There are many mistakes people commonly make when filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, but not hiring an attorney may be the biggest mistake of all. With up to 75 percent of all applications for disability benefits initially denied, and with the Social Security Administration itself recommending that applicants secure legal representation to maximize their chances of approval, it seems strange that anyone would attempt to file a disability claim without legal help.
One of the most common reasons for people to proceed without a lawyer is the mistaken belief that they cannot afford an attorney. However, a disability attorney’s fees are limited by law, and representation is provided on a contingency basis. This means that, unless he or she wins your case, your attorney does not get paid.
Social Security lawyers must submit a written fee agreement to the Social Security Administration when filing a claim on behalf of a client. This fee agreement allows the attorney to receive his or her payment directly from the SSA from any back payment received by the applicant. The SSA places a ceiling on the payment the lawyer receives, limiting a disability lawyer’s fees to 25 percent of past-due benefits, with the total amount not to exceed $6,000.
Disability lawyers do not collect attorney’s fees upfront, only collecting if a claimant is approved for benefits. However, in some cases, an attorney may collect a small amount up front to cover expenses. An attorney’s expenses in handling the case are not included in the fees for legal representation. These expenses may include copying fees charged for the release of medical documents necessary to support your claim and postage fees. An attorney may either collect money to cover expenses upfront, holding it in trust and notifying the client whenever funds are withdrawn, or he or she may seek reimbursement for expenses after the case is resolved.
When consulting a disability lawyer about representing you in a claim, you should ask any questions you have about expenses and fees associated with handling your claim. The lawyer should be willing to give you a reasonable estimation of expenses, and he or she should explain how those expenses are to be paid. He or she should not charge you for an initial consultation.
Understanding that a disability lawyer is paid contingent to your success should give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone is committed to getting you the benefits you need and deserve. With payment contingent upon winning, lawyers should be determined to provide the best possible representation, working diligently to win your case.