Hiring a disability lawyer to handle your case can significantly improve the chance of your claim being approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Though claimants are not required to hire an attorney to represent them in disability cases, statistics show claimants represented by lawyers are more likely to be approved for disability benefits. As a result, it is important to make sure the disability lawyer you hire is skilled, knowledgeable, and ready to advocate for you.
How to find a good disability lawyer
Finding a good disability lawyer to handle your case is key. Before you hire a disability lawyer make sure he or she is the right advocate for your disability claim by evaluating some important aspects of his or her practice. Keep these things in mind when selecting your attorney:
- Professionalism – Note the level of professionalism and attention you are given by an attorney and his or her staff when calling a potential disability lawyer. Though disability lawyers have busy practices, clients should be treated with respect and given the opportunity to ask questions, and receive responses in a timely fashion.
- Attorney location and access – Look for an attorney close to home if meeting your disability lawyer face-to-face early in the process is important to you. If you select an out-of-state disability lawyer, you likely will not meet your attorney until your case reaches the hearing level. Also pursue a disability lawyer who offers to meet with you in person for a free case evaluation to discuss your claim. Once you hire an attorney, however, keep in mind your disability lawyer spends a majority of his or her time in hearings and may rely on office staff to respond to your everyday questions and communications.
- Promising outcomes – Be wary of working with an attorney who guarantees that he or she will get your disability claim approved or who promises to get your claim approved faster than you could on your own. Good disability lawyers will review the strengths and weaknesses of your case, provide you with an honest assessment of your claim, and admit that while they probably cannot get through the claim process any faster that they will make sure your records are requested and submitted on time.
- Attorney credentials and specialized training – Seek out a licensed attorney who has strong understanding of social security disability law. While claim representatives do not have to be licensed to represent claimants at disability hearings, a licensed attorney will be more knowledgeable about and better at interpreting disability law. Your disability lawyer must be licensed to practice in federal court if your claim is appealed to that level in the future.
How much a disability lawyer costs
Disability lawyers are different from most other attorneys in that they do not ask for a retainer or charge up-front fees to work on a social security disability case. Instead, disability lawyers work on contingency, meaning they only collect a fee at the end of your case if they get your disability claim approved.
When you first hire a disability lawyer, he or she will ask you to sign a fee agreement (http://www.ssa.gov/representation/model_fee_agreement_language.htm) outlining the terms of payment. The disability lawyer must then submit that agreement to the SSA for approval. The fee agreement must meet the SSA’s strict fee agreement guidelines that are in place to ensure attorneys are only paid what they are entitled to and no more.
For disability lawyers, the fee is limited to 25 percent of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000. Your attorney can only be paid out of backdated benefits or “backpay,” which is calculated from the date you were approved for benefits to the date the SSA determined your disability began. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 in back pay, your disability lawyer will be paid $2,500 and you will receive $7,500.
For the most part, clients do not usually have to pay anything out-of-pocket to hire a disability lawyer. However, a disability lawyer may ask a client to pay a reasonable amount for costs associated with requesting different medical records, copying documents, and postage.
What to remember
When hiring a disability lawyer, remember to look for an attorney with these qualifications:
1) Exhibits a high degree of professionalism
2) Maintains a physical office close to your home
3) Offers a free case evaluation
4) Provides you with an honest assessment of your case
5) Is licensed and experienced in social security disability law
If you want to know more about the SSD approval process and have a disability/impairment that has rendered you unable to work, contact Neil H. Good online or call toll-free #(847) 577-4476 to schedule your free case evaluation to discuss your specific health condition and your SSDI eligibility.