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 lawyer or advocates due to monetary concerns, you need not worry. Unlike other types of lawyers, disability attorneys are paid on a contingency basis. Meaning, you can avail of their services without having to pay them upfront.
So how much does a social security disability lawyer cost?
Disability lawyers only get paid when your disability claim is approved. This means that your disability attorney can collect anywhere from zero to basically any amount both of you agree on. BUT it must not exceed 25% of your back pay or $6,000, whichever is lower. It must also be stipulated 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 you’re approved for disability. The payment will be taken from the social security disability 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 disability attorney 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
As mentioned, attorney fees are limited to 25% of your back pay. But the amount must not be more than $6,000. This applies to both SSDI and SSI claims.
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 a higher fee. Besides, disability claims almost always include back payment.
For SSDI, your retroactive benefits are calculated from the onset of your disability to when your claim got approved. If you’re applying for SSI benefits, the back pay is computed from when you applied for benefits to the date of your claim’s approval. Back pays are usually included in your first benefits check.
You don’t have to hand your attorney the fee yourself. The SSA will deduct the social security attorney fee 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).
When the Fee Exceeds The Maximum Amount
Though the SSA caps 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 before an administrative law judge. In instances like this, they are also allowed to petition for a higher fee.
Aside from the agreed-upon attorney fees, your total attorney cost may also include out-of-pocket costs. This refers 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 charge for 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 or a disability advocate.
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Victor Malca P.A. has over 25 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success in fighting for his clients puts among 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.