Clients often fail to inform their attorneys about the government benefits that they are receiving until after the case has settled, or during mediation negotiations. This can cause serious complications to the settlement of the case, and can also jeopardize the client’s continued eligibility for certain needs-based benefits such as Medicaid, SSI, and Housing Benefits. Additionally, many clients don’t understand the benefits they are receiving – for example, many clients believe they are receiving SSI benefits when they are really receiving SSDI benefits, or vice versa. For a personal injury recipient, the difference is extremely important.
Settling a personal injury settlement is more complex when a client is receiving such benefits. Personal injury attorneys can save themselves a lot of hassle and delay if they will make an effort to ensure that they know exactly what types of government benefits their client is receiving at the time they sign up the case.
A more thorough client intake form is the simplest way to avoid a complication at the end of the case. Make sure your case intake asks about the following: SSI (Social Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability), Section 8 or other Housing Benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, VA benefits, and Food Assistance. If your client indicates that they are on one of the above programs, make sure you also request a copy of their documentation (i.e. Medicaid or Medicare card).
If you’d prefer, we can send you a PDF we created that screens your clients and their household members to determine the government benefits they are receiving.
As the case nears settlement, we encourage you to call us and set up a meeting where we can advise your clients regarding their obligations to these various programs and their options for ensuring continued eligibility. Injury victims do not like to lose their government benefits, and many rely heavily on them for support and medical care. There are planning options available to protect such benefits, such as special needs trusts, that may be a good solution.
Please feel free to give us a call with any questions. We’re happy to review your current case intake form and suggest additions or changes that will make your life easier as you try and settle future cases.