If you are suffering from a disability and are struggling with the requirements to apply for Social Security disability, you may be wondering about whether your situation justifies hiring an attorney. Although you can make a claim on your own, those who hire attorneys with experience in filing disability claims have a greater chance of receiving approval.
Lawyers tend to specialize in one area of law, so don’t hire someone because your friend says they are great. Aunt Mabel’s friend may be a great divorce attorney but know nothing about disability. Make sure you are choosing disability lawyers who have experience in filing disability claims.
Keep reading to learn six important things to consider when you are looking at your options for lawyers.
1. Experience in Disability
This is one of the most important things to consider when hiring an attorney to file a disability claim. Social Security rules on disability are specific. Your attorney needs to have the knowledge necessary to read over your application, review your medical records, and provide you with advice on what is necessary to increase your chances of approval.
If the attorney has been filing disability claims for several years and has a team of trained professionals, your claim is in good hands.
2. References and Reviews
When you are considering an attorney, it is always beneficial to check their reputation online. A successful attorney will often have a testimonial or results section on their website. If they do not have a testimonial section, that is not necessarily a negative point.
Reviews for attorneys are easily found online by googling their names. The state’s bar association will contain an area for finding out information about an attorney. Some attorneys practice in several states, and they must pass the bar for each state where they represent clients.
For instance, the Colorado Bar Association has a For The Public section. You may click on I want information about an attorney to find out if the attorney has a valid license or any disciplinary action against them.
When on the State Bar of California you may use the attorney search to locate the attorney you are considering. This will show you when they were admitted to the bar and their license number. By clicking on their name you will see their name, address, email, licensing information, and any disciplinary action.
Similar information about an attorney may be found by searching a lawyer’s name under the legal director of the Washington State Bar Association.
3. Success Rate
One thing is certain, you do not want to hire an attorney that experiences more losses than wins. When you are meeting with the attorney for the initial consultation, ask them about their success rate. You may also be able to find information about some of their wins on their website.
The attorney will be able to give you an idea of what your approximate settlement amount may be. This is only an estimation and your actual settlement may be slightly higher or lower.
If the original settlement is low or you receive a denial, are they able to handle an appeal?
Social Security is a complicated area of law with its own special rules and procedures. You need an attorney who is familiar with navigating this unique area of law and has the experience to walk you through the process. Hearings at Social Security are held before an Administrative Law Judge. Administrative law hearings have some rules and regulations that are different than a standard civil court.
4. Attorney Fee
When you consult with an attorney they need to provide information on their fee structure and costs for other fees, such as court filing fees. When filing for Social Security disability, the attorney must submit the fee agreement made with you to Social Security for approval.
Social Security has a maximum fee that is allowable. The fee must not be in excess of 25% of the past-due benefits or:
- $4,000 for fee agreements receiving approval prior to February 1, 2002
- $5,300 for fee agreements receiving approval on or after February 1, 2002
- $6,000 for fee agreements receiving approval on or after June 22, 2009
If the specifics of the fee agreement between you and the attorney are not consistent with the statutory conditions of Social Security fee agreements, they will not receive approval. One example is if the 25% of past-due benefits exceeds the allowable maximum shown above.
In that case, the lawyer will receive the maximum fee and may file a petition requesting additional fees. This must be done during the fee approval process and not after a favorable decision has been made.
In this way, Social Security controls how much of your disability benefit the attorney you hire is able to receive for representing you. If you have any questions about fees for representation, the first step is to talk to your lawyer about your concerns.
During the hiring process, your attorney will present you with a written fee agreement, and the two of you will sign acknowledging the agreement. Review the agreement prior to signing and request an explanation on anything you do not understand. You will receive a copy of this agreement to take with you.
5. Hire an Attorney Who Practices Close to You
Social Security claims are federal, which means you may hire an attorney who is located anywhere in the country. By selecting an attorney who practices law near where you live, you will be able to easily meet with them as necessary throughout the process.
Hearings will be held at a location near you. By using an experienced attorney from your area, they will be familiar with the Administrative Law Judges in your area and what each judge expects when deciding a case. While the governing factor is the law, knowing how each individual judge applies that law can make the difference between whether or not you receive a favorable decision.
6. Hire an Attorney Early in the Process
Because there are no out-of-pocket expenses to hire an attorney on a disability claim, it is always preferable to obtain representation as early in the process as possible. They will walk you through the requirements of the application process. You want the best chance of receiving a favorable decision the first time you apply, and an attorney may help you avoid a lengthy appeal process.
Choosing Disability Lawyers
By choosing disability lawyers early in the process you alleviate your own frustration over the application process and increase your chances of approval with your first application. At Sweet Lawyers, we provide you with a 100% free, no-obligation consultation. We will give you our legal opinion of your case and explain what steps we will take throughout the application process, up to and including an appeal if necessary.
If we are unable to win your case, you will owe us nothing. We encourage you to contact us today by email, text, or call 1-800-674-7854 to schedule your free consultation. Our attorneys, investigators, and case managers are available 24/7, so email or text at anytime day or night.