Category Archive: Articles

  1. Jennifer M. Dillon joins William C. Bernhardi Law Offices PLLC

    Attorney Jennifer M. Dillon has joined the law firm of William C. Bernhardi Law Offices PLLC as an associate, where she will continue her practice in personal injury, civil litigation and Social Security Disability.

    A graduate of the University at Buffalo Law School, Ms. Dillon has practiced in New York State trial and appellate courts, and in federal courts in the Western District of New York and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

    Ms. Dillon has served on the Erie County Bar Association Board of Directors and as Committee Chair of its Disability and Awards Committees.

    She also served on the Boards of Directors of Women Lawyers of Western New York and Immaculate Conception School Board in Eden, and on the Michael F. Dillon Scholarship Committee.


  2. Important Changes in 2014 to Social Security Disability Programs


    This year, more than 60 million Americans are receiving a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly benefit payment.

    The estimated average monthly Social Security payment to a retired worker is now $1,294, up from $1,275 in 2013. The average monthly Social Security disability payment for an individual has increased from $1,131 to $1,148.

    The basic monthly federal payment to an individual for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is $721, up from $710 in 2013.  In New York, beneficiaries receive a state supplement of $87, bringing the monthly total to $808 for an individual living alone.

    Some other changes that took effect in January are based on the increase in average wages. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax (taxable maximum) increased to $117,000, up from $113,700. Of the estimated 165 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2014, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

    The amount of earnings needed for one credit of Social Security coverage has gone up as well, but all workers can still earn up to four credits in a year. In 2014, a worker earns a credit after earning $1,200. In 2013, one credit of coverage was $1,160. It takes forty credits to be fully insured for retirement benefits.

    Other important changes for disability applicants and beneficiaries are the increased thresholds to wages.  In 2014, an individual may earn up $770 per month in gross earnings before triggering a Trial Work Period (TWP).  The limit for “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) is now $1070 per month, an increase from $1040 in 2013.  Therefore, an individual may earn up to $1070 a month before their disability benefits are jeopardized.

    If you have filed for Social Security Disability, intend to file, or are at risk for losing your benefits, our experienced attorneys and staff may be able help.  Don’t hesitate to call us at Bernhardi & Lukasik, PLLC at (716) 674-2424, or toll free at  1-800-949-0772, or contact us at


  3. What to Do When You Have Been in a Car Accident

    If you or a loved one has been injured in car accident or motor vehicle accident in Western New York, there are certain steps that you must take and certain steps that we recommend you take.

    car accident

    At the Scene of the Accident

    Tend to your health first and call for an ambulance if necessary. It is also best to call the police to the scene so they can prepare a police report. If you do not call the police or they do not come, obtain the other driver’s name, address, license number, insurance company and insurance policy number. Get the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle if that is different from the driver’s. Take pictures of any damage to your vehicle. Take pictures of the accident scene. Take pictures of any injuries you suffered. Write down the names of any witnesses and their contact information. The more evidence you accumulate, the better to support a claim for insurance or for damages.

    Take Care of Your Health

    See a doctor as soon as possible to treat any medical needs. What may seem like a minor injury may not go away on its own; when in doubt, see a doctor. Do not wait. Go to the doctor as soon as possible. If you lack health insurance, do not worry as New York No Fault insurance will pay your medical expenses (see below).

    Notify Your Insurance Company

    Notify your insurance company about the incident. They can help, but failing to notify your insurance company can cause problems. Some policies allow the insurance company to deny coverage if you have not notified them in a timely manner.

    File a Claim for No-Fault Insurance

    Everyone injured in a motor vehicle accident in New York (except motorcycle drivers and their passengers) is eligible for No Fault insurance. No Fault will pay your medical bills, lost wages and expenses related to the collision. If you were a driver or a passenger, you will receive your No Fault coverage through the insurance policy of the vehicle in which you rode. If you were a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by a motor vehicle, you will receive your No Fault coverage through the insurance policy of the vehicle that struck you. Call the insurance company and open a No Fault claim right away so you can access the medical care you need through your No Fault coverage.

    You need to notify that insurance company of your injuries within 30 days of the accident if you want to be covered.  You must also file a Notice of Accident form (the NF-2) with the insurer. You should submit the NF-2 form within 30 days of the accident to qualify for benefits.

