It is not uncommon for certain types of lawyers to take case free of charge or “pro bono” either to generate goodwill in the community, or if it is a high profile case, to generate publicity.
Disability lawyers, however, work on a contingency fee agreement which means they are not paid unless they win your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case. They do not request any upfront payments to review your SSDI or SSI case or even argue your case in a Social Security Disability Administrative Hearing, but if you win, Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income you are required to pay them.
This fee structure is great news for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants because although they might be destitute and unable to pay their bills, they can still hire a professional disability attorney to help them win their SSDI or SSI benefits. The downside is the disability lawyer will not work for free and will expect payment after you receive your back pay from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
How is my disability lawyer paid?
Disability laws determine the maximum amount which can be charged by a disability lawyer. They are entitled to 25% of your back award up to the maximum of $6,000. This amount is periodically updated by the Social Security Administration. After you have hired a disability lawyer the proper paperwork (the fee agreement petition) must be accepted by the SSA. This agreement authorizes payment to your disability lawyer.
If you hire a disability lawyer they should have you sign the SSA-1696 which is sent to the Social Security Administration. All fee agreements should be reviewed prior to signing. Some lawyers may also charge for certain expenses such as getting copies of medical records, but many disability lawyers will waive this fee.
Disability lawyers who fail to follow the laws outlined by the Social Security Administration or who attempt to charge fees which are not allowed under Social Security Laws may be fined, barred, suspended or imprisoned. Disability law is highly regulated, and the Federal Government protects disability claimants from being taken advantage of by predatory lawyers. This is great news for disability claimants, many of whom are too sick to sufficiently protect themselves.
I have talked to a disability lawyer but they won’t take my case
Disability lawyers do have the right to refuse to take Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance cases. One of the benefits of the contingency fee agreement is you will not have to pay the disability lawyer money upfront or give them a retainer to take your case.
What’s the downside? If you do not have a strong case, if you have not seen a doctor, if you do not have medical evidence of your injury or illness or if you do not meet the nonmedical requirements of Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance a disability attorney will refuse to take your case.
What can you do if a disability lawyer refuses to take your case? If you have met the nonmedical criteria (you have sufficient work credits for Social Security Disability Insurance, you are not working, your condition is expected to last 12 continuous months, your income and resources are limited (Supplemental Security Income only) but you simply do not have sufficient medical records, it is time to see a doctor and get the medical information you need to prove you are disabled and you cannot work. Then return to the disability lawyer and see if they will help you.
- SSDI – Most Common Questions Part II (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
- SSDI – Most Common Questions Part I (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
- Supplemental Security income- Common Questions Part II (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
- Supplemental Security Income – Most Common Questions Part I (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
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