Episode 6 – Michigan Dog Bite Law Overview

Dog Bites Are Strict Liability Claims in Michigan

There are not many areas in the law that have strict liability, meaning that you have an automatic claim against someone for your injury. Dog bites are one of these areas. If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, you automatically have a case against the owner of that animal.

The Exception to Liability of Dog Owners

There’s only one exception to this that exception is if you provoked the dog or animal. In other words, you get them to bite you by playing aggressively with him, kicking him something along those lines. Otherwise, even if you’re just trying to pet the dog or walk by a dog and you get bit, the owner is responsibleWhat this means is they have to pay for any damages that you incur because of the bite.  This would include medical bills, pain and suffering, wage loss and more.

What You Need to do if You Suffer A Dog Bite in Michigan

The first thing you want to do if you are a bit by an animal is investigate what the animals owner’s insurance covers. That is what it comes down to in most cases, whether or not the owner has the proper insurance. Many dog owners do not. Many dog owners do not have a license for their animal, let alone insurance. There may be other types of insurance you can tap into. For example, if a dog owner is living with someone else who has insurance, it’s possible you may be able to tap into that.

So the key is investigating the claim immediately and getting medical treatment immediately. Then the issue is really just one of damages and how much it would take to make you whole.

If you’re bitten by a dog or really any animal that’s owned by another individual, have it investigated immediately. The owner of that animal has a strict liability against you for the entry, investigate the claim immediately for insurance coverage and damages.

Contact Me if You Have a Dog Bite Injury

I’ve had over 30 years experience in the Owosso and Shiawassee County Michigan area and am here to help! Please call me at (989) 725-8118 for a free consultation.

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Podcast Episode 5 – Michigan Automobile Uninsured and Under-Insured Law

 

Michigan Automobile Drivers May Be Uninsured or Under-Insured!

We all know that if you get hurt by someone else in an automobile accident, you may have a claim for damages for things like pain and suffering. What most people don’t realize is often times there are drivers on the road who either have no insurance or did not have sufficient insurance.

What Michigan Law Requires

Michigan law only requires a person to have $20,000/ $40,000 coverage on a motor vehicle. Most people know this as PLPD. PLPD means that that person can be sued and insurance will only pay up to $20,000 per injury and $40,000 total per accident. So, for example, if 3 people get hurt there’s only $40,000 to be divided up from the insurance company. Now what most people don’t have and should have is both what is called under and uninsured motor vehicle coverage.

Ask Your Insurance Agent For Uninsured Motor Vehicle Coverage

Be aware, this is something that a lot of insurance agents will not bring up. There’s not enough money in it for them to make it worth their while, and it is surprisingly cheap.  Here’s the difference: If you have uninsured motor vehicle coverage and you get hurt by someone else’s negligence in a car accident, your insurance company will pay what their insurance company should have paid, except they didn’t have insurance.

Why You Should Have Automobile Under-Insurance Coverage In Michigan

For example, if you have $100,000 uninsured policy, it turns out the drunk driver had nothing, you can still make a claim for $100,000 with your insurance company for their negligence. The other portion of the policyunder-insured, simply means if they don’t have enough insurance, you could make a claim against your company for over and above what their insurance provided.

So I’ll give you another example, let’s say a drunk driver severely injured you and they have PLPD, that is $20,000 in limits, and you have $100,000 injury. Well, if you have $100,000 policy, your insurance will make up the difference between that $20,000 limit and $100,000, Which means they’ll pay 80 plus the 20, for a total of 100. The whole idea is to make you whole. 

A Typical Michigan Underinsured Policy Is Surprisingly Cheap

Now, you have to purchase this policy on your own. You’d be surprised how cheap it is. I currently have $1,000,000 for both under and uninsuredand the last time I looked, it cost me $16 every six months. Some companies don’t even sell this, so you do need to shop around. But it’s, easy to find one that does, and it’s the cheapest part of a policy by far.

So if you ever look into reviewing your auto insurance policy, always ask your agent about, and make sure you include, uninsured and under-insured coverage.

Call Patrick Maruiak If You Have A Question About Michigan Automobile Accident Law

Any questions on this? Contact me at (989) 725-8118. I have 30 years experience representing people in Shiawassee County and surrounding areas who have been harmed in automobile accidents.

 

 

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Podcast Episode 4 – Slip and Fall Injuries in Michigan

Welcome to the Patrick Marutiak Podcast. I’d like to talk to you today about slip and fall cases. It is probably the biggest misconception there is in the law.

