimes temporarily, sometimes for years, and sometimes permanently. Personal injury clients often have their lives turned upside down; they’re not able to take care of their kids in the same way, and in some cases, they have to end their careers.

Some of the cases we’ve tried over the years have gone on to change state law in Georgia’s appellate courts. In the 90s’s, in the Floyd v. First Union case, the appellate court overturned the trial court in our client’s favor to allow a company’s net worth into evidence for the purpose of calculating punitive damages. And as recently as 2017, we successfully argued to the Georgia Court of Appeals that an automobile insurance company must honor its uninsured motorist policy and pay our client, despite the company’s argument that it did not have to pay and should get a set-off on any workers’ compensation payments another company made to our client. In that case both the trial court and the appellate court sided with our client against the automobile insurance company, allowing  our client to receive the full value of his uninsured motorist policy. In 2014, we got one of the largest personal injury verdicts for cases tried in federal court in the Northern District of Florida. These verdicts and court opinions not only helped our clients, but set precedents that continue to help other victims of personal injury.

We’re always willing to fight for what’s right. We are not afraid to keep going after a verdict until we get the resolution our clients deserve. Thankfully, our firm has a reputation of doing a good job in personal injury as well as in workers’ compensation and Social Security disability.  This makes it easier for us to resolve cases in out of court settlements and in obtaining awards through trials.    Based on the results we have obtained for our clients over the years, insurance companies are often more willing to think realistically and deliberately about the claims they are defending than they might otherwise because they know we’ll fight it all the way.

When clients get all they need to assist with their pain and suffering, we feel justice has been done. Money helps folks take care of the financial aspects of their injuries, of course, but a jury voting in their favor also puts salve to those wounds and validates that juries — people —  care about making wrongs right.  And that is priceless.

Dealing with Household Finances After a Loved One’s Accident

if a loved one Lost suddenly, the surviving family was face-to-face with an unplanned, difficult reality.

Know how assets are titled. Many couples don’t realize that assets held in an individual’s name do not immediately offer the right of “spousal transfer.” These include brokerage and checking accounts. When banks learn of the death of an account holder (the estate has an obligation to inform the bank about the death), the bank can freeze the account.

Know the terms of any credit card accounts. Cards can close automatically upon the death of the account owner; so you may need to arrange a new method of payment for services that have been set up on auto payment. If you are an authorized user on an account that was owned by the deceased, do not use the card after the main cardholder dies; because you’re not liable for the debt, use of the card after the owner passes could be considered fraud.

Educate yourself on investments and how to access important records. work with your bank trust department or an estate attorney.

Know what life insurance is owned and how to file a claim in order to avoid delays. In the absence of a Will, state law will govern the disposition of assets; so write down what you want to happen.

A Powerful Behavior to Help You Regain Control

The Game-Changing Power of the Weekly Review

Statistics from the Pew Research Center indicate that 20 percent of Americans suffer from information overload. With constant exposure to advertisements, TV shows, podcasts and social media posts, it’s difficult to apply the information we encounter to our daily lives.

You may never absorb and fully utilize all of the information you encounter, but the right system can help you make the most of especially relevant stuff. Read on to learn about the power of the weekly review and how to integrate this key practice into your life:

Why a Weekly Review Helps

Your weekly review offers a valuable opportunity to organize an array of information in an easily digestible manner. Your chief goal? To reduce confusion and expedite the week ahead. Remember the analogy of sharpening the saw to expedite cutting down a tree? Think of this process as your version of sharpening the saw.

How to Conduct a Weekly Review

Begin by scheduling a time to review, free of distractions. Examine your current projects and rank them based on urgency. Look at your calendar, and jot down details as necessary. Think about projects for which you’ve struggled to set aside time, and determine how you can fit even small aspects of these tasks into your schedule for the next week.

Reviewing, Not Doing

The key to success in a weekly review: abiding by its name. Spend this special time reviewing, and not doing. Resist the urge to tackle items on your checklist, and instead, focus on prioritizing and scheduling. You’ll thank yourself later.

As you complete your weekly review, be sure to schedule in time for a consultation with Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP. Prompt legal counsel can reduce a huge source of mental burden and make you more effective in all aspects of your life. Call (770) 214-2500 to get started.

Healthy Living Ideas for Those on Social Security Disability

Better Habits For Better Health—Even (Or Especially) If You Have a Disability

Disabilities often prompt black and white thinking in regards to healthy living. Your health is already compromised, so why try?

Although understandable, this all or nothing thinking pattern ultimately destroys your health and happiness. Full health may be unattainable at this point, but the right habits can grant you more energy and vitality than you ever thought possible.

