Important: We updated this article in March 2023 because federal law changed how much attorneys may charge clients. Afraid to get help from a disability lawyer because you don’t know how much they charge? If you’re confused about what disability lawyers can actually do to help your case, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for all the facts you need about disability attorneys. We will cover total fees and give you key details about help disability lawyers can provide for you and your family.
How Much Can Disability Lawyers Charge?
1. All disability lawyers work on contingency — and if you win, you’ll only pay a one-time fee
Chances are good that you can, in fact, afford a lawyer, because you’ll pay nothing if your case doesn’t win. In fact, federal law says disability lawyers cannot charge more than 25% of past-due benefits — or $7,200, whichever is less. Please note that this new legal fee limit took effect on November 30, 2022. Recent SSA legal fee statistics show most people pay close to $3,000 taken out of a $14,000 average back pay award.
2. There are no hidden or extra fees
The Social Security Administration has to approve payment amounts for disability lawyers before they’re paid. Why is that good for you? It means your attorney can’t sneak in any extra fees.
According to the SSA, in most cases, your lawyer can’t charge you anything without getting written approval from them first. However, your attorney may accept money from you in advance if they hold it in a trust or escrow account. Both you and your lawyer are responsible for providing the SSA with accurate payment information.
3. You don’t pay disability lawyers anything if you don’t win SSD benefits
A disability lawyer cannot charge clients whose claims do not result in benefits or back pay awards. So if you don’t win your case, you pay the lawyer $0 for helping you. But you should also know you’re nearly three times more likely to get SSD benefits if a lawyer files your paperwork.
What Can Disability Lawyers Actually Do That SSD Claimants Can’t Do Themselves for Free?
Disability lawyers can act on your behalf in many ways when dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA). They can get information from your Social Security file and pull medical records or other evidence to support your claim. If you have mobility or transportation issues, disability lawyers can attend any SSA interview, conference, or hearing in your place. Yes, this means you won’t have to go to court yourself or even talk to the judge!
If the SSA rejects your request for benefits, disability lawyers can request a reconsideration or file your appeal paperwork immediately. They can also request a new hearing date or Appeals Council review. Disability lawyers can also help prepare you and any witnesses prepare for your appeals hearing.
Finally, they receive a copy of the SSA’s decision about your claim. This is good, because disability lawyers can then help you understand why the SSA denied your application for benefits.
How Disability Lawyers Can Help Most When You Have No Money or Resources
There are some key reasons why disability lawyers make sense if you have no money or resources to your name. If you’re living hand-to-mouth, it can be hard to attend hearings or pay doctors for your complete medical records. That’s where an attorney comes in:
1. Disability lawyers can pay for costly medical records you cannot afford to buy yourself.
Medical records aren’t free, and some may cost more than you can afford. Lawyers know exactly which ones best support your claim and pay those costs up front without charging you. Your attorney can then pay to send the ones the SSA needs for your claim via certified mail. That way, you have proof that will stand up in court showing which SSA agent received them and when. A paper trail like this is key for winning your case faster and getting paid the most benefits you’re owed!
2. Attorneys can attend your hearings without you there.
Your lawyer can represent you in your ALJ appeals hearing so you can stay home and rest. If you’re very ill, in pain, can’t get a ride or deal with bad weather, this is a great option. And a lawyer gives you the best chance for winning your appeal without having to physically appear in court.
3. If you’re a veteran, disability lawyers may bill the federal government for your legal fees.
Disability lawyers can also help eligible disabled veterans mistakenly turned down for benefits. If the government’s error cost you benefits, your legal fees may get covered under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The EAJA is a law that says the government has to pay legal fees for anyone who sues them for money they’re rightfully owed and wins. It covers attorney’s fees up to $125/hour plus other costs (like filing paperwork or medical records) associated with your case.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Many claimants say they’re nervous about filling out government forms online or want to speak to a lawyer in private. We can match you with someone local who offers confidential, in-person consultations to answer all your questions. All we need is your ZIP code to find the closest office that can help you right away. We also need the best way to contact you so the lawyer’s office can call or email to schedule your appointment. This service is completely free, and deciding what to do next after your free consultation is entirely up to you.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.