When individuals get into car accidents, many injuries can occur that can prevent them from being able to return to work. Below are some frequently asked questions about Social Security Disability benefits from those who have been in car accidents.
I have injuries from a recent car accident that the doctor said will take several months to heal. Can I get Social Security disability benefits while I am healing (though the doctor expects I will make a full recovery)?
No, you would not be eligible for federal benefits. Social Security Disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are federal programs that were created to help individuals who have long-term disabilities. In order to qualify for either of these programs, you must have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months.
A few states, including California and New York, have short-term disability programs that offer cash benefits. Contact your state's employment department to find out if your state offers temporary disability benefits.
I was in a car accident and broke a few bones that are not healing properly and have affected my ability to work. Do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?
It depends. If the broken bone is located in the leg and has not healed properly, leaving you with an inability to walk properly, you will likely qualify for benefits. If the broken bone is located in your arm and has not healed properly or regained function despite surgeries, you could also qualify for benefits.
If you're broken bones in other areas, you would have to prove to Social Security that you are unable to do any job -- even the easiest type of job -- because your ability to function and work has been hindered by the broken bones.
For more information on qualifying for disability benefits with a broken bone, see our article on getting disability benefits for bone fractures.
I was burned pretty badly in my car accident and I can’t work. Can you get disability benefits for burns?
Possibly. Burns can take a very long time to heal and can cause a significant permanent or long-term limitations on your ability to move and function. Individuals who have severe burns or soft tissue injuries (such as muscle sprains or ligament tears) may be able to receive disability benefits if they are not able to work. Please see our article on getting disability for soft tissue injuries and burns for more information.
Shortly after my car accident, I developed constant neck pain, which continues months later. My physician diagnosed me with whiplash. Can I get disability benefits if I am unable to work because of it?
It is possible to get disability benefits for whiplash, though it generally is not easy to do so. Your whiplash will generally have to include a neck or spinal injury visible on an MRI in order to qualify for benefits. Please see our article on whiplash for more information. Also, keep in mind that the pain and limited motion from your whiplash has to have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months to qualify for disability benefits.
I have no visible injuries from my car accident, but I am having a hard time remembering things and completing simple work around the house. There is no way I can return to work. Can I get disability benefits?
Possibly. Not all injuries are visible to others. In car accidents, it is common for individuals to hit their heads, which can cause injuries to the brain. Traumatic brain injuries can affect one’s memory and ability to complete tasks. If your deficits are so severe that they are preventing you from working, you may be able to receive disability benefits.
Ever since I got into a car accident, I have not been able get into a car without severe anxiety. This anxiety affects me all day and I can't concentrate on work. Can I get disability benefits?
You may be able to get benefits for anxiety that is severe to the point that it prevents you from being able to work. It is important to have a psychiatrist determine if you are suffering from general anxiety or something else. Individuals who have been involved in serious car accidents may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. See our section on disability benefits for anxiety-related disorders for information on when these disorders qualify for benefits.
I was hurt pretty badly in a car accident. Not one of my injuries meets a disability listing, but the combination of all of my injuries make it impossible for me to work. Can I receive disability benefits?
You may be eligible for disability benefits even if you do not meet the requirements of an impairment listing from Social Security's “Blue Book.” The combination of your injuries might "equal" a listing, or, if you can prove you are unable to return to your previous work or do any other work, you could qualify for benefits. Social Security will use a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form to determine how your impairments relate to your ability to work. Your age, education level, and work history over the past 15 years will also be considered in making this determination. For more information, see our articles on equaling a Social Security listing and being found unable to work.