What you have to prove to recover damages in a slip and fall case in Michigan

People assume if you get hurt on someone else’s property you can sue them for your injuries. nothing could be further from the truth. In Michigan, in our state, in order to make a claim if you fall on someone else’s property, you have to prove not only was the landowner negligent but there was a latent or hidden defect.

No damages if the defect is open and obvious in Michigan

There are two words to remember concerning slip and falls: open and obvious. The law currently states if there is a defect on property that is open and obvious, even if the landowner was negligent, you cannot make a claim for damages. This can result in very egregious than unfair standards.

I’ll give you an example: There was one case where a blind lady was walking up some stairs and she fell because one of stairs was missing. They were doing construction on the stairs.

The court threw the case out because to a reasonable person, the fact that half the stair was missing should have been open and obvious- It didn’t even matter that she was blind – If a reasonable person could have seen that defect, there’s no case.

The exception to the open and obvious rule in Michigan

There’s one exception to this and that concerns landlords. If for example, you’re living in an apartment complex, you may be able to get around the open and obvious defense, but if you’re hurt on commercial property or someone else’s home, these cases are very difficult to make.

It is important, therefore, to contact a lawyer immediately after you get hurt. An investigation needs to be done right away to determine if there was a hidden or latent defect, and whether or not the open and obvious defense applies.

Contact an attorney immediately after getting hurt on a commercial property

One thing you should always know is, if you get hurt, you may be able to make a claim for medical bills. I would like to talk to you about medical payment coverage if you are hurt and someone else’s property.

Even if you cannot make a claim for damages, that is pain, suffering, wages and the like, you may be able to make a claim for what we call “med pay” or payment of medical bills.

What insurance typically pays for in slip and fall cases in Michigan

If you’re hurt on a commercial property or even someone’s home or private property, most any homeowners insurance or commercial insurance policy contains a “med pay” provision. What this means is they will pay your medical bills, regardless of who’s at fault – your fault, the homeowner’s fault, or nobody’s fault. They’ll still pay the medical bills.

Limits to “med pay” provisions in Michigan

Now the “med pay” has certain limits. Most homeowner policies only have a thousand dollar limit. Many commercial policies have more: some five, some ten. A good one would have twenty-five thousand. What this means is they’ll pay any of your co-pays and out of pocket expenses up to that limit, as long as you make the claim within a year of when you were hurt. Depending on how you were hurt, you may not be able to make a claim for your pain and suffering, but as long as there’s insurance coverage, you can always make a claim for medical bills.

Call me if you’re in the Owosso or Shiawassee County Region!

You want to talk to an attorney immediately. If you’re hurt on someone else’s property, even getting your medical bills could go a long way to help to make you whole. Give any questions on this. Always contact a lawyer. You can contact me at (989) 725-8118.

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Welcome to the podcast of Patrick Marutiak. This month, I’d like to talk about automobile accidents and auto law. Now, just so you know, I’ve been doing this kind of work for 30 years, and that means automobile accidents as well. I’ve always represented injured persons, never insurance companies.

Michigan No-Fault Law

Michigan has no-fault law, as we all know. What no-fault covers if you are hurt in an automobile accident are several things. Most important is medical coverage. Except for deductibles, you’re 100% covered. You may have to bill your own personal insurance first but the car insurance will pick up anything they don’t pay. If you are off work because of the injury, wage loss is covered as well. Wages are paid at 85% of what you were earning and the reason it’s 85% is because it’s tax-free, so you’re virtually getting everything you were paid for or working for before. In addition to that, you’re entitled to what we call attendant care but most people would call “nursing care.” If you need help bathing, dressing, feeding, things like that, a nurse can be paid for that or even family members could do it, and they get reimbursed as if they were nursing you.

Rules on Service Care

Lastly, service care. Service care is for those things you used to do around the house that no longer can do because of the injury. This would be things like mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, perhaps changing the oil in the car. You can be reimbursed for that, too. The only problem with this is that it has a $20 a day limit, so even doing an hour or two of work a day or someone else doing for you will hit that $20 a day cap. In that regard, you may want to space it over a couple of days to get $40 instead of $20.

