Do I Have to Pay an Attorney Upfront?

Often, people fail to consult with an attorney because they are under the misconception that an attorney’s fees must be paid upfront before he or she is willing to take their case and represent them throughout their disability claims process. However, that is not accurate.

When you schedule a consultation with a disability attorney or a disability advocate, you won’t have to pay any money up front. You won’t even pay a retainer when you choose an attorney or advocate to represent you throughout your Social Security Disability claim.

How Much Attorneys are Paid for Social Security Disability Claims

The laws are rather specific for how Social Security disability lawyers are paid for representing clients. The fee is limited to 25% of the past-due benefits that you are awarded. That payment is capped at $6,000. So, as an example, if you are approved for disability benefits that are backdated for two years and your benefits for those two years come out to $48,000, one-fourth of that amount would equal $12,000.

Should I hire an attorney?

However, because the maximum payout is $6,000, your attorney will only get $6,000 for handling your claim. If your back pay is $12,000, your lawyer would receive only $3,000, which is one-fourth of your settlement.

How the Payment Process Works

When you retain an attorney or an advocate for your Social Security disability case, you will complete paperwork including documents that specify the attorney’s fees and how much you will pay your representative in the event he or she wins your claim for you. These documents include a contingency fee agreement.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will review the contingency fee agreement and make sure it meets the guidelines and that your advocate or attorney will only receive the amount they are entitled to receive. This paperwork is then filed by the SSA so that when you are approved for benefits your attorney’s fees will be taken out and sent directly to him or her and the funds that you receive are your portion of the back pay.

What if There is No Back Pay?

What happens if you are approved for benefits and there is no back pay awarded? If there are no back-dated benefits awarded during your claims approval, your attorney will not be paid a fee. If there is no back pay, or if there are other extenuating circumstances, your lawyer or advocate can submit a fee petition to Social Security to request a higher fee to ensure he or she is paid for their work. Back pay is calculated by going back to the date the SSA determined your disability began, which is a maximum 12 months back preceding the date of your application for benefits.

Getting Started with an Advocate or an Attorney

There usually is no fee to hire a disability attorney upfront because the fee will be paid out of the disability award that you eventually receive. Because of this, the attorney will only take cases that he or she believe meet the qualifications for disability benefits either by the medical guidelines or the by the medical-vocational allowance and using a residual functioning capacity worksheet. If you are ready to file for Social Security disability, consult with a disability attorney or advocate to learn how they can help you with your claim.

Additional Resources