Currently, about 61 million American adults live with some type of disability. That's more than a quarter of the total adult population in the country. Many of these people become disabled while still employed.
If you’ve suffered a disability before reaching retirement age and can no longer work as a result, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked a specific number of years in an organization where you pay Social Security (FICA) taxes.
Sometimes, you may need to work with a disability lawyer to access your SSDI benefits. Cases of Americans being denied disability benefits are not uncommon. If that has happened to you, an expert on disability law can help you appeal the decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Why should you consider working with one? More importantly, how can you identify and hire the right disability attorney for your case?
But what is a disability lawyer? Why should you consider working with one? More importantly, how can you identify and hire the right disability attorney for your case?
These are some of the issues we discuss in this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is a Disability Attorney?
A disability lawyer is an attorney who specializes in assisting clients to access their disability benefits. Most people who file for disability benefits know little about how the SSA operates, leading to numerous denials during the initial attempt. Disability lawyers help handle the necessary procedures to boost the odds of winning a claim.
Some of the responsibilities of disability lawyers include:
- Ensuring that the application is completed
- gathering the necessary medical documents
- Maintaining communication with the SSA
- Filing Appeals
- Representing clients during disability hearings
With an experienced attorney to do the above tasks for you, you should be able to start receiving the benefits you are entitled to within the shortest time possible.
How to Go About Hiring the Ideal Disability Lawyer for You
Discovering that you’ve suffered a disability that will hinder your ability to work can be distressing. SSDI can help make things better for you and your eligible loved ones by providing financial benefits every month. People who have suffered disability may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is strictly need-based.
As we mentioned earlier, many applications for disability benefits are turned down because the applicants aren't well-versed in the complex application process. The complicated legal jargon, difficult medical terms, strict criteria, and hard deadlines can be confusing for most people.
That’s where disability attorneys come in. These SSDI and SSI Lawyers take the stress out of the application process and do what it takes to enable their clients to access their benefits.
So, how do you identify the right disability attorney for you?
Go for Someone Who Specializes in Social Security Law
Disability law is a specialty. An attorney who does not practice Social Security law is unlikely to be familiar with the SSDI and SSI regulations, which can be quite complex.
Social Security disability lawyers understand all the documents required for making a successful application. They know every step of the application process, so you needn't worry about missing any deadlines. An SSDI lawyer also knows what questions to ask during a hearing and how to challenge the testimony of vocational expert witnesses.
Hire a Local Lawyer
As you compare different social security disability attorneys, you’ll come across some who declare such things as they have the best track record in helping clients win claims. The only problem is that these lawyers may be based out of state.
One of the best things about hiring a local disability attorney is that they’re more likely to know the medical and vocational experts relevant to your case. Besides, it’s easier to meet local attorneys physically and discuss your case with them. A local disability lawyer is also easily accessible during the claims process.
Given the sensitive nature of a Social Security disability claim, you must work with a professional with enough experience to give you an edge. Specifically, look for an attorney who has handled your type of claim many times before.
Working with a lawyer with zero experience and who has to do research before they get started on your case can be a hindrance. During the initial meeting, ask your prospective attorney how many years they’ve been handling disability claims like yours. A lawyer with at least five years’ relevant experience is the best for you.
Determine Who Will Be Assigned Your File
Ideally, the attorney you are talking to during your consultation should be the one to handle your case. However, this is not possible in some cases.
If another attorney is going to be working on your file, you need to ask certain questions to have a clearer understanding of who you’ll be working with. Ask about their qualifications, experience, track record, and so on.
Inquire About Fee Structure
When you file a claim for SSDI or SSI benefits, money is usually at the forefront of your brain. That’s why you need clarity on anything in your case regarding money.
Ask your prospective disability attorney how they charge for their services. Do they charge hourly, or is it a flat fee? Is it going to be a contingency fee, or there's a payment plan?
Once you get the answers to the questions above, follow up with relevant questions. For instance, if the firm operates on a contingency fee basis, what percentage do they charge? Ask for a draft copy of the contract, so you have a better idea of what to expect in case you hire them.
Inquire About Potential Fee Adjustment
Many disability law firms adjust their fees based on the length of case time or unforeseen circumstances. These details may or may not be written into the contract, so it’s important to inquire at the very beginning.
Some law firms might reduce the fees for clients who have other cases with them. Your prospective law firm may also opt to reduce the fees in case there’s a lien at the end of your case. Whichever the case, it’s within your right to know whether there might be a review of charges.
Find Out About Their Average Case Turnaround Time
No attorney can give you a guarantee about the specific time your case will take. However, a seasoned disability lawyer will have a general time range in mind and can give you a good idea of how long you can expect the case to take.
Why is it important to know the approximate amount of time you are looking at until your case is resolved? Well, the information helps you plan for the best-and-worst scenarios for your case.
Find Out How the Attorney Plans to Handle Your Case
It’s essential to understand how the attorney will handle your case should you decide to hire them. What steps will they take to boost the chances of a desirable outcome? How much time will each step take?
Find out whether there'll be submissions to the court. Should you expect a lawsuit? Inquire whether there'll be interviews, mediation, discoveries, or trials.
The information you get by asking the questions above help you know what you’re getting into. This way, you can prepare appropriately.
Find Out How Often You Can Expect Updates
Finding a disability attorney who provides punctual updates on your case is one of the best things that can happen to you when you’re filing an SSDI claim. During your first meeting, inquire when you can expect to receive updates. Also, find out whether you can expect to receive copies of documents on your case regularly, or the copies will be sent once your case is concluded.
Don’t forget to ask what your prospective attorney will expect from you once you start working together. During the claims process, situations may arise that require you to provide certain updates to your attorney.
Find Out How You Will Communicate
Throughout your disability case, you’ll need to communicate with your attorney. Discuss the most appropriate way to communicate with your attorney. For instance, you can decide to touch base via telephone, video-conference, email, in-person meeting, or an online client portal.
Find out whether you’ll be able to talk to your attorney directly when you need to or whether there’ll be a case manager to handle some of the communication.
Ask Whether They Can Recommend Other Attorneys
If at the end of your meeting, it becomes clear that you and the attorney won't be working together for some reason, it’s still okay to ask for referrals from them. Many attorneys will have no problem offering suggestions of other law firms that may be better suited to handle a case like yours. That said, it’s up to you to do your homework once you receive suggestions to make sure the attorney you’ve been referred to is ideal for you.
Choose the Ideal Disability Attorney for You
When you’ve suffered a disability and intend to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits, it helps to get quality legal assistance. Before hiring a disability lawyer, take the time to learn as much about them and their firm as possible. This helps you know whether you’ve found the right fit.
Would you like to learn more about Social Security law and lawyers? Please keep visiting our blog.