 

Now, medical coverage and the nursing care is lifetime. The wages and the service care has a three-year maximum limit on it. These are all important benefits that you’re entitled to if you have an injury involving a motor vehicle. Now, you need to have coverage on your vehicle in order to qualify for this, at least if you’re in that vehicle. Currently, under Michigan law, if you’re driving your own motor vehicle and you do not have no-fault coverage, you’re not entitled to any benefits, and that would be for damage to the vehicle as well as to yourself.

You must have auto insurance in Michigan!

I once had a guy who bought a $40,000 truck and he said he was a safe driver so he wasn’t worried about insurance. A drunk driver totaled that truck. Well, unfortunately for him, he didn’t get paid for that truck because he didn’t have any insurance on it, and if you’re hurt by a drunk driver, even if you’re seriously hurt, if you’re driving your own vehicle without insurance, you can’t even sue that driver for pain and suffering. That’s why it’s important to make sure you always have insurance. Michigan has one of the highest rates of non-insured drivers around and that’s because, of course, the coverage is so high, but don’t drive your vehicle if it’s uninsured.

“If you’re driving your own vehicle without insurance, you can’t even sue that driver for pain and suffering. That’s why it’s important to make sure you always have insurance.”

Now, if you’re hurt in an auto accident, you can also make a claim against the driver at fault. That would be for pain and suffering. The wages and the medical bills would generally go through your insurance company but you can go through their insurance company for pain and suffering if you meet what we call “threshold.” Threshold basically means you have to have a serious injury. The legal terminology is “a serious impairment of a body function.” Now, we could spend hours talking about what that means but it generally means it has to affect your day-to-day life and it has to be long-term, but bear in mind “long-term” could be a matter of a month or more or a lifetime. So it’s important to always get an evaluation from an attorney as to whether or not you have a claim against the at-fault driver.

Proposed changes in Michigan No-Fault Law

Currently, Lansing is proposing many changes in the no-fault law. A lot of these changes are quite controversial. Regardless of the stance you take on it, you should pay attention to these changes and contact your congressman about them because one of the main changes they’re proposing is eliminating lifetime medical coverage. Now, if some people are hurt seriously, even maimed, or they’re paraplegic, that lifetime medical coverage gives them a lot of benefits even to the extent of modifying their homes if they’re hurt in a car accident. So these are important benefits. Be aware of that. Try to keep up to date on that especially if you hear of any changes or proposed changes in the law.

 

Things you can do before calling me that would be helpful in evaluating your claim would be such things as, one, knowing what your official diagnosis is from the doctor, having a list of all the doctors you’ve seen or treated with for your condition, and having what is called your “dec sheet.” Dec sheets are the type of coverage you have on your vehicle. Most people don’t have their policy but almost everybody has the first page, which is the declaration sheet that shows if you have full coverage or PLPD, things like that.

 

If you have any questions at any time, feel free to contact me for either in-person consultation or by phone at 989-725-8118.

Podcast Episode 2 – Workers Comp Law Overview

Listen to the podcast:

 

Hi! I’m Pat Marutiak. Welcome to my podcast. I’d like you to know I’ve been doing work-related injury cases for 30 years, workers’ compensation. If at any time you have any questions about a work injury, always feel free to call me for a free consultation, 989-725-8118.

Workers Comp: What is and what is not covered

The first topic I’d like to cover is what is covered and what is not under a work injury. If you are hurt on the job, you are entitled to 100% medical coverage. This means they have to pay all medical bills, and that includes even mileage to and from the doctor’s. So keep track of that. You are entitled to wage loss if you are off work more than a week. It’s paid a percentage, though. It isn’t full pay but it is tax-free. If the injury is severe enough, you’re also entitled to nursing care, which is help around the house for such things as bathing, dressing, feeding, things like that. Finally, you may be entitled to retraining as well if you cannot go back to your former type of work.

The one thing you are not entitled to for a work injury though is pain and suffering. People ask this all the time. Even if your employer is negligent, in general you cannot sue your employer for pain and suffering, but there are still important benefits you can get from workers’ compensation especially lifetime medical coverage.

Who can you see for medical treatment?

The next thing I’d like to talk about is medical treatment, who to treat with. Under the new rules, if you are hurt on the job for the first 28 days, you must see your employer’s doctor. If they send you to a doctor, you have to go to that doctor to have medical coverage. If you choose to go to your own doctor, you’re going to pay for it out of your pocket. The important thing is though after 28 days, you are entitled to treat with a doctor of your choice.

Now, the insurance company will tell you that they’re not responsible for it if you don’t see their doctor. This is not true after 28 days so don’t believe them.

