Enlisting the help of a lawyer can help speed up your disability claim. But some people put off hiring an attorney thinking they will have to pay them a large amount of money.
If you’re on the fence about hiring a disability attorney due to monetary concerns, you need not worry. Unlike other types of lawyers, you don’t have to pay a disability attorney upfront. They only get paid when your disability claim is approved – something that is outlined in the contingency fee agreement.
What is a Contingency Fee Agreement?
When you hire a disability lawyer, you will typically be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement. Basically, it allows the SSA to pay your attorney when your claim is approved. The payment will be taken from the benefits you will receive.
This agreement ensures a win-win situation for both sides. If you don’t get your benefits, you won’t be obliged to pay your lawyer. While your lawyer is ensured that they will be duly compensated for their efforts in winning your case.
The SSA will also review the agreement to ensure that the terms therein are in line with their policies.
SSDI and SSI Attorney Fees
Whether you’re applying for SSI or SSDI, the attorney fees will be limited to 25% of your back pay. But the amount must not be more than $6,000.
Note that the payment will be based on your back pay and not on your monthly benefit amount. This means that if you’re not entitled to back pay, your lawyer will receive nothing. Though in cases like this, the lawyer is allowed to file a petition to the SSA requesting for a higher fee.
If you are applying for SSDI, your back pay will include retroactive benefits from the onset of your disability to when your claim got approved. For SSI, the back pay is computed from when you applied for benefits to the date of your claim’s approval. Backpays are usually included in your first benefits check.
You don’t have to hand them the fee yourself. The SSA will deduct it from your first payment. For example, your back pay totaled $10,000 and your first monthly benefit is $1,500. Your lawyer will only be entitled to $2,500 and you will receive a check worth $9,000 ($7,500 plus $1,500).
Most disability lawyers get less than the maximum amount of $6,000. That’s because most cases usually take no more than a few months to get approved.
When the Fee Exceeds The Maximum Amount
Though the SSA capped lawyer fees at $6,000, certain instances allow attorneys to charge more than that.
One is when you fired your attorney and hired a second attorney. If your first disability lawyer did not waive their fee, your new attorney will have to file a petition with the SSA. The SSA will divide the fee between them. But if both did a significant amount of work on your case, the SSA may approve a higher amount.
If your claim gets denied at the disability hearing, your attorney may take your case to the Appeals Council or to a federal court. In instances like this, they are also allowed to petition for a higher fee.
Out-of-pocket costs refer to expenses necessary for processing your claim. This includes payment for obtaining your medical, school, or work records, photocopies, and postage. These aren’t cheap but it rarely ever exceeds $200.
Some lawyers will ask you to pay these out-of-pocket costs in advance. Yes, they are allowed to do that as long as any remaining amount at the end of the case will be returned to you.
Others, however, will pay these costs for you. Once the case is over, they will bill you for it regardless of the outcome.
Make sure to clarify matters regarding out-of-pocket costs before hiring a disability lawyer.
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Victor Malca Law has over 25 years of litigation experience, we are the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.