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How Much Will it Cost Me to Hire a Disability Lawyer?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

Social Security disability attorney, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security regulations, disability claims, disability caseMany people are hesitant to hire a Social Security disability attorney because they fear the potential cost of representation. This is understandable. After all, if you are unable to work and struggling to make ends meet, the last thing you want to do is worry about paying a large legal bill.

But what you should understand is that under Social Security regulations, your lawyer works on a contingency basis. This means you do not owe the attorney anything unless your disability claim is successful. When you hire a disability lawyer, you will need to sign a contingency agreement authorizing the Social Security Administration to pay the attorney out of your final benefits award.

Compensation as a Percentage of “Past Due” Benefits

By law, a disability attorney's contingent fee may not exceed 25 percent of your past-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less. Your “past-due” benefits refers to the amount of money you are entitled to from the time you initially filed your applicant—or even earlier, in some cases—to the time the Social Security Administration (SSA) actually approved your claim. Depending on the case, this past-due period may include several years of benefits.

Indeed, there are many cases where the SSA initially denies an application for benefits and the claimant is forced to seek judicial review in the courts. This can add significant time and expense to a disability case. For that reason, federal law separately authorizes the court to approve an award of legal fees—again, up to 25 percent of any past-due benefits—if an applicant is successful in reversing an unfavorable Social Security decision.

However, there is disagreement among the various federal courts as to whether this second 25 percent cap applies solely to work performed before the court, or whether it functions as an “aggregate” limit on total attorney compensation in a disability case. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to address, and hopefully resolve, this disagreement. The Court was spurred to act after a Social Security disability attorney in Florida represented a number of claimants who succeeded in convincing the courts to reverse unfavorable disability decisions issued by the SSA.

The federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Florida said that the attorney's fees were limited to 25 percent of the client's total past-due benefits for both the SSA and court proceedings. In other words, any fees the attorney received from the SSA had to be deducted from the fee award approved by the court. But other federal courts who have considered this same question have reached the opposite conclusion—that attorney compensation for administrative and court proceedings are separate matters.

The SSA itself actually sided with the Florida attorney advocating the separate-compensation argument. The Supreme Court therefore appointed an outside attorney to defend the appellate court's judgment. The parties will present oral arguments to the Supreme Court during its October 2018 term, and a final ruling is expected early next year.

Speak With an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

However the Court decides this particular question, it will not alter the fact that Social Security attorneys do not get paid unless their clients win. So, if you are unable to work due to a serious physical or mental impairment, you should not hesitate to contact a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC to schedule a free consultation today.



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