Now, the insurance company will tell you that they’re not responsible for it if you don’t see their doctor. This is not true after 28 days so don’t believe them. The problem usually comes up where the doctor wants an authorization in order to treat. Now, the insurance company isn’t required to give an authorization but they are required to pay the bill, so you do want to treat with a doctor you trust so you can get better and go back to work. Always treat with your own doctor or whomever your doctor refers you to.

Recent changes in workers comp law in Michigan

Now, there’s been a lot of changes in the workers’ compensation law in the last ten to 15 years, a lot of changes. None of them had been in favor of the worker either. Things have been getting harder and harder to get benefits and the insurance companies have been having more and more excuses to try to dodge payment of what they should pay. Some of the biggest changes have to do with wage loss. It used to be if you couldn’t do your work that you were doing when you were hurt, you were automatically entitled to benefits. Now, you have to practically show you’re a hundred percent disabled, and if you’re not, you’re required to look for work within your limitations. As long as you show you can’t find that work, you’re entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits, but the insurance companies will use this to their advantage trying to tell you that you’re not looking for work. If they ever bring up the subject of looking for work, this is a red flag and you should contact a lawyer immediately.

That brings me to the next thing: looking for work. Insurance companies will tell you you have to look for jobs and put in applications ten, 15, even 20 times a week in order to qualify for benefits, and unfortunately with the changes in the law, a lot of judges tend to agree with this. But this can vary a lot, especially depending on what your restrictions are, your limitations, and what area of the state you live in, but if you do have to look for work, the important thing is to document it. Keep track of any place you put an application in, not only where you put it in, when you put it in, and if you receive any response, document that as well. They will try to reduce your wages by saying, “You could find a job at minimum wage,” for example, and so they’re going to reduce your pay accordingly or at least try. There are ways around this to protect you, too many to discuss just on a podcast, but if this issue comes up, make sure you get legal advice on the wage issue.

What do you do if you are injured?

And what to do if you’re injured? If a person is injured on the job, the first thing they need to do is to contact their employer and notify them about the injury. You should always contact your foreman, manager, or someone higher up that you were hurt. Make sure it’s documented. If you need to go to the doctor or the hospital, ask the employer to take you there. If they opt not to, then and only then can you see your own doctor and they would have to pay the bill.

Things that would be helpful to know and do before you contact me if you need legal advice, one thing that’s always helpful is bring in anything you have, whether it’s from the insurance company or the employer. Workers’ compensation insurance companies always send paperwork. Keep anything and everything they send you. Never throw it away. If the doctor gives you restrictions or a slip for being off work, always keep copies of it. Don’t just give the original to your boss. Make sure you keep copies of anything, be it from the doctor or the employer or the insurance company. Those are the main things to maintain. Lastly, again I can’t emphasize enough, make sure you treat with a doctor that you know and trust, especially after the 28-day waiting period.

Thanks for listening to the podcast of Patrick Marutiak. Again, if you have any questions whatsoever, always feel free to call for free consultation either by phone or in person. I can be contacted at 989-725-8118.

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Podcast Episode 1 – Social Security Law Overview

Listen to the podcast:

 

Welcome to the podcast of Patrick Marutiak. I’d like to do this podcast for all the people I represent, which is basically injured workers and disabled people. I’ve been a lawyer for 30 years specializing in representing injured workers and disabled people only. I’ve never represented insurance companies, just individuals. The purpose of the podcast is to give you a general outline of the law and what you can do to protect yourself. If at any time you have questions on that, just call me at the office.

Social Security Disability

This month, I’d like to cover the area of Social Security disability. Now, there’s a lot of areas to cover, a lot of groundwork, but first I’d like to start with the definition of “disability.” In order to qualify for Social Security disability, you have to show that you cannot do substantial gainful activity for a period of one year or more. Substantial gainful activity essentially means that you can’t work full-time. We call it SGA. No matter how disabled you are, if the disability doesn’t last for more than a year, you do not qualify for benefits. So you have to show both components: cannot do full-time work and can’t do it for more than a year. If you do think you qualify, you should also be aware that they look at several things: your medical condition, your age, education, training, and background. So there are several things they focus on but the primary is always your medical condition and what you can and cannot do.

