Disabled woman with crutches

What Happens If an Original Work Injury Leads to a Second Injury?

Many issues surrounding your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits arise when one injury leads to another. If this happens, you may have concerns about whether you can still get benefits. If you already receive benefits, you might wonder whether you need to reapply with a new injury.

You might also receive compensation for your second injury. You may not know whether to report this compensation to the Social Security Administration (SSA) or how it may affect your SSDI benefits.

With these factors in mind, here is some information about what can happen if you suffer a second injury after an original work injury.

Eligibility for Social Security Benefits

To receive SSDI benefits, you must meet certain qualifications. You must:

  • Work long enough and recently enough to have paid into the Social Security system
  • Have an illness or injury expected to last at least a year or lead to your death
  • Suffer a resulting impairment that prevents you from continuing to work or training for new work

SSA does not restrict benefits to those who suffered a work injury. Any long-term disability that prevents you from working or training will qualify. 

For example, cancer can lead you to become eligible for SSDI benefits, regardless of the cause of your illness.

How to Handle a Second Injury After an Original Injury

Frequently, one injury will cause another. For example, weakness in your legs from spinal stenosis could cause you to fall and suffer a traumatic brain injury. Your chemotherapy treatment could cause peripheral neuropathy.

How you handle the second injury depends on whether you already receive SSDI benefits or become eligible for SSDI benefits based on the second injury.

If You Already Receive SSDI Benefits

If you already get SSDI when you sustain the second injury, your benefits will not change. Your first injury already qualified as a disabling condition and sustaining a second injury will not change that fact.

SSA requires you to report all changes in your medical condition. You should report the second injury to:

  • Satisfy your reporting requirement
  • Create a record of the second injury in case it worsens
  • Preserve the possibility of extending your SSDI benefits

The last point is important. Suppose that your second injury provides an independent ground for meeting the SSDI eligibility requirements. If your original injury improves, you can continue to receive SSDI benefits until the second injury also improves.

You could go even further than simply reporting your second injury. SSA allows you to reapply for SSDI benefits while you are currently receiving SSDI.

If your second injury qualifies as disabling, you should consider reapplying. SSA can reapprove your SSDI benefits for both your original condition and your new condition. That way, if the first condition improves, you continue to qualify for SSDI with the later condition.

If You Do Not Yet Receive SSDI Benefits

If you were not receiving SSDI benefits when you sustained your second injury, you might qualify as a result of your second injury. When an applicant suffers from multiple disabilities, SSA evaluates them based on the cumulative effect of all of the impairments they face.

This means that you could receive SSDI benefits with two injuries if:

  • The original injury qualifies and the second does not
  • The second injury qualifies and the original does not
  • Both injuries qualify independently
  • The cumulative effect of the two injuries leads to eligibility

The only way you would not receive benefits is if the original injury, second injury, and cumulative effect all fail to qualify. You should speak to a lawyer about applying for SSDI benefits after sustaining a second injury for this very reason.

How SSA Will View Compensation for Your Injuries

SSA can reduce your SSDI benefits when you sustain a second injury and receive compensation for it.

Suppose that you sustained the second injury at work and received workers’ compensation for it. SSA cannot pay benefits if the total compensation you receive exceeds 80% of your average earnings. 

If your workers’ comp plus your SSDI exceeds this limit, SSA will cut your SSDI payments.

However, some compensation does not count toward your limit. If you received a personal injury settlement for your second injury, your SSDI benefits will continue unchanged.

Getting Help from a Disability Attorney

A second injury can raise some complicated issues surrounding your SSDI benefits. To discuss how your second injury might affect your eligibility or the amount you receive, contact an experienced disability attorney at Roeschke Law, LLC to schedule a consultation.