While it is not always necessary to hire a disability attorney, statistics show that claimants are far more likely to be approved for benefits at the hearing level when represented by an attorney. To help find a qualified disability lawyer, several critical criteria should be considered.
Whether you file for SSDI or SSI benefits, the chances of winning increase considerably with the help of an experienced disability attorney. You can find lawyers specializing in disability claims by asking friends and family, utilizing online directories, or legal aid clinics that refer attorneys.
A good disability lawyer will help you fill out your initial application to avoid making claim-denying mistakes. They will also know what medical evidence is crucial to your case and how to get it quickly from your doctors.
When you’re ready for your hearing, a disability attorney will prepare you to testify effectively before the administrative law judge. They will cross-examine expert witnesses hired by the SSA and elicit testimony favorable to you to maximize your chances of winning. A trained disability attorney will also understand the regulations governing these informal, non-adversarial hearings. They can, therefore, anticipate the arguments your opponents will make.
A disability attorney should be able to explain how much they will charge for their services. They should also have a fee agreement available for you to review.
Disability attorneys typically only receive payment if they win your claim and you are awarded back pay, working on a contingency basis. SSA mandates that these fees be limited to no more than 25% of the amount you are awarded in back pay.
These lawyers can help review the evidence in a case file and advise clients on whether any evidence has “bad facts.” Having an experienced disability lawyer review your case can help prevent unnecessary postponements at your hearing.
There may be other out-of-pocket expenses that your attorney must pay on your behalf, such as photocopying or travel expenses. Your attorney should cover these expenses as part of the fee agreement. A reasonable disability attorney will cost-effectively cover these expenses.
A disability attorney with an excellent reputation with local SSA offices and ALJs can often get more favorable decisions on your claim. Ask your prospective lawyer about their plan for your case and how they will pursue it.
An experienced disability attorney will know exactly what the SSA seeks in hard medical evidence. They will work with you to obtain all relevant medical records and statements from your treating doctors, including RFC assessments (Residual Functional Capacity questionnaires) that address mental and physical limitations.
A good disability lawyer will also make sure that you are well prepared for your hearing and will prepare you for cross-examining witnesses. This is essential in successfully obtaining disability benefits at the hearing level. Ask your potential lawyer about their experience at the hearing level and how they will prepare you for testifying in front of a judge. A trained disability attorney should be able to zealously advocate for their client at the hearing by cross-examining expert witnesses and refusing to allow unfavorable testimony to go unaddressed.
Regarding disability applications and hearings, a lawyer is your best advocate for your case. They can fill out your application and help you avoid common mistakes that could derail your claim. They can also help you gather crucial medical evidence typically needed to prove your case.
The law firm you choose should treat you courteously, professionally, and respectfully. They should also respond to your questions promptly and clearly. If you have a consultation with a disability attorney, pay attention to how they interact with you and their staff.
They should have a plan for your case and be willing to share it with you. They should explain the legal process and what they expect to happen, including a timeline. They should also be punctual, as missing an SSD hearing can severely impact your case. Lastly, they should be honest about your chances of winning. A disability attorney who tries to sugarcoat the truth is not one you want to hire.