How can I afford to pay a social security disability lawyer?

If your claim for Social Security disability benefits has been denied and you want to appeal, then you might be thinking of hiring a lawyer. Although preparing, filing, documenting and appealing a claim for Social Security disability benefits can be expensive and time-consuming, the good news is that you might not have to pay anything unless your lawyer recovers benefits for you.

Many disability lawyers, such as John T. Nicholson, work on contingency. For example, suppose that  a disability attorney with offices in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Springfield, Ohio takes on a new client whose initial application for Social Security benefits was denied by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). The client has very little money, so the attorney agrees to work on contingency. This means that the attorney charges no up-front payment and no monthly or installment payments. Instead, the attoney’s fee will be paid from whatever benefits she recovers for her client. If the attorney does not recover any benefits for her client, then her client owes her nothing (the attorney’s client might have to pay for expenses along the way, such as photocopying of records).

Furthermore, the SSA has established strict rules about how, and how much, disability lawyers may be paid—even if they are working on contingency. For any contingency fee agreement made after June 22, 2009, a disability lawyer may only be paid 25% of past-due benefits or $6,000.00, whichever is less.

Suppose that Attorney’s new client had filed an application for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA denied the application, so the client hired Attorney to handle the appeal. If Attorney wins the appeal, then her client will receive disability benefits not only from that point onward, but also retroactively from the date on which the SSA determines that Attorney’s client officially became disabled. In other words, a successful appeal means that the client would receive future disability benefits and past-due disability benefits. Because Attorney represented his client on contingency, under the SSA’s rules she would receive 25% of the past-due benefits she won for her client, up to a maximum of $6,000.00.

The appeal described in the example would be heard by the SSA itself, not in a regular court of law (an example of a court of law is the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, or the Dayton Municipal Court). Different rules apply to attorney’s fees in other kinds of cases. For instance, cases in state or federal courts of law are not subject to the same rules. Also, some cases involving overpayments (i.e. the SSA mistakenly pays more benefits than it owes to someone) are not subject to the 25