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Memphis Estate Planning & Personal Injury Lawyers

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We absolutely know that what you’re going through right now is not easy.

Our experienced Memphis lawyers focus on helping people injured in an accident, planning their estate, or fighting an unfair Social Security or VA disability claim.

Handling your legal issue on your own or hoping for the best is not a strategy anyone would recommend. If you have been injured, the insurance company is going to do everything they can to minimize your claim. If you are struggling to get the benefits you deserve or need guidance with your estate planning, you’re going to have to deal with a government office that doesn’t see you as a priority and will take forever to get things done.

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Shalondra Grandberry Pickford

Top 40 Shalondra Grandberry Pickford is the founding attorney and owner of Pickford Law. Her practice focuses on Social Security disability, Veterans’ disability and Car and Trucking accidents. Prior to founding Pickford Law, Shalondra worked as an Associate Attorney at Memphis’ most prominent Social Security disability firm. She later joined a personal injury firm where she oversaw the Social Security practice area and handled personal injury claims until hanging out her own…

Jayniece Higgins Harris

Attorney Jayniece Higgins Harris’ practice areas include criminal defense (including juvenile delinquency) and personal injury. She also handles orders of protection and matters arising out of environmental court.

Jayniece graduated from the University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and has always had one focus: “Make sure that your clients are treated the way you want your family to be treated.” From then on, she has made sure she has fought for others that may not have any one else to fight for them…

Frequently Asked Questions

How can an attorney help me with my personal injury claim?

If you have ever been involved in a car or 18-wheeler accident and filed a claim against the at-fault party, you know it can be a lengthy process. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate that process by assisting you in getting the compensation you deserve. A personal injury attorney knows all the ins and outs of the games and tricks insurance companies and adjusters play to try to get you to settle at less than what your claim is worth. You should NOT be handling your claim alone.


Will I have to testify in court?

Yes, you will have to testify in court. You will want to tell your version of how the accident occurred and how it has affected your life.


What is a deposition?

A deposition is considered part of discovery mentioned above. Basically, a deposition is a sworn out-of-court question-and-answer session to gather information and facts from parties and witnesses. Information gathered in hopes to help a client’s position in a case or hurt the adversary’s position.

Again, deposition questions may help to reveal relevant documents or other evidence, called “discovery.” There are very few limits on what types of questions may be asked at a deposition. However, the process can either promote a settlement, so the case never goes to trial, or narrow down the issues that should be brought out in court. So, depositions can be a turning point in litigation.

What is discovery?

Discovery is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties in a civil lawsuit Discovery allows the parties to find out information or legal evidence and facts about the case from the opposing party or parties and witnesses before trial. It enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented. Discovery includes interrogatories (or written questions and answers sent to the other side), requests for documents (such as photographs or medical records), and depositions (session where lawyers ask questions of the parties involved in the accident, witnesses, treating doctors, etc).


What is a statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a car or 18-wheeler accident have to file a lawsuit. Basically, you have only so long to make a claim after being involved in the accident.

For car accidents, 18-wheeler accidents and slip and falls in the Mid-South you have:

  • One (1) year in Tennessee
  • Three (3) years in Arkansas
  • Three (3) years in Mississippi


How long does a lawsuit take?

A lawsuit can be a lengthy process in and of itself. Again, you go through the discovery phase, which can take some time. You may mediate the case and it does not resolve. Your attorney will then consult with the other attorney and judge to get the actual trial placed on the docket at a date and time that is agreeable to all involved. The actual trial may last one or two days. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, however, a trial could last much longer. The trial itself is usually not the time-consuming part of the case. A decision in the case should come relatively quickly after the trial has concluded.


What happens if I have to file a lawsuit?

Once a lawsuit is filed, the case goes into the discovery phase. Discovery is where each party exchanges information to discover evidence or facts about the case (See more under “What is discovery?”). After the exchange of information phase is complete, the parties usually try and resolve the matter through mediation prior to the start of trial.

Mediation is a dispute resolution process where a neutral party promotes the voluntary settlement of the case before trial. That neutral party, the mediator, will facilitate a meaningful discussion between the parties, however the mediator has no power to order a settlement. Fortunately, most lawsuits headed to trial resolve during a mediation.