One of the other areas they look at as well is your age category. For anyone between 18 and 49 years old, the definition of disability is the same. If you are 50 and over, the definition of disability changes, fortunately to the worker’s advantage. For example, if you are 55 and older, you only have to show that you cannot perform your past relevant work or similar-type work to qualify for benefits. This is as opposed to anybody under 49 who has to show they can’t do any job full-time. It’s a critical difference and one that has to be looked at carefully if you are 50 and over.

Meaning of “Listings”

Social Security disability also goes by what’s called the “listings.” Listings are for certain medical conditions that can qualify you for benefits. For example, if you are on dialysis because of a kidney condition, that person automatically qualifies for benefits. They don’t have to show anything more. If you’re blind, you automatically qualify for benefits. In fact, you’re even allowed to work up to a certain limit if you’re blind. These are part of the listings. Anytime you have a medical condition with a specific diagnosis, an analysis should be done to see if you can meet the listings. Now, you should be aware probably only five percent of the people meet the listings. The rest of them have to show they can’t work full-time under a different evaluation, but you should always look at the listings to see if you can qualify. It speeds up the process tremendously.

“If you’re denied at the initial level, you can appeal it and have a hearing in front of a judge. That is your best chance to qualify for benefits.”

If you’re denied at the initial level, you can appeal it and have a hearing in front of a judge. That is your best chance to qualify for benefits. Most people have to apply for a hearing and have that hearing in order to get benefits. The unfortunate thing is how long it takes. It can take upwards of 18 and 20 months to get a hearing in front of a judge. It’s a tremendous weight and I wish there was something that could be done about it. It actually used to take up to three years, previously. So they have improved, but it’s still a tremendous hardship on anybody. I don’t have an easy answer to this and no attorney does. It varies from state to state on how long it can take, but in the Michigan area, it’s usually around 20 months typically.

Medicare Benefits

Now, if you’re on disability or qualify for disability, you’re also going to qualify for Medicare benefits, but the Medicare benefits are not automatic. Medicare kicks in 24 months after benefits begin. Another way to look at it is Medicare kicks in 30 months after you are found disabled. The reason you hear both numbers is because there is a five-month waiting period for benefits to begin, so if you’re found disabled, say, January 1, you’re going to wait 30 months from that time before Medicare kicks in. If your benefits begin June 1, then it will be 24 months or two years. Why do they make you wait two years for the Medicare? This I can’t tell you. It’s just under the statute. My own personal opinion is to save money, but again there’s nothing that can be done to change this other than contacting your congressman. Fortunately, most people still qualify for some other type of insurance, be it Medicaid, COBRA, or the Affordable Care Act.

Steps you should take before contacting me

Steps you should take before contacting me for Social Security disability, first off, if you have any questions, you can contact me anytime. However, just so you know, you cannot even file for Social Security disability until you go off work. A lot of people wonder if they can apply while they’re working. You can’t if you’re working full-time. What is always helpful for me before you come in the office is having a good idea of what your medical conditions are, how it affects your day-to-day life, as well as a list of all your physicians, especially your current physicians. If you have dates and times that you saw the doctors, that is helpful too, but you don’t need your license, you don’t need a birth certificate, you don’t need information like that.

“It is a good idea though to have your work history, either an outline of the work you’ve done in the last ten years or even your information from the Social Security office.”

It is a good idea though to have your work history, either an outline of the work you’ve done in the last ten years or even your information from the Social Security office. Those are the forms they used to mail us but now you have to go online to get them.  All you have to do is go to SSA.gov and pull up your income information. If you have that, that’s helpful, too. Other than that, that’s all you really need to come in and get some advice. The rest can be done just by talking.

Thanks for listening. If you ever have any questions regarding Social Security disability, always feel free to contact me, 989-725-8118. This can be whether you’re working, not working, wondering if benefits are available or not. Call anytime. The consultations are always free.

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AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

There has been an increase in motor vehicle accidents in Shiawassee County, including Owosso, in the past year or two.  Ever since the recession of 2008 no-fault insurance has become more and more expensive and a larger portion of an individual’s income.

Because of the increase in cost for car insurance there has also been an increase of uninsured drivers.  If a person is driving their own vehicle and it is uninsured they cannot make a claim against another driver even though that driver may be at fault.  For example, if a drunk driver crosses the center line and hits you causing serious injury normally you would have a claim for PIP benefits (medical expenses and wage loss), through your no-fault insurance and a separate claim against the drunk driver for pain and suffering.  In the past if your vehicle was uninsured and you were driving you lost the claim for medical bills and wages but could still sue the drunk driver.  Now, you not only lose that claim but you also lose the claim against the drunk driver.

