Preparing For a Day in Court

Preparing For a Day in Court

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been around even less than usual lately.  I’ve provided hints at what was going on before, but I haven’t gone into full detail.  I’m not going to cover every detail (blogger or not, I still like having some privacy), but here’s what was going on: Back in 2012, I applied for Social Security Disability benefits shortly after finding out that, well, I was disabled.  I figured that epilepsy, particularly a form of epilepsy that leads to full-on seizures if you spend too long staring at a computer screen in one sitting (to give one particularly pertinent example), I shouldn’t have much trouble being approved.

I was wrong.

My claim was rejected, and I found myself denied benefits.  It turns out, epilepsy isn’t a disability that automatically qualify for benefits, in spite of the fact that I had numerous sources confirming my claims about the number and severity of said seizures (including monitoring of my brain waves) and I have spent time in hospitals for treatment.  It was…frustrating, to say the least.  (The stories from my mother, a Social Security Administration worker, about people getting benefits while not showing any evidence at all didn’t help matters.)

I appealed the decision, feeling that it was, well, unjustified.  The good news: I was given a chance to defend my position in front of a judge!  The bad news: I would have to wait for more than a year to finally get my day in court.  Yes, I spent all of 2013 in a sort of legal limbo, where my case was in the system, but there wasn’t any final decision made on it (and no payments made while I struggled to get my seizures under control and try to provide for my family).

Lady Liberty is blind, and not terribly generous...
Lady Liberty is blind, and not terribly generous…

On Tuesday, my court date came up.  I prepared my case, went to the court, and did my best to present my argument in front of the judge.  I won’t go into any more detail about what happened during the presentation, because that’s where my willingness to share runs out, but I think things went well.  I need to wait some more before I hear back, though, so it’ll be a while before I know how well I actually did (or really, how convincing my case was).

In any event, I wanted to share all of this with you.  It should help to explain why I haven’t been online for most of the past week (or perhaps closer to two weeks).  I was spending just about every spare moment prior to that court date trying to get everything ready, and when it finally came and went, I wanted to simply rest.  I’m trying to get back into a regular blogging schedule, but it’s going to take a few more days until I’m fully back on schedule.  Until then, here are a few pieces of advice on how to handle any day in court you happen to have:

First,Try to Get a Lawyer.  It’s not impossible to represent yourself (I did), but I’ll be honest, having someone to help you who has experience with the type of court date you have would be a plus, so long as their fee is reasonable.  Luckily, if you are appealing a disability claim, there are laws limiting the amount that can be paid.(That the law firm I approached didn’t take me as a client is, I hope, not a reflection of my case’s likelihood of being approved.)

Second, Be Sure to Research.  I can’t claim to understand what it’s like to prepare a case with a lawyer, but particularly if you are representing yourself, you need to prepare yourself.  Luckily, there are plenty of sources online that you can use.  (If you are making a disability case, two sites I found useful are the Ultimate Disability Guide and Disability Secrets.)  While we’re talking about preparing:

Finally, Make Sure You Prepare Early.  Look, it could be a long time between when you first try to get a court date and when you actually make it to court.  (I could start to discuss a dearth of judges and/or an excess of cases, I suppose, but I’m getting off topic enough with just this post.)  You can easily push your court date to the side and not think about it, but you’d be much better off if you devote at least part of your time and effort in the intervening days (or weeks, or months…) to getting ready.  Even just an hour or so a month would help you get ready and not panic a few days before you have to appear.

Alright, that’s more than enough, I think; this is hardly a legal site.  I hope everyone reading has had a less stressful week than I’ve had, and should you find yourself in court, here’s to successful representation, by yourself or others.

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