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How much does an SSDI lawyer cost?

How much does an SSDI lawyer cost? We cover what SSDI attorneys cost, how they charge, and everything you need to know here.

evident Editorial Team
published
April 23, 2022
Plant growing out of coins

When filing for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI), you might be considering whether to work with an attorney to increase your chances of success.

Here’s what you need to know about costs and more.

Key Takeaways

How much does an SSDI lawyer cost?‍

Social security disability lawyers generally cost between $0 and $6,000, but they only get paid if your application is successful. This is because SSDI lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they get paid a percentage of your backpay award if your application is successful. In other words, their fee is contingent upon the success of your application.

By law, SSDI lawyers are limited in how much they can charge you. Generally, an SSDI lawyer can charge 25% of your SSDI backpay up to a maximum of $6,000, whichever amount is lower. (Backpay means the past benefits owed to you, and does not include future payments after a successful application). The legal fees are often less than this $6,000 maximum.

Here are two examples of what this looks like:

SSDI Legal Fee Example graph with pie charts

Another important aspect is that the lawyer fees are paid directly out of your backpay award. In order to get paid, SSDI lawyers must enter into written fee agreements with their clients and submit those agreements to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for approval. The fee agreement must be signed by the lawyer and the client, and must lay out the terms of the lawyer’s contingency fee.

If the SSA approves the fee arrangement, the SSA will pay your lawyer directly out of the backpay award. This means no out of pocket charge to you, and your lawyer is not paid until your application succeeds.

What is the most an attorney can charge for disability?

It is important to note that there are limited circumstances in which a lawyer could seek more than $6,000 in fees.

For instance, if you are initially denied benefits and your lawyer appeals your case to the SSA Appeals Council or to federal court, your lawyer could submit a fee petition to the SSA. If the SSA approves the fee petition, the lawyer could then ask you for the additional fees.

But, again, most SSDI cases come in under the $6,000 maximum.

SSDI Lawyer’s Fees vs. Legal Costs

Separate from the lawyer’s fees, though, there could be some incidental costs associated with your case.

For instance, your lawyer may need to request certain types of records that support your claim, such as medical records from a hospital or doctor’s office. Some institutions may provide these records for free, but others will not, and your lawyer may have to pay postage and copying expenses in order to get these documents.

So while an SSDI lawyer cannot charge an upfront fee for their legal services, they may ask you to pay a small amount upfront in order to cover these costs. These costs generally total no more than $100-200 over the course of a case, though.

Also, many SSDI lawyers do not ask clients to pay for these expenses in advance, and will instead ask you to reimburse them at the end of the case. Your fee agreement will address who is responsible for paying legal costs.

Is it best to have a lawyer for disability?

If you’re asking yourself “do I need an SSDI lawyer”, you’re not alone. 

Here’s the short answer: you do not need an SSDI lawyer to file your application for disability benefits. But working with a lawyer can improve your chances of success. 

The average acceptance rate of disability applications is just 34%. The application form alone is over seven pages long, and many applications are rejected due to incomplete forms or information.

An SSDI lawyer can guide you through the process and increase your chances of success at each stage of the process. This is true for both filing the application, and even more importantly, representing you on an appeal if the Social Security Administration denies your application.

How long does it take for a lawyer to get your disability?

It can take anywhere from three months to well over a year to receive your benefits, depending on whether you need to go through the appeals process.

If your SSDI application is denied, your case can go through as many as four levels of appeal: 

  1. Reconsideration
  2. Administrative law judge hearing
  3. Review by the Appeals Council, and
  4. A lawsuit in federal court if the prior appeals are denied.

Working with an attorney can increase the odds of getting your benefits sooner, but it can be a long process nonetheless.

The final word on SSDI lawyer costs

In sum, there are three important things to know about how much an SSDI lawyer costs.

First, there are generally no upfront fees and you only pay if your case is successful.

Second, if your claim is successful, the cost will generally be 25% of your backpay award up to a maximum of $6,000.

Third, SSA will typically pay your lawyer directly from your backpay award. As discussed, you may be responsible for some moderate costs including copying or postage expenses, but your fee agreement will cover who is responsible for paying these legal costs (and when).

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