Did you know that it’s more likely that you’ll be denied Social Security Disability benefits than have your application approved? Only about 36% of claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are approved, and many of those are only approved after an appeal or at a hearing. Not only are your approval chances slim, but the process is also quite lengthy. So how do you improve your chances? Hire a disability attorney.
Before you select one, however, be sure you know what to ask your disability attorney. Here are some questions you should ask when deciding who to hire.
1. Do You Have Experience With SSDI Cases?
As evidenced by the low approval rate, SSDI claims require a great deal of documentation and are often very complex. Any attorney you hire should have specialized knowledge of these cases.
Some of the things that are necessary for an SSDI claim include an analysis of your medical records, knowledge of the laws specific to Social Security, experience in front of an administrative law judge, and cross-examining witnesses.
Ask any potential attorneys if they have experience, how many hearings they have participated in, and how well they understand the process and presenting in front of administrative law judges.
2. How Frequently Do You Meet With Your Clients?
Some clients don’t really care to have many face-to-face meetings while others do. Think about what you prefer. Do you want an attorney who will meet with you often or would you prefer to communicate more via phone or email?
Choosing an attorney who will be in line with your needs as a client is important, otherwise, the process could be very frustrating.
If you choose a large firm with a high volume of clients, you might not actually meet your attorney until right before you go into a hearing. However, they may have more resources to help win your case than a smaller firm. Ask yourself if you’re ok with that, and if not, seek out an attorney who has the ability to meet your needs.
3. Who Will Handle My Hearing?
Another tactic that large firms often use is to have clients meet with experienced, senior attorneys at the office but then send an inexperienced attorney or even a non-attorney representative to represent you at the hearing.
While it is possible that attorneys may have emergencies or other things come up that might require them to ask someone to attend the hearing in their place, this should be the exception rather than the rule.
Ask your attorney who will represent you at a hearing and how often they send substitutes to hearings. Also ask if they send attorneys or a “hearing rep.”
4. How Does Your Fee Structure Work?
There are limits on how much an attorney can charge for a Social Security case. The Social Security Administration limits fees to 25% of the settlement amount, up to a maximum of $6,000.
Typically, this payment comes directly from the Social Security Administration once your claim is successful. They will deduct the attorney fees from your settlement benefits and pay the attorney directly.
You may have to pay for other legal costs associated with your claim, though. If you need copies of medical records, evaluations by medical experts, or other preparation for your case that costs money, you will typically need to pay those fees. Some attorneys charge for them throughout the case while others may not charge until they win your case.
These are questions you should ask any prospective attorney and they should also be spelled out in any agreement you sign with the attorney.
5. Do You Handle Appeals?
Even SSDI cases that have an attorney handling them are denied. If this happens and you want to appeal, you’ll need to know if your attorney handles appeals. If they do not, it may be difficult to find a new attorney to take on your appeal.
An experienced attorney will help you decide what to do upon a denial. They can help you figure out of an appeal is your best approach or whether it makes more sense to refile for benefits.
Either way, many attorneys are reluctant to take on cases if they did not represent you at the initial hearing, so finding an attorney who will handle the entire process is the most beneficial to you.
6. What Is Your Approach to SSDI Cases?
Every case is different, with different medical issues, and as such, the strategy for each case should vary. SSDI cases are not one-size-fits-all. Ask your prospective attorney about their approach, how it varies depending on the case and the medical issue, and whether they favor things like on-the-record requests, consultative examinations, or expedited hearings.
An experienced attorney will know what to use in order to increase your chances of success.
7. How Do You Communicate?
This question goes along with learning about how often your attorney meets with clients. If they prefer to meet, make sure that works for you and your preferences. If an email or phone conversation is more their style, you need to be ok with that as well.
Make sure you understand how available they will be to you (whether that’s in person, via phone, or email) and what their general turn-around time is for messages or emails.
Ask Your Disability Attorney These Questions to Hire Someone Right For You
Ask your disability attorney these questions before you agree to work with them and this will likely save you many headaches down the road. As these cases could take a year or more, you will need to have an attorney you are confident in, as you will be working together for an extended amount of time.
Make sure you find an attorney who is right for your case to increase your chances of approval.
Our firm has experience with these cases and can represent you through every step of the process. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation. You can get real-time assistance with your case 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.