Though the cost of no-fault benefits in Shiawassee County has steadily increased making it more difficult to insure your vehicle it is more critical now than ever to make sure you have insurance on your car.  If you are seriously injured and you do not have coverage you could lose a claim for lifetime medical coverage.  You could also lose a claim against the other driver for yourself and your family if the accident causes death.  Most people that cannot afford the insurance are willing to take the risk thinking that ‘this will never happen to me’.  Though chances are when you get in an uninsured vehicle you will not be in an accident, it only takes ones mistake by someone else to change your and your family’s life forever.  It simply is not worth the risk to drive a vehicle if you know it is uninsured.

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SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled same sex marriages were constitutional in Windsor v United States, the Social Security Administration began recognizing same sex marriages.

This change had had a positive effect for some people including those who could not obtain retirement benefits on a spouse’s record and those who could claim survivor benefits when a spouse passed away.  However, for many SSI beneficiaries these newly recognized marriages posed the risk of overpayments because a spouse’s income factors into how benefits are determined.  There appears to be little question that the recognition of same sex marriage will result in more benefits for couples now that one spouse or their children may be able to draw off the other spouse.  A smaller group of people may be penalized though concerning SSI benefits.

The Social Security Administration, at the request of over 100 members of congress, is processing any overpayments regarding same sex couples in a favorable manor to the claimant.  In other words, the Social Security Administration are to presume if there is an overpayment that the recipient of the overpayment requests a waiver.  This policy should help couples who were receiving the appropriate amount of SSI for perhaps sometime but found themselves facing an overpayment going back years now that the county recognized such marriages.  This presumption of a request for a waiver is beneficial to the couples that this applies to.  This is another example of how recognizing same sex marriages means an overhaul of many other regulations and statutes due to the fact that these couples are now legally married.

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SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY – THE LONG WAIT

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABLITY-THE LONG WAIT

               It is difficult to understand why a Social Security disability case can take so long.  An initial application averages four months for a determination, but there are times where it takes nine months.  70% of the initial applications are denied.

Once an application is denied, an appeal can be filed requesting a hearing in front of a judge.  This is anybody’s best chance to qualify for benefits.  The majority of cases at this level though are denied as well.  Only 45% of cases that go to hearing are allowed.

To get in front of a judge for a hearing it can easily take a year and a half to two years from the time you filed your initial application.  First you go through the initial denial and then appeal it to the court.  Once it is appealed, the Lansing hearing office, on average, takes 418 days to schedule a hearing.  This is nearly fifteen months.  The Flint and Grand Rapids offices average eighteen months.  Fortunately, cases in Shiawassee County are heard in Lansing and though this is a long wait it is quicker than other districts.

Why does it take so long?  There are many reasons including the fact that applications for disability benefits has been increasing ever since the recession in 2008.  Though it does not justify the wait now, back in 2008 the average wait was over two years.  The system is improving but the improvements have been slow and it has a long way to go.  It is also frustrating because there are times and exceptions when someone may have to wait even longer and other people get a determination within a matter of a few months.  Unfortunately, this is the system we have to deal with and hopefully improvements will be made.

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INTERNET RESEARCH REGARDING DISABILITY

Be careful when you research Social Security disability on the internet.  There are many websites which offer assistance in helping you determine if you might qualify for disability benefits, but some are not even sponsored by attorneys.  These groups also use Facebook, and their links pop up deceptively.  You can easily be redirected to these websites without even knowing it.  Even when you think you are researching Social Security disability on a government website this can happen.

I constantly have clients tell me they are unrepresented, and it turns out they unknowingly supplied enough information on one of these websites for an organization to become their representative.  The clients are surprised to find out they have an out-of-state attorney or non-attorney representing them.

It makes sense to do research to see if you qualify for benefits, but if you do, make sure you are on a government sanctioned website unless you wish to be represented by someone you may never even meet.  Many of these organizations do not even go to hearings with the client but rather send an “advocate” they hire at the last minute to accompany the client—someone who doesn’t know the case, someone the client has never even met before, and sometimes someone who is not even any attorney.

Always be cognizant of the source of the website you are on when you are doing research.  It’s perfectly legal for firms to solicit clients via the internet.  Just beware that some websites are deliberately misleading.  Go by the old adage:  Buyer Beware.

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