Avoid Sugar and Processed Carbs

Conflicting information makes it difficult to determine an appropriate daily diet. Researchers disagree heavily on the wisdom of various diets, but they almost universally agree that added sugars should be avoided whenever possible. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 20 grams of sugar per day. Men should only consume 36 grams of sugar each day.

Move Your Body

Your disability may make it difficult to exercise as often as recommended, but in all likelihood, you have more options than you think. Consider joining an adapted athletic team or an aerobics class specifically designed to suit disabled individuals. Yoga may also prove useful for both physical and mental health; instructors will encourage you to adapt poses as needed for your personal health and comfort.

Maintain Social Connections

Research indicates that isolation can be even more harmful than a bad diet or minimal exercise. Reaching out can be tough when you’re disabled, but it’s absolutely imperative. Get involved in a support group, or spend time in whatever social settings are most accessible. Chat with friends and family members on the phone. Even online discussions can help you feel less alone. Small changes sometimes prove the most effective as you seek a healthier and happier lifestyle.

As you focus on improving your physical health, let Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP handle your legal concerns. Call (770) 214-2500 to learn more.

On Social Security Disability and Making the Most of Time

Prioritizing What’s Really Important When Time Is Precious

Whether you’re terminally ill or simply busy managing a chronic disability, time is likely your most precious commodity. Instead of falling prey to grief or anxiety about your limited hours, optimize your schedule by highlighting a few priorities. Struggling to get started? Follow these simple suggestions:

Determine What Matters

Off the top of your head, name the three things that matter most in life. Now, dig deeper to determine why they matter. Do you devote as much time or attention to these priorities as they warrant? If you answered no, what stands in the way?

Cut Out the Non-essentials

Nobody ever feels as if they have enough time, but you enjoy even less room for unnecessary distraction than your peers. Identify time expenditures that fail to improve your quality of life or spur you towards accomplishing your goal. A prime example: social media. Does surfing Facebook or Instagram really make you happier, or does it incite envy? Block social media apps on your phone or delete your accounts altogether. Replace that time with meaningful activities that deliver true satisfaction.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

If Tim Ferriss teaches us anything in the acclaimed 4-Hour Workweek, it’s that more time does not always elicit better results. He’s all about deep work, in which you eliminate distractions to accomplish great things. Determine where your efforts are wasted, and how a few small tweaks could expedite work, chores, and other necessities.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

It’s impossible to accomplish all things at all times, especially if you’re dealing with severe illness or disability. Forgive yourself for your inability to do it all. Do what you can, when you can, and live in the moment.

Strong legal representation should be a priority. Let Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP handle your concerns so you can focus on living your life to the fullest while you still can. Call (770) 214-2500 for more information.

Sick and in Need of Social Security Disability: Dealing with the Holidays

Celebrating the Holidays When You Are Profoundly Injured or Sick

Ill health can make it difficult to enjoy many of the trappings of a festive holiday season. Limited mobility might prevent you from traveling to loved ones’ homes to celebrate. Social media images and braggadocious Christmas letters spark feelings of envy. No matter your circumstances, happy holidays are possible—you simply need to adjust your mindset and, perhaps, your plans.

Host a Laid-Back Holiday Party

Unable to travel for the holidays? Why not bring the festivities to your place? No matter the size or state of your home, you can always host a wonderful party. Invite friends and family members over for a potluck or game night. Not comfortable at home? Meet up with friends at a local restaurant and let someone else do all the work.

Find a New Way to Exchange Gifts

The cliché about presence outranking presents definitely applies, especially if limited mobility and financial difficulties prevent traditional gift giving. Find a new way to give. Examples could include setting a dollar limit on gifts, playing a white elephant exchange game, exchanging homemade (or better yet, home-baked) gifts, or forgoing gift giving altogether.

Give Back

Remember—as bad as you have it, others are likely suffering even more than you are this holiday season. Gratitude and giving can alleviate much of your current turmoil. Get involved in a Toys for Tots drive, or if you’re able, volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Mobility and budgeting issues may limit your ability to assist your community, but even something as simple as a few cents for Salvation Army collectors can make a difference.

The holiday season may be in full swing, but there’s no better time to seek legal support. Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP today at (770) 214-2500 to seek feedback on your SSDI case.

Changing the Caregiver Experience to Meet Your Needs

Envisioning How You Want the Caregiving Experience to Change—And Figuring Out What to Do About It

If you’re anything like the typical caregiver, you experience significant mental turmoil, to the point that your physical health also takes a hit. From anxiety about your injured family member to sleepless nights spent addressing emergency situations, your caretaking difficulties never seem to end. Now that you’ve identified these challenges, you can take proactive steps to improve your life, while still helping a loved one in need.

