Q & A
How do I know if a disability lawyer is charging me a fair amount?
Complete Question: I am trying to file a disability claim with Social Security and am having a lot of difficulty with it. I decided it might be best to hire a disability lawyer, but I don’t know where to begin. How do I know if the lawyer has my best interests in mind? Is there a standard retainer fee that I should look out for?
Answer: It is perfectly understandable that you may not know what to expect from a disability lawyer. Luckily, there are laws to protect you. Disability lawyers are paid on a contingency basis, so you know they have your best interest in mind. In addition, the law sets a limit as to how much they can charge you – specifically, the lesser of 25% of your benefit back payments or $6,000. Furthermore, the lawyer has to send the fee agreement to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for approval to make sure it adheres with applicable laws.
Before signing a contract with a lawyer, keep an eye out for a few things so you are not surprised when they come up later. For example, it is common for the lawyer to charge out-of-pocket expenses regardless of whether or not you win your disability case and these expenses are not included in the fee previously mentioned. Out-of-pocket expenses can include photocopies, postage, copies of medical records, etc. and should only cost a few hundred dollars at the most. You should also keep an eye out for a “two-tiered fee agreement”. This means that the lawyer has the right to petition the Social Security Administration (SSA) to charge fees in excess of $6,000 if they do an unusually large amount of work, such as going through an extensive appeals process. By law, the disability lawyer has the right to do this, but if you do not want your case to be appealed and pay the potential extra fees, you may want to state this up front.
In general, be careful before you sign any agreement. The only money you should be paying up front (such as a retainer) should be for the out-of-pocket expenses, if that. If something is not comfortable for you, or it does not sound like they are abiding by these basic laws, then you may want to look elsewhere.