Here is a frequent question:
When should I hire an attorney to help me on Social Security disability benefits case?
Imagine you are skydiving for the first time. Would you wait until you are in the plane going up for your first jump before asking how to open the parachute?
You may already know that many attorneys will not take a case until the initial application has been denied. But that is not always the case!
You can hire an attorney at any time:
- Before you apply. Some attorneys will help you apply and complete all the necessary paperwork and documents, online or offline.
- After you apply. After the application is completed and you have a receipt for your application, the attorney helps you gather evidence for Social Security’s initial review of your case.
- After the initial denial. This is when most people get an attorney. If you have been denied, the attorney helps you appeal the denial and build up your case for the hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).
- Once the hearing is scheduled / After the hearing has been continued. CAUTION
- After the hearing denial. DANGER
Since I would not recommend learning how to skydive on the way up to your first jump, I believe you should hire a lawyer before steps 4 and 5.
Now that we have covered when you can hire a lawyer, let’s talk about when you should hire a lawyer. Continue reading When should I hire a lawyer?
Pop Quiz: Do you save money by waiting to hire a lawyer/attorney until your hearing is scheduled?
In a normal Social Security contingency fee agreement, you pay the same amount whether you hire an attorney a year before the hearing, or a week before the hearing.
Most Social Security disability cases are taken on a contingency fee agreement: 25% of the back benefits up to a $5,300 $6,000 cap. The new $6,000 cap goes into effect in June 2009. Click here for more information about fee agreements in Social Security cases.
The main difference is how much time your attorney will have to help you!
Hiring an attorney early on has a lot of benefits:
- The attorney has more time to review and prepare your case.
- The attorney has more time to get you ready to answer the judge’s questions at the hearing.
- The attorney has more time to develop your medical evidence.
So, the question is:
If you are going to pay the same amount in legal fees, would you rather have an attorney working for you for 12 months helping you get ready for your hearing, or do you want to pay the same amount and just get a week’s worth of work?
One of the hardest parts about getting help on a Social Security case is finding the right person to work with.
What if i hire a lawyer and they don’t do anything?
What if I am not happy with the lawyer?
I don’t want to be stuck with a big bill.
Fortunately, Social Security takes a lot of the worry out of hiring a lawyer. Continue reading I need help on my Social Security disability case, but I don’t want to be ripped off!
What is the number one question people ask when looking to hire a lawyer?
How many cases do you win?
But, this will only give you a meaningless answer. Here’s why:
Continue reading Good and bad questions when choosing a Social Security disability lawyer
Another blog recently wrote that if you go to your hearing without an attorney, the judge will assume you have no case, won’t treat you with respect, and is more likely to deny you.
Not surprisingly, they are trying to sell you their legal services.
Now, I certainly think getting an attorney is a good idea.
- Statistically, your chances of winning are better if you have an attorney.
- An attorney can help you collect evidence.
- An attorney can evaluate your case for weaknesses and help you build the strongest case possible.
BUT, you should not hire an attorney out of fear.
I cannot speak about how judges in other jurisdictions handle cases, but I cannot think of a single judge I have dealt with that has not taken extra care when working with an unrepresented claimant. At a minimum, the judge will go over your right to representation and will often postpone the case to make sure you want to proceed without counsel.
If you go through with the hearing without counsel, by Social Security’s own regulations, the judge has special duties to make sure your hearing is handled fairly.
You may be saying that regulations will not guarantee that you will be treated fairly. True enough. However, there is no reason to assume you will become a victim if you go to hearing without an attorney. Spreading fear is just a cheap strategy to try to get more clients.