In the event mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. At trial the injured person pretty much has the burden of proving that the other driver was negligent. After you, the defendant, witnesses, police officers, doctors, and any other witnesses testify, the jury is required to deliberate. After the jury reaches its decision, the results are announced in court.

What happens if we don’t settle my claim?

If we are unable to settle your claim, then we file a lawsuit. Settlements are often more preferable than going to trial for several reasons. Settlements guarantee you receive money, and you are able to access it sooner. Going to trial is a lengthy process. Going to trial often yields unpredictable outcomes. On the other hand, there may be several reasons why you don’t accept a settlement offer and must go to trial. It is ultimately up to you whether you want to settle your claim or want to file a lawsuit.


When should I settle my claim?

First and foremost, you should never rush the process. Although you may be tempted to accept a settlement offer early on, you will want to take into consideration whether or not the settlement offer covers your necessary medical expenses, is an unreasonably low settlement offer, whether the settlement offer provides for future costs if needed, or if the settlement offer is a better option than a lengthy trial process.

Please keep in mind that while settling a case may be right for one person, it may not be the option for another. The insurance company and defendant ultimately control your settlement options. Either they will make a meaningful offer or refuse to do so, and you may end up in court.

How much is my claim worth?

Well, it depends! Every case is different. Here are a few factors that contribute to the value of your case.

  • The length and extent of your medical treatment.
  • The amount of your medical bills.
  • The length and extent of your pain and suffering.
  • Other damages such as lost wages, out of pocket expenses, and future care/expenses.
How long will my case take?

There is no average time for a car accident settlement. There are many factors that come into play when valuing an accident claim because every car accident is different. The amount of time it takes to resolve a car accident case varies based on the details and facts of the case.

It may take anywhere from a couple of months to several years for a car accident claim to settle. Depending on the severity of the accident such as bodily injuries and property damage, the settlement process could be rather lengthy.

What happens after I stop my treatment?

If you stop treatment early on, you may be jeopardizing your accident claim. Insurance companies are always finding reasons to deny or devalue injury claims. If you refused medical treatment after your accident claim or even stopped the treatment recommended by the doctor, this may give the insurance company the reason they’re looking for to deny or devalue your claim.

The insurance adjuster’s assessment of your injuries is based almost entirely on your medical records. Gaps in treatment may cause the adjuster to “devalue” your claim. It is best to complete all treatment recommended by the doctor, especially to maximize your settlement.

What are damages?

Damages are the amount of compensation that the plaintiff will receive from the defendant after settling an accident claim or following a lawsuit. Damages may be economic and non-economic.

Economic damages refer to compensation for verifiable monetary losses such as past and future medical expenses (medical bills and estimates for surgery), loss of past and future earnings (days missed from work because of the accident), loss of use of property, costs of repair or replacement, the economic value of domestic services, and loss of employment or business opportunities.

Noneconomic damages may include pain and suffering as well as scarring and disfigurement, mental trauma, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. In addition, the spouse of an accident victim may bring a claim for loss of society and companionship.

What should I do after a car or truck accident?

CALL THE POLICE. Whether an accident is considered a minor fender-bender or a major collision, calling the police is important. The officer will prepare a police report in connection with the crash. Make sure to get the name and badge number of the officer and the police agency that the officer represents so you can get a copy of the accident report after it’s written. Also get the report number if it’s available. Speak only with the officer about the specifics of your accident. Provide the information that the officer requests but be careful what you say even to the officer. Remember, any statement you make could end up in the police report.

TAKE PHOTOS OF THE CRASH. Taking photos to document your car accident can help protect your rights and provide crucial evidence to support your car accident claim. Take photos of the damage that your own vehicle sustained. Take close-up and away photos to get better detail. Also, take photos of the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident and the damage. Take photos of any skid marks on the road as these can indicate when a person applied the brakes, as well as the approximate speed he or she was traveling.

SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. It’s best to seek medical attention immediately after being involved in a car accident. If you are unable to seek immediate medical attention, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you feel only minor pain after an accident, you should still seek medical attention.

If you don’t seek medical attention after the accident, the insurance company may try to use this to their advantage and claim that you did not actually sustain injuries in the accident.

What is estate planning, and why is it important?

Estate planning involves making arrangements for the management and distribution of your assets and affairs after you pass away or become incapacitated. It’s important to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes and to protect your loved ones from unnecessary legal hassles.

