These are the key questions to ask an SSDI lawyer when you first meet.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides financial support to people who become disabled and lose their ability to work. While you are not required to hire a 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. If you do speak with a lawyer, here are key questions to help you evaluate if they are a good fit for you.
As with hiring any lawyer, you should understand the potential costs at the outset.
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, they 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 legal fees come in under this $6,000 maximum.
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.
An SSDI hearing can be stressful, especially if you have never been through the process before. Understanding how you and your lawyer will prepare for the hearing can help put your mind at ease and help you be ready as the date approaches.
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 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.
Although your 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.
Some lawyers prefer e-mail, while others might prefer speaking over the phone or by video. And some 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 lawyer if issues or questions arise.
There is no right answer to this question either. Peoples’ preferences vary - maybe you only want to hear from your 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.
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.
There are a number of factors to consider when hiring a 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 lawyer can help you through the process and increase your chances of success. If you do speak with a lawyer, these questions should help you get a better sense of what to expect, and whether or not hiring a lawyer is the right decision for you.