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Questions to ask an SSDI lawyer

These are the key questions to ask a social security disability (SSDI) lawyer when you first meet with them.

evident Editorial Team
November 28, 2023
Wooden gavel

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides financial support to people who become disabled and lose their ability to work. If you are considering applying, you may be wondering “do I need a lawyer for SSDI?”

While you are not required to hire a social security disability lawyer to apply for SSDI benefits, doing so can help you navigate a complicated process and increase your chances of success.

Many SSDI lawyers offer free consultations which can be a helpful way for you to evaluate whether or not hiring a lawyer is the right decision for you. Here are the key questions to ask a disability lawyer to help you evaluate if they are a good fit for you.

Key Takeaways

How much will you charge me?

How much does a social security disability lawyer cost? A great way to find out is simply to ask one.

SSDI lawyers generally work on a contingency basis. This means they do not require any money upfront and only get paid if your claim is successful. So all things considered, this is a great deal, particularly if your SSDI claim is not a slam dunk.

The law also imposes limits on how much your SSDI lawyer can charge you. Normally, social security disability lawyers will charge 25% of any past-due benefits awarded to you (also referred to as “backpay”), but their fee cannot be more than $6,000.

There are limited exceptions to these limits, but most SSDI lawyers’ fees come in under this $6,000 maximum.

How experienced are you with SSDI claims?

SSDI claims are complicated, and you are hiring a lawyer for their expertise. It may not be their primary practice area, but you want to know how familiar they are with claims like yours and how many times they have navigated the process before.

How will we prepare for my hearing?

An SSDI hearing can be stressful, And if you have never been through the process before, you may be wondering what happens at a SSDI hearing?

Raising these questions with an experienced social security disability lawyer can take some of the stress and uncertainty out of the process. And if you have a hearing on the calendar, understanding how you and your SSDI lawyer will prepare for the hearing can help put your mind at ease and help you be ready as the date approaches.

What questions will the judge ask at a disability hearing?

The judge will ask many questions at a disability hearing, but in general, questions will fall into four categories: your personal background, employment background, medical questions surrounding your disability, and mental health questions. 

Questions on your personal background might seem random, as they will likely include a variety of questions such as how many people you live with, whether you have children, what level of education you have, and whether you’re able to drive. The judge is asking these questions to determine whether you are considered disabled according to SSA guidelines, so it’s important to help the judge understand what your life is like on a day-to-day basis. 

The judge will also ask about your employment background, including questions about your work history and job responsibilities in previous roles dating back 15 years. They will likely ask if you’ve tried working since the onset of your disability, and if so, they’ll want to hear about the challenges you might’ve faced when attempting to resume work. 

You should also be prepared to speak about your disability, including when you were diagnosed and how your condition has progressed since your diagnosis. The judge will want to understand how this diagnosis affects your daily life and your ability to work, so it’s likely you’ll be asked how long you can stand and walk for, as well as how your disability limits your overall physical abilities. You will also likely be asked about the level of pain you experience on a daily basis. 

The judge will also want to hear about how your disability has affected your mental health, which may include questions on your ability to get along with coworkers, how often you need to take breaks due to frustration or other issues, and if you’ve encountered any issues concentrating.

Do you handle cases that go to the Appeals Council or federal court?

Not all SSDI cases reach the Appeals Council or federal court level, but some do. It is helpful to know from the outset whether your social security. disability attorney handles these types of cases, and if not, whether they would be able to refer you to another attorney who does should that need arise.

Aside from lawyer’s fees, what costs will I be responsible for? Will I be charged even if I lose?

Although your SSDI lawyer’s fees are on a contingency basis, you may be responsible for certain incidental costs associated with your case. For instance, there may be postage or copying charges associated with obtaining medical records that are necessary to prove your case. These costs are generally no more than $100-200 in a typical SSDI case.

It is important to understand up front what costs you might be responsible for, and whether you will be required to pay even if your application is unsuccessful.

What is the best way to get in touch with you?

Some social security disability lawyers prefer email, while others might prefer speaking over the phone or by video. And some SSDI lawyers might have you reach out through their secretary or paralegal, while others are happy to have you contact them directly.

There is no right answer here. You should consider your own preferences between phone, video or email and whether the attorney can accommodate your preferences.

Either way, it is important to know how best to connect with your social security disability lawyer if issues or questions arise.

How often should I expect to hear from you?

There is no right answer to this question either. Peoples’ preferences vary--maybe you only want to hear from your disability lawyer if there is a major update, or maybe you would prefer to have periodic check-ins on a regular basis.

Whatever your preferences may be, and whatever the lawyer’s standard practice, it is important to set expectations from the outset.

What do you need from me?

Your lawyer will need your assistance in order to put you in the best possible position to win your case. It may be as simple as following your doctor’s medical advice, or they may ask you to gather certain documents, but it is worth asking whether they need anything from you in order to pursue your claim.

The bottom line

There are a number of factors to consider when hiring a social security disability lawyer including price, experience, and your own comfort level with the attorney. And while you do not need to hire a lawyer in order to apply for SSDI benefits, it can be a complicated process and many applications are rejected.

A knowledgeable SSDI lawyer can help you through the process and increase your chances of success. If you do speak with a lawyer, these questions to ask a disability lawyer should help you get a better sense of what to expect, and whether or not hiring a lawyer is the right decision for you.

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