What documents are typically included in an estate plan?

A comprehensive estate plan may include a will, various types of trusts, powers of attorney for financial and healthcare matters, and advanced healthcare directives.

Do I need an estate plan if I don't have a large estate?

Yes, estate planning is essential for everyone, regardless of the size of your estate. It allows you to dictate who receives your assets and helps minimize the burden on your loved ones during difficult times.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will outlines the distribution of your assets after your death, while a trust can manage your assets during your lifetime and provide for their distribution upon your death. Trusts can also offer privacy and potential tax advantages.

How can I minimize estate taxes for my beneficiaries?

Estate tax planning strategies may include setting up trusts, gifting assets, and taking advantage of tax exemptions and deductions. Consult with an estate planning professional for personalized guidance.

What happens if I die without an estate plan in place?

If you die without a valid will or estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to state intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes. Having an estate plan ensures your assets are distributed as you desire.

How often should I update my estate plan?

It’s advisable to review and update your estate plan whenever significant life events occur, such as marriage, divorce, births, deaths, or substantial changes in your financial situation.

Can I make changes to my estate plan if needed?

Yes, you can and should make updates to your estate plan as circumstances change. It’s essential to keep your plan current to reflect your wishes accurately.

What is a power of attorney, and how does it work in estate planning?

A power of attorney is a legal document that designates someone to make financial or healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. It’s a vital component of estate planning to ensure your affairs are managed according to your preferences.

How can I ensure my healthcare preferences are honored in my estate plan?

You can ensure your healthcare preferences are honored by creating advance healthcare directives, such as a living will and healthcare proxy. These documents specify your medical treatment preferences and designate someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to communicate your wishes.

What do I do if I am denied?

If your social security disability application is denied by the SSA, you should request an appeal immediately, within the 60-day deadline. In some cases, you should do this yourself personally even if you plan to hire legal representation.

If you do not appeal your decision timely, you may lose out on your backpay or retro disability payments and you may lose the year of time that passed that would have counted toward your entitlement to Medicare benefits.

If I am awarded Social Security disability benefits, can my check be garnished?

Yes, if you are awarded SSDI benefits, your payments can be garnished to pay back taxes, child support and alimony as well as student loans. Additionally, SSDI payments can be garnished to pay court-ordered restitution to a crime victim and non-tax debt owed to a federal agency, such as some federally funded home loans.

SSI cannot be garnished for federal loans, alimony or child support, back taxes or for any other private, public or federal loan.

What are Disabled Widow/Widowers’ benefits? (DWB)?

These are benefits payable to disabled widows’ or widowers’ of a fully insured spouse at the time of death. Eligibility requirements for disabled widows’ or widowers’ benefits are:

  • Age 50 to 59;
  • Marriage must have lasted at least nine months;
  • Disabled under the SSA definition (unable to work because of a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments expected to last at least 12 months or result in death);
  • Disability began either before the working spouse’s death or within seven years after it;
  • Deceased spouse met the work history requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility;
  • If remarried, remarriage must have happened after disability onset.
What are Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits?

These are benefits payable to a disabled adult child based on your qualifying parent’s Social Security earnings. You may be eligible for disabled adult child (DAC) benefits if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are over the age of 18
  • You are not married
  • You have a disability that began before you were 22, and
  • One of your parents receives Social Security benefits or is deceased but at the time of death was insured for Social Security benefits.

If you qualify as a disabled adult child, you will be eligible to receive monthly payments through the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI). Even though you must be over the age of 18 to qualify, the SSA will consider you a disabled adult “child” because you will be collecting SSDI based on your qualifying parent’s Social Security earnings. (Social Security benefits that are based on a parent’s earnings record are called auxiliary benefits, or dependents benefits.)

Can I receive both Workers’ Compensation and my Social Security Disability benefits?

Yes, you can receive both Workers’ Compensation and your SSDI benefits. However, if both are received for the same disability, the amount of workers’ compensation can reduce your SSDI benefits. That’s true whether you are getting workers’ comp in installments or as a lump-sum settlement.

Your monthly SSDI benefits, including benefits payable to your family members, are added together with your workers’ compensation. If the total amount of these benefits exceeds 80% of your average current earnings, the excess amount is deducted from your Social Security benefit.

What is the 5-month waiting period?

