Maybe you have moved out of state and had to get a new lawyer on your Social Security disability case. Maybe you fired your lawyer. Maybe your lawyer fired you. But now, you have to find a new lawyer!
What is going to happen to the attorney fees?
Do I have to pay both lawyers?
There are two things that can happen:
First, the first attorney may withdraw and waive fees. If the first attorney waives fees, there is no problem. You will not have to pay the first lawyer. However, you may still owe expenses – what it cost to develop your case (for example: costs for medical records).
If the first lawyer waives fees, they you simply have to deal with the fees for the second attorney. This article deal with attorney’s fees in Social Security cases.
Second, if both attorney’s claim fees, everything is a lot more complicated.
You should know, there is nothing unethical about both your current and former attorney both asking for fees. Both attorneys worked on your case, and both may want to be compensated for their contribution to your case.
I know many of you may be saying:
My first attorney didn’t DO anything!
My first attorney said she would not charge me!
My first attorney did not win my case, why should I pay them?
Everything depends on the circumstances of your case. If your attorney said he would waive fees when you changed lawyers, then he will probably not charge you. Just make sure to get it in writing!
Also, always remember in Social Security cases, the lawyer (or non-lawyer representative) CANNOT charge you any fees UNLESS Social Security approves the fees. Note: this only applies to fees and not the expenses in the case (which you have to pay).
If you have two (or more) lawyers asking for fees in your Social Security case and they are not part of the same firm, each lawyer must file a fee petition with Social Security.
The fee petition also has a place for you, the client, to sign if they approve the fees requested by the attorney.
My lawyer sent in a fee petition and I never signed anything!
The client signature section of the fee petition is optional. If the lawyer and client agree on the fees, there is a space on the fee petition for the you to sign. However, the lawyer can still submit a fee petition even if the client disagrees on the amount. Before you say this is unfair, please remember that Social Security lawyers work for you for 6 to 24 months before they hope to be paid. There are clients who will happily work with an attorney and then contest the attorney’s fees after the case is won. Letting the lawyer file a fee petition without the client’s approval protects the lawyers time investment in a case.
Getting back to the situation where you have two lawyers, each lawyer asks Social Security to approve fees for their work. Not only does each lawyer ask for a dollar amount, they have to explain exactly why Social Security should approve their fees.
Normally, after the lawyer sends in the fee petition, Social Security send a letter to you, the client, asking for your input. If you disagree with the amount the lawyer is asking for, or if you feel that the lawyer deserves nothing at all, this is your chance to let Social Security know.
After the fee petition and the response is provided to Social Security, the judge in the case will issue a decision. Basically, who gets paid and how much. Please note: this process can take months!
So, will I have to pay twice?
The only thing I can say is “maybe.” If you hired more than one lawyer, you may have to pay for the reasonable value of each attorney’s services.