“Do I have to repay Social Security benefits if I get an automobile case settlement?”
In some situations yes, in others, no.
A person who has a sufficient employment work history, and who is severely injured in a motor vehicle accident, may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. However, the no-fault carrier for that person is entitled to a credit of whatever amount of SSD payments the individual would receive. For example, if the disabled worker qualifies for $1000/month no-fault wage loss benefits, and also qualifies for $600/month SSD, the SSD will pay the $600, and no-fault $400. The individual would still get $1000 total, but not the sum of $1000 and $600. You do not have to repay SSD benefits out of any settlement you receive from the driver who caused the accident.
Remember: no-fault wage loss has a maximum term of three years from the date of the accident. After the three years, if the injured person still qualifies for SSD, the amount received would go back to the full amount that Social Security alone pays. In the above example, the person would start receiving $600/month after the three year anniversary of the accident.
There is a different, and very important concern for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) , and who are injured in a collision. SSI pays benefits for people who have disabilities that have prevented them from working for a long time. If such a person is injured in a car accident (or has money coming from any kind of case or other source), the SSI benefits may be cut off, or greatly reduced. This is because there is an upper limit to how much money an SSI recipient can have before the benefits are taken away.
There are Special Needs Trusts, and Pooled Trusts, that can shield settlement money from being counted against SSI benefits. These trusts have significant limitations as far as your being able to use the funds, although these limitations are usually preferable to having SSI benefits terminated or reduced.
It is important to recognize the difference between SSD and SSI, and to be sure that your lawyer takes the necessary steps to assure that you are receiving all the funds that you are entitled to, without jeopardizing your benefits.
A person who receives SSI, and who will be getting money from an auto case or other source, needs to consult with an attorney who understands the differences in these benefits, and who takes them into account from the beginning of your injury case.