If you are approved for SSDI, you must wait five months before you can receive your first SSDI benefit payment. The purpose of the waiting period is to ensure that you have a long-term disability before SSA begins paying any benefits to you. This means, you would receive your first payment in the sixth full month after the date SSA finds you disabled.


What does date last insured (DLI) mean?

Date Last Insured means the date your Social Security Disability insurance lapsed.

SSDI works like an insurance plan. When you stop paying your premiums, your insurance lapses. When you stop working, your Social Security Disability insurance lapses.

To meet the insured status, you must have:

  • Paid in Social Security taxes over a long period of time to be “fully insured” AND
  • Paid in Social Security taxes recently enough to have “disability insured status.”
How much does a Social Security Disability Attorney cost?

Social Security lawyers are typically paid $6,000.00 or 25% of your backpay, whichever is less. If Social Security approves the fee agreement, it will pay your attorney for you directly out of your backpay. The limit on fees is a part of Social Security law, and in most cases, an attorney cannot charge more than the amount above.


If I am approved, how long will it take to get my money?

Unfortunately, the wait can be on average, about 1 to 2 months, sometimes longer to receive your first disability check after your social security disability claim is approved. Backpay or retro benefit payments, usually arrive much later. SSI payments, on the other hand, can begin right away.


How does SSA determine if I am disabled or not?

In order to be found disabled according to SSA:

  • You cannot be engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) which means you cannot be working and earning over the allowable limit SSA has set for the year; and
  • You must have a severe impairment or health condition whether physical and/or mental; and
  • Your health condition(s) meets or “equals” one of the conditions described in the Social Security regulations called the “Listing of Impairments; or
  • You are unable to do your “past relevant work” (PRW), taking your “residual functional capacity (RFC) into consideration; and
  • No other work exists in the national economy in significant numbers considering your RFC, age, education and work experience.
What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is a program for workers whereby benefits are paid out of the Social Security trust fund for those who are no longer able to work or engage in SGA because of any medical condition, whether physical and/or mental.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based program for the disabled, blind, and aged (or those over age 65). To meet all the requirements to receive SSI, you must

  • Be disabled using the same definition as is used for the SSDI program;
  • Meet the income and resource requirement of the SSI program;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or fall into a group of exceptions
  • File an application
What is a “disability”, according to the Social Security Administration?

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of “disability” is the inability to do any work or more specifically, engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA), because of any medical condition, whether physical and/or mental, which can be expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months or longer or can be expected to result in death.


What is a VA disability rating?

A VA disability rating is given to veterans with a service-related disability based on how severe their injuries or disabilities are. This rating is then used to determine how much they can earn as compensation for the conditions connected with their service. The rating is on a scale from 0 to 100%. The more serious your condition is, the higher your rating will be.

If you have a 0% rating, you won’t receive monthly compensation, but you may be eligible for other types of benefits. Meanwhile, a 100% rating typically means you’ll earn maximum compensation for each month.

How long will it take VA to look at my case?

The VA claims process typically takes a long time. This is due to various reasons, mainly because the system is often overwhelmed with applications. Each case is different, but it can take several months for VA to view your case and make a decision.

Some factors that affect how long it takes include the type of claim you filed, the number of disabilities you claimed, and the location of the field office where you filed your claim. You can potentially expedite your claim if you have a terminal illness, are 77 or older, or if you are homeless.

If my claim is denied, should I appeal?

In most scenarios, you should appeal your denied claim. The reality is that many valid claims often get denied, so don’t be discouraged if your claim is rejected. Appealing your claim allows you to receive benefits even if your application is denied.

The VA has specific appeal deadlines, so it’s crucial that you follow their regulations. If you miss a deadline, for example, your appeal will be denied. A VA disability lawyer can help you navigate the appeals process, which can increase your chances of being approved. Don’t give up on your claim. You deserve compensation for your disabilities.

How can a VA disability lawyer help me?

The VA disability claims process is long and complicated. If you make one simple mistake, your claim could be denied, resulting in you not receiving compensation. A VA disability lawyer will help you apply for disability. They will answer your questions and ensure your application is filled out correctly.

If your claim is denied, a lawyer can also help you navigate the appeal process, which is a complex system with plenty of room for error. Another reason to hire a VA disability lawyer is that they can help you increase your VA disability rating if you think it’s too low.

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