Social Security topics are commonly associated with endless questions and headaches. Finding a good Social Security disability lawyer is no exception. It is however, the most important factor in securing the success of your claim. Below, you’ll find a list of details and questions that should, at the very least, help point you in the right direction.
Just What Is Social Security disability?
Social Security “disability” is an insurance program provided by the federal government. It is managed by the Social Security administration and was created to help individuals who are unable to work because they have a disability that prohibits them from doing so. Most of the time this disability is of a physical nature therefore benefits may be either temporary or permanent depending on each individual’s diagnosis.
What is a Social Security disability lawyer?
A lawyer in general is a person who has met certain qualifications: a bachelor’s degree, a Juris doctorate and admission to a state bar. Once that person has pass their bar exam, they then choose a certain field to practice in. Social Security disability lawyers choose to work primarily with cases involving a claim produced by a person seeking disability payments. These lawyers work on behalf of the claimant to produce a court ruling in favor of their client.
Where to find a lawyer
You can find a lawyer online, in the yellow pages, through legal aid clinics, and also the referral service that is operated by each state’s bar association. There are a few things you should look for when deciding on which lawyer to contact. It is good to examine the lawyers experience with your situation, their education levels, and the fees that they would likely charge.
Once you contact the lawyers’ office, it’s good to start a conversation about their experience winning cases similar to yours. Generally lawyers specializing in social security cases are very busy and it’s hard for them to offer a lot of attention to one claimant. One thing to look for when sorting through which lawyer to pick is to find one that will take or return your calls. A lawyer that isn’t available to take your calls may not be available for your hearing until a time later than what you were hoping for.
7 questions you should ask before hiring a lawyer
When hiring any type of lawyer, especially one handling your social security case, it’s extremely important to find out as best you can whether that particular lawyer is a good fit. In order to make this process easier, there are a few key questions that should be asked right away. These questions will help you to quickly determine if the lawyer you are speaking to is one that will not only represent you well, but also win your case.
1- Are you a licensed attorney?
Licensed attorneys are graduates from law school who have spent years learning how the system works. If their answer is no, then it’s time to look for a new lawyer as nonlawyer representatives are generally not as reliable.
2- On average, how many hearings a week do you have?
If a lawyer has a few hearings a week, it’s a good determination of their current client base. The more clients they have, the more experienced they are.
3- What is your win rate?
With this question, you are simply asking what their win rate is in the court room. Now here’s the tricky part. It’s important to evaluate how they answer that question. When they answer the question, do they talk about not only how their win rate is high but how they guarantee you a win as well? Sometimes they will replace the word win with success. This can be a big red flag. Some lawyers have a high success rate due to what is termed ‘cherry picking’. This means that if they feel that the case might be lost, they will go ahead and drop the client to preserve their high rate. If instead your potential lawyer evaluates your case thoroughly and details the good and bad on top of answering your question, then you’re more likely to have a lawyer that will stick with you though the entire hearing.
4- Do you have experience winning claims with my current medical condition?
This is a great follow up question. It is not necessary for the lawyer to have past experience with your individual medical condition, but it certainly helps.
5- Will I be charged out of pocket expenses on top of the lawyer fees? What type of expenses are they?
It’s key to know right away what types of charges come with the hiring of a lawyer. When asking these questions, don’t be shy to go after the little details. Don’t let the questions get pushed around or answered vaguely. If the lawyer you’re interviewing dances around with the answers then you know right there that he/she is not the right person to represent your case. The last thing you want are unannounced and unexpected expenses.
6- Have you ever had arguments with Social Security staff or the judges?
The answer to this question lets you know if your prospective layer is a bully rather than a persuasive lawyer.
7- What do other Social Security lawyers think of you?
A good lawyer will have a list, or at least a card, of one or more local lawyers that can detail how he acts in the courtroom. You’ll want a lawyer that gets along with others. If they do not have anyone that can vouch for their behavior, then you’ll know right away that this particular person is not a good lawyer.
Payment of fees, medical records and potential exams
You will need to sign a fee agreement that allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to pay your attorney in the event that the claim is approved. A fee agreement is a written statement signed by the claimant and the attorney outlining what the attorney is going to charge and collect. The SSA then approves the fee agreement. Social Security lawyers generally work off of contingency which means they only collect money only if they win your claim. Social Security disability lawyers can only earn up to 25% of the past-due benefits, or a maximum of $6,000. Generally there will be expenses aside from the lawyers’ fee.
The lawyer has to request the claimant’s work, medical, and school records. They may also require medical or psychological examinations. This would all be paid separate from the attorney’s fee. Some attorneys may request money in advanced for these expenses which is permitted so long as the attorney holds the money in trust and uses it as needed. Most attorneys will pay these costs and once the case has closed they will send a bill of all the expenses.
Hopefully these questions will help in choosing the right Social Security disability lawyer for you or a family member. When it comes to interviewing potential lawyers, remember that no question is too simple to ask. You have the right to make the most informed decision possible.
At SearchSeniorLiving.com, we are dedicated to helping you and your family ease the search for just the right community. For more information and to use our Search, Sort and Match ™ tool please visit our website or call us at 877-243-8073.