Classify Changes As Acceptable Or Unacceptable

Some challenges may not be entirely problematic. Determine which aspects of the caregiving experience you can handle—or even actively enjoy—and which warrant changes. For example, you might have less time now for social outings, but perhaps you always dreaded going out on the town—and your caretaking duties give you an excuse to stay home. Health problems such as back pain from caretaking-related heavy lifting, however, are unacceptable.

Develop Steps to Change Unacceptable Circumstances

Once you’ve determined which aspects of caregiving require prompt changes, develop actionable steps that will lead you to a healthier and more satisfying life. Begin by prioritizing—don’t tackle everything at once. What about the caregiving lifestyle bothers you most?

If caregiving duties keep you too busy to sleep or partake in favorite hobbies, consider outsourcing certain tasks. There’s no shame in asking for help. Budget for equipment that will reduce heavy lifting or other burdens that could harm your health. A variety of strategies can ease every aspect of daily life for you and the person you assist.

The simple knowledge that your loved one enjoys strong legal support will reduce your mental burden as caregiver. Contact a Georgia car accident lawyer at Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn more.

Caregiving for a Georgia Car Accident Victim: Reflections

Reflecting On Your Caregiving Experience Thus Far

Everything changed when your loved one suffered a devastating car accident. Suddenly, you found yourself playing the simultaneous roles of chauffeur, nurse, and therapist. You feel tired, stressed, and perhaps, underappreciated… and yet, if you’re like some caregivers, there’s a certain satisfaction in being able to help a loved one in a time of need. There’s always room for improvement, however, as you’ll see when you reflect on your life as a caregiver.

Identify What Has Changed In Your Life—Good Or Bad

Acknowledge that you’ve experienced moments of great turmoil, but also moments of hope. Begin by recording negative changes; if you’re currently frustrated, this might make you feel better. Examples could include:

  • Late night care leaves you exhausted
  • You no longer have time for favorite hobbies
  • The surprising physicality of caregiving causes soreness or even injury
  • You frequently suffer anxiety
  • Your finances have taken a hit

It’s not all bad, however. While you would obviously prefer for your loved one regain full health, you just might observe a few silver linings. For example:

  • After spending so much time together, you and the injured person now enjoy a stronger relationship
  • You are more appreciative of your own good health
  • You are more empathetic to the needs of those with severe illnesses or injuries

Recording Changes in Your Life

Find a way to examine your life that makes sense to you. For many people, this means grabbing a notebook and pencil to record recent changes. Others prefer drawing sketches or forming collages. Express yourself as you see fit—your insights will help you down the road.

You can provide support for many facets of your loved one’s post-accident life, but only a skilled attorney can take care of the ensuing legal complications. Seek guidance from Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP; call (770) 214-2500 today.

Stories of Grace After a Car Accident

Stories of Rebound: How Others Have Found Grace and Insight After Someone They Love Was Hurt in a Car Crash

Car accidents significantly change relationships, but not always for the worse. Despite suffering physical trauma and mental anguish, victims and their loved ones often go on to enjoy stronger relationships and a new sense of appreciation for life’s gifts, as evidenced by these remarkable stories:

Meredith from The Office: Repairing Friendships

This example may be fictitious, but it resembles enough real-world situations to be compelling. In a memorable episode of The Office, Michael Scott hit Meredith with his car. The crash occurred at low speed, but led to a hospital stay. Although inconvenient, it proved life-saving—Meredith discovered that she had rabies. Michael, of course, took credit for the diagnosis. Ultimately, their interactions in the hospital led to a stronger friendship.

Scott: The Spark For a Unique Collection

After he and his mother were involved in a car crash (thankfully only sustaining minor injuries), Jalopnik reader Scott fell in love with child safety seats. He now boasts a strong following on Pinterest, where he showcases his vast collection. His hobby may strike others as odd, but he finds it deeply satisfying.

Car Accident, Then Wedding Bells

A devastating accident involving a drunk driver left then newly-engaged Anna Claire Waldrop a quadriplegic, but that didn’t stop her from marrying the man of her dreams. The childhood sweethearts somehow managed to wed on the date they’d originally booked for their nuptials. This special event granted them great healing. Her husband claims that their relationship is “a thousand times stronger” than before the accident.

Did a loved one recently endure a terrifying car accident? Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP can guide you through all phases of the legal process to ensure the best possible outcome. Call (770) 214-2500 for more information.