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How To Choose A Social Security Disability Lawyer

Apr 10, 2008
If you've been researching the Social Security Disability process, you know by now that it is a lot more complicated than just telling the office that you can't go back to your current job. Social Security law is comprised of hundreds of regulations, rulings and cases interpreting them. There are not a lot of lawyers that practice in this area compared to other areas of the law because...well, it's a pain in the neck.

Social Security Disability law is complicated, the legal fees are generally low and the cases take a long time to complete. Most of us that do practice in the area do so because, despite the headaches, it's important. Most of clients have nowhere else to turn. Their disability has turned their life upside down and they are on the verge of losing everything...or already have. If you are disabled, you are entitled to the benefits we are fighting for. It's your money!

So, if you've made the decision to hire a social security disability lawyer, what should you look for? By far, the most important thing is experience. You don't want a lawyer who "dabbles" in Social Security Disability law. It should be a major part of his or her practice.

You should also be familiar with the medical condition that results in your disability, or willing to become familiar. How can he advocate your position to the judge if he does not understand it himself? Last, he should be willing to take your case on a contingent fee basis. A contingent fee means that he does not get paid unless he wins. The standard Social Security Disability lawyer fee is 25% of the back benefits, but cannot be greater than $5,300.00.

It does not matter where your SSDI lawyer or SSI disability lawyer is located. If he is a lawyer in any state, he can practice in front of any Social Security Law judge. This is even less important than it used to be as an increasing number of hearings occur by video conference and the judge may be hundreds of miles away at the time.

Here are some sample questions you might ask when communicating with a prospective lawyer's office:

1. How many disability hearings has the lawyer conducted?

Answer: The answer should be several hundred, at least.

2. I'm suffering from (insert your condition). Does your firm have experience with this type of medical impairment?

Answer: The answer should, of course, be "yes."

3. I understand that the lawyer will often not be available. Will I have one individual assigned to my case that I can ask questions when necessary?

Answer: This is an important issue. If your lawyer has the experience you want, he or she is often out of the office. You should expect that he will assign a particular paralegal or case manager that he oversees to respond to general questions or issues in your case. This person typically will gather new information regarding your medical treatment. A skilled paralegal is a great benefit to both the lawyer and the client.

4. Will the lawyer be at my hearing?

Answer: This may seem like a silly question, but its not. Some companies hold themselves out as Social Security advocates but are not really lawyers. This seems ridiculous, but it is true and it is legal under social security law. In other cases, some law firms will not attend hearings because they deem them to be too much trouble. They will ask the judge to make a decision based upon the written record. Again, this is legal but I think it is a terrible disservice to the client. For heaven's sake, you are paying legal fees, you deserve a real lawyer and unless there is some extraordinary circumstance, you deserve to have your case heard by the judge.
About the Author
Matt Berry is a Social Security Disability lawyer and disability consumer advocate. As a SSDI lawyer and SSI Disability lawyer he helps consumers receive disability benefits.
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