Applying for Social Security disability benefits without an attorney can make your claim take longer and increase your chances of being denied. Most people who go through the process of applying for Social Security disability will be denied the first time. (Statistically, 70% of all SSDI and SSI claims are denied after the initial application.) This can happen even if a disability claimant’s case is strong. Having a consultation with a disability attorney before you apply can help you when you visit your doctor in a preparation of applying and when you fill out the application.
The appeals process is in fact where most successful Social Security disability are won. More specifically, getting a case at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) is where a claimant will have their best opportunity at winning disability benefits. In most cases, being represented by a disability lawyer can greatly increase your chances of the judge’s approving you for benefits. Experienced disability lawyers know how get the proper evidence into the record, prepare you properly to give testimony, and to cross-examine vocational experts. Getting these things right can make or break your case.
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A Disability Lawyer may use a fee petition in any case in which there is a signed contract. In most cases, Disability Lawyers prefer to be paid on a percentage or contingency basis. Usually, a fee petition is only used if the original contract does not meet the requirements, and so in order to be paid the Attorney must file a fee petition describing all work performed on the case.
Fee petitions may also be filed in cases where one lawyer works on a client’s case, the client changes lawyers and the second lawyer finishes the case. The first lawyer, or both lawyers, may submit fee petitions at that time as well.
In most cases, Social Security Disability Lawyers are only paid from any accrued, unpaid benefits. The standard agreement is 25% of past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000.
If you win your case, but no past-due benefits are paid, you do not owe your attorney for the work they performed on your case, only for any out-of-pocket expenses they incurred on your behalf.
In addition to checking with Social Security Disability Attorney professional associations, it is always good to ask for a referral from friends, family, or even your family doctor. They can share their experience with you as to what they liked about their representation and give you starting point. Another useful resource is the State Bar. The State Bar keeps a list of attorneys in various practice areas who practice the type of law you may need.
A Social Security Disability Attorney will handle everything in your claim, except for completing questionnaires that require your personal knowledge (daily activity questionnaires ask for specific details about what you do on a given day). The Attorney will review your file with SSA, determine if any records are missing, and will coordinate with your doctor to ensure your record contains everything needed for an examiner or Judge to approve your case.
The Attorney will file all appeals, work with the hearing office to get your hearing scheduled, and file all legal documents and briefs prior to hearing. The Attorney will represent you in the hearing itself to ensure all relevant testimony is elicited, make all legal arguments on your behalf, and question all witnesses from Social Security (i.e. vocational expert, medical expert) to again ensure the testimony provided by these witnesses will help your case.
Yes. All engagement agreements may be ended by either party (the client or the attorney). Please be aware, though, that firing an attorney does not mean that attorney will not be paid from your benefits. The fee agreement remains in place, and if the attorney did any work on your case prior to being fired, they will be eligible for payment from your benefits.
Various legal aid organizations can offer free legal services, including representation in a Social Security case. Lists of these organizations can be found in the government section of the phone book.
This varies from attorney to attorney. After an attorney has practiced for a while, they develop a sense for the types of cases they prefer to take. So if you are turned down by one attorney, keep trying as it might not have anything to do with how good your case is, it might just not be the type of case that attorney prefers.
Some attorneys may not take cases of individuals younger than age 50. Some may not take psychological cases. Others may not take children’s cases. In general, Social Security Disability requirements get easier as the claimant gets older, so younger aged individuals have a higher burden to meet to qualify.