As a lawyer helping injured people since 1999, Ruth Smith is frequently asked questions about personal injury, workers' compensation and Social Security Disability. Below are answers to some of the more commonly asked questions.

1. Can I collect workers' compensation income benefits and Social Security Disability income benefits at the same time?

A: Yes, provided you are disabled from your job and meet the social security administration's definition of disability. Workers' compensation insurance companies cannot shift the burden of injured worker's loss of income onto the backs of the taxpayers by taking a credit for Social Security payments. However, Social Security payments may take a credit for workers' compensation payments and be reduced. Whether these payments will be reduced will depend on the amount of the injured worker's income history and the amount of the workers' compensation payments.

2. If I have been in a personal injury accident, should I file my health insurance?

A: Yes. An injured person should always file their health insurance, even though the hospital or doctor's office may try to dissuade you from doing so. By filing health insurance, you are reducing the amount of medical bills that a defendant could be liable for. Although it may sound counterintuitive to reduce your damages, North Carolina law requires an injured person to "mitigate" their damages if they can reasonably do so. Additionally, a personal injury case can sometimes take many months or longer to resolve. By filing health insurance, an injured person is protected from being turned over to collections. Finally, not all cases are resolved in an injured person's favor. By filing health insurance, you can protect yourself from being responsible for medical bills beyond your copays and deductibles.

3. Why would my doctor's office tell me not to file my health insurance if I am supposed to?

A: Medical providers, like doctors and nurses, are mostly fine people who perform excellent work and help their patients. The business side of the health care industry, however, can be a different story. Health care providers often have contracts with health insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid that state the health care provider cannot charge more than a certain amount for medical services. The business side of the health care providers sometime seeks to avoid these contracts in personal injury cases and try to be paid their original "sticker" prices. These tactics are in violation of state law and in violation of their agreements with the health insurance companies. If a provider refuses to file health insurance, you should obtain a claim form from your health insurance company and file the claim yourself.

4. What is "medical payments" coverage?

Medical payments are a sort of health insurance coverage that exists on your own auto policy and/or the vehicle in which you were riding. It is an optional coverage, but more policies than not have this coverage. Medical payments can also exist on premises liability policies. In short, medical payments will pay medical bills related to an accident in the car (or premises) without regard to who is at fault. Thus, if you have medical payments on your vehicle and another car hits you, you can collect medical payments from your own insurance AND collect the payment for the medical bills from the at-fault driver's insurance as well. The at-fault driver's insurance does not receive a credit for the medical payments your policy paid you.

5. In a workers' compensation case, can I go to the doctor of my own choosing?

Workers' compensation is a compromise creature where injured workers got some advantages (such as no-fault coverage), but had to give up other advantages. In this compromise system, employers and their insurance companies have the right to direct the care of the injured worker in accepted claims. Therefore, the injured worker generally has to go to the doctor the insurance company/employer chooses. However, this right is not absolute. If a doctor is not performing satisfactorily, an injured worker can petition the Industrial Commission for a change in physician. If the insurance company/employer has not fully accepted the injured worker's case, the worker has the right to choose their physician.

Each case is different. Many factors such as the severity of injuries, ability to prove liability, amount of liability insurance coverage, jurisdiction, medical expenses, and many other factors can determine the outcome of a particular case. You should not use these examples as a representation of what recovery you will obtain in your particular case, as every case is unique. Ruth Smith does not guarantee that the outcome of your case will be similar to the results listed above.