    Get a Police Report about the Accident

    If the Police came to the scene, you should obtain a copy of the Police Report. In the first thirty days after the accident, you can obtain a copy of the report at the police precinct where the incident occurred. If necessary, notify the Police or the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

    In New York State, each driver involved in a motor vehicle accident involving an injury or a death must report it to the police. If the accident involved more than $1,000 in property damage, each driver must file form MV-104 with the NYS Motor Vehicle Department within 10 days of the accident. Failure to complete these actions could result in a suspension of your license or an arrest.

    When in Doubt, Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Experienced with New York Car Accidents and Motor Vehicle Accidents

    If the accident involved a death, injuries or substantial property damage, you or your loved one may be entitled to seek compensation above what No-Fault insurance will pay. If you think you are entitled to compensation or if you have questions, you should seek the counsel of an attorney experienced with car accident and motor vehicle cases in New York State.  When in doubt, call a good personal injury attorney experienced with motor vehicle cases. That consultation should be free.

    If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with car crash cases. At the law firm of Bernhardi Lukasik, we would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. There is never a charge for the consultation.

    You can call us at (716) 674-2424, toll-free at or e-mail me at You can also visit our website.  We have six convenient offices in West Seneca, Buffalo, Amherst, Niagara Falls, Lockport and Olean with free parking.


  4. Inconsistent federal government policies

    Inconsistent federal government policies on substance addiction as a mental disorder?

    HHS just announced final regulations requiring health insurers who provide coverage for mental health and substance addiction, to treat that the same as medical/surgical coverage.

    However, earlier this year the government issued a ruling (Social Security Ruling 13-2p) restating the rules denying eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits if the disability is based upon substance addiction.

  5. Social Security Disability

    Recently several news outlets have taken up the theme of Social Security Disability, specifically, asserting that it is rife with massive fraud, people receiving benefits who shouldn’t, etc. Here is an article which sums up many of the mistakes in such attacks:

    This is a subject I know something about: I worked for Social Security as a disability evaluator. As a lawyer for 27 years I have represented disabled Social Security claimants. Claimants usually have to fight for benefits, and if they have to go to a hearing they may get a judge like the one who appeared on “CBS 60 Minutes” and claimed that people would be outraged if they knew what happens at Social Security. (So much for her fifteen minutes of fame.)

    Those who attack disabled people who seek Social Security are like bullies kicking someone when they are down. These attacks serve the attackers by creating a distraction from the mess in Congress. These attacks are made by those who would privatize of Social Security. Not a good idea. Remember Enron?


  6. Have you been hurt at work?

     I’m hurt at work…now what?

    One of the most common defenses the insurance carrier will raise when an injured employer makes a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits is that the employer did not have timely notice that an accident occurred. Therefore, it is extremely important for an injured worker to report an injury directly to their supervisor immediately after it occurred. Although notice orally given is generally sufficient, it is best to provide a written account of the accident and injury. If notice cannot be given immediately, it MUST be given within 30 days from the date of the accident. If the employer does not receive notice that an employee was injured within 30 days from the date of the injury, the injured worker’s claim for benefits is likely to be time-barred. Once an employer is on notice, an employee has two years to commence a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
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  7. Divorce & Separation cont.

    The new No-Fault grounds afford New Yorkers a basis to get a ‘no-fault” divorce, in which neigher spouse is judged to be at fault.  Unquestionably, the “no-fault” laws will provide a disincentive for people who wish to challenge the basis of the divorce.

    New York’s “No-Fault” Ground: What is “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”?

    An irretrievable breakdown of the marriage allows one spouse, unilaterally, to end a marriage and to do so without the agreement of the other spouse. However, the 2010 law provides that a court cannot grant a judgment of divorce until and unless the economic issues of the marriage are dealt with.
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  8. Divorce and Separation

    The unprecedented increase in the marriage failure rate during this century and the latter part of the last century has had its effect, directly or indirectly, on virtually every family in the country. The following information was obtained from the New York Bar State Association. It is intended to briefly summarize New York State’s divorce laws.

    Marriage is a civil contract. The state has an interest in preserving marriages. Accordingly, the marriage relationship only can be dissolved by a court, by either a divorce or an annulment. It also may be altered by a decree of separation granted by our courts. In any case, there must be a proceeding in the Supreme Court (which contrary to public thinking is not the highest court in New York State, but rather the trial court of general jurisdiction) in which the person seeking the divorce, separation decree or annulment must prove a basis for the divorce.
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