In Florida and elsewhere, it is common for those who are disabled to become so due to some precipitating event — perhaps a car accident, or a slip-and-fall accident on a retail store premises, for example. Unfortunately, many potential SSDI claimants do not fully understand their rights under the law, and mistakenly believe that their ability to secure disability benefits and damages will be negatively affected by a lawsuit.
Let’s put these concerns to rest.
The Collateral Source Rule in Florida
The collateral source rule in Florida ensures that those who receive SSDI disability benefits will not be precluded from recovering maximum damages in their injury lawsuit. In fact, the collateral source rule is so protective that many other states have limited it significantly, due to the risk of a disabled plaintiff obtaining “extra” compensation in a double-recovery. Fortunately for injury and disability claimants, Florida continues to apply a highly-protective version of the collateral source rule.
How does the collateral source rule work?
Essentially, the collateral source rule prevents the receipt of third-party funds (in the form of reimbursement or benefits) from affecting the damage recovery in an injury lawsuit. It further prevents the introduction of such evidence in litigation.
For example, suppose that you are injured in a car accident, where the defendant-driver was negligent and therefore may be held liable for your injuries. The injuries you suffered ultimately rendered you disabled. You submit a claim for SSDI benefits, which you are granted. You are still entitled to make a claim for wage loss and recover damages. The defendant cannot introduce evidence of your receipt of SSDI benefits to reduce your damage claim.
SSDI Benefits Are Unaffected by Injury Verdicts and Settlements
Importantly, you are protected from having your benefits/damages reduced in the other direction as well. Your eligibility for SSDI benefits is unaffected by your receipt of damages in an injury lawsuit, whether you pursued your claims to trial and obtained a favorable verdict or secured a favorable settlement after negotiations with the defendant.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not consider the receipt of damages — in a verdict or settlement — as earned income that might count against your eligibility for SSDI disability benefits.
Let’s return to the previous car accident example.
Suppose that you did not submit your claim for SSDI benefits until after you negotiated a favorable settlement with the defendant-driver. Though the defendant paid out maximum wage loss damages that cover both past and future wage loss (due to your disability), you would still be entitled to submit an SSDI claim and receive benefits. If the SSA denies your claim on that basis, you have the right to challenge their decision — and in fact, depending on the circumstances, you may even have a right of action pursuant to a bad faith claim.
If you are interested in submitting an SSDI claim or have had your claim denied or improperly handled by the SSA, then you may have the right to challenge the adverse determination of the SSA and secure the benefits to which you are entitled. We encourage you to speak to a qualified Florida SSDI attorney for further assistance.