Will a disability lawyer work for free?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and I was recently denied benefits. I have been told I might want to hire a disability lawyer. I have no money for legal help. I am wondering whether a disability lawyer will work for free, and if not, how much would I have to pay to hire one?”

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Disability lawyers and SSDI benefits

While some attorneys may agree to do pro bono work, a disability lawyer will not. The good news, however, is that you will not be expected to pay them any up-front fees. In fact, they will be paid a set amount of your back pay and only if they win your case. If you have no back pay or they do not win your case, you will not owe them any money (exceptions may exist for limited expenses). Let’s take a closer look at how the fee process works.

How much will the disability lawyer be paid?

Social Security regulations determine the amount a disability lawyer will be paid. Currently, statutory law states that a disability lawyer may only receive 25% of a claimant’s back pay up to a maximum of $6,000.

If you have decided to hire a disability lawyer you will be required to sign a SSA-1696 Form. This form designates the attorney as your chosen legal representative and specifies the fee your attorney is legally allowed to collect.  Your attorney generally submits this fee agreement to the SSA before the date the SSA makes a favorable decision. Assuming there are no issues or exceptions to the fee agreement, the SSA generally approves the fee agreement.

Is there always SSDI back pay?

Back pay for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits is calculated retroactively from the date you receive your SSDI benefits back to the onset date of your disability. Consider, however, retroactive pay is not paid for more than 12 months. But even if you have no retroactive benefits, many claimants will receive significant back pay benefits simply because it takes the SSA so long to process their disability claim.

So how much will I pay my disability lawyer? Consider the following example: A disability lawyer receives 25% of your back pay up to $6,000. If your back pay benefits are $12,000, your disability lawyer will receive $3,000.

Additional costs for legal services?

Disability lawyers are allowed to charge additional fees for representation that are not part of the regulated fee agreement. These charges vary and should be discussed with your lawyer. Although some lawyers may not charge for these costs, others will.

Common incidental charges can include fees for requesting a claimant’s medical, school or work records, scheduling medical or psychological examinations, or purchasing postage. Remember, these charges are separate from the fee which will be deducted from your back pay, and a bill may be sent to you after your case is closed, regardless of whether you win or lose.

Bottom Line:

Although you do not need any up-front cash to pay for a disability lawyer, they will be paid out of your back pay if you win your disability case.

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