Paying An Attorney

Applying for federal disability benefits is a daunting task. Many people want to seek the advice of an attorney, but are deterred by the potential cost.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, Boston disability lawyers, we recognize this is a huge concern. That’s why we offer our services for disability cases on a contingency fee basis.

With a contingency fee payment arrangement, claimants are not charged a fee unless the case is successful. This does mean attorneys may be more selective with the cases they accept, but cases that are selected typically have a better chance of success.

There are many different kinds of civil cases in which contingency fees are the norm, and federal disability benefits are among those.

Federal Fee Limits

The Federal Register limits fees for representatives of disability claimants under the Social Security Act § 206 to a maximum fee of 25 percent of back pay or $6,000, whichever amount is lower. Back payments are benefits that accrue while you are waiting for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to approve a benefits claim. Total amount of back pay is going to depend on when you filed for benefits, the onset date of the disability and whether you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSDI) benefits.

The only exceptions are when the attorney appeals a case to the Appeals Council and federal court. These are the processes that occur after the claim has been denied at the initial filing level, reconsideration and by an administrative law judge (ALJ). Because the lawyer will spend more time and resources fighting for you, he or she is allowed to ask for a higher percentage or cap.

Basic Fee Agreements

Because claimants pay no money upfront, the attorney’s fee is going to come from the benefits that are ultimately awarded, if they are awarded. Usually what happens is the SSA will withhold whatever back payment the claimant has coming to them and then pays that amount directly to the attorney.

That way, the claimant never actually has to worry about cutting the check. The SSA does that for them.

A $6,000 fee is the maximum, which is 25 percent of $24,000. So that means if a claimant is awarded anything under that, the amount they pay will be less than $6,000. However, if the claimant is given more than that, he or she won’t have to pay more than $6,000, unless the case goes on to advanced appeals and is successful.

In some cases, claimants may be asked to cover nominal fee amounts for certain out-of-pocket costs at the outset of the case. These may be payable regardless of whether the case is successful, and they are separate from the attorney’s fee.

Some examples of out-of-pocket costs include:

  • Costs for copies of work, school or medical records
  • Costs for medical and psychological exams
  • Costs for copying and postage

Still, this should not deter a claimant, especially when benefits are truly needed and a person cannot work. Money paid upfront for these items necessary to the case are placed in a trust until needed. However, it’s to the discretion of the lawyer whether a client is asked to cover these costs upfront, or whether the attorney will choose to bill the client after the case is closed.

Questions related to the billing structure should be asked of the lawyer upfront. A good law firm will be transparent about these expenses and what is expected of the client.

Contingency Fees

Rule 1.5 of the American Bar Associations’ Model Rules of Professional Conduct require that lawyers only charge fees that are:

  • Fair and reasonable
  • Reflective of the time and labor required
  • In line with the time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances

The statutory limits for SSI and SSDI cases ensure the fees are reasonable and fair.

Contingency fees can’t be collected for:

  • Criminal defense
  • Domestic relations
  • Unreasonable amounts

Contact the Boston SSDI Attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman by calling 1-(617) 367-2900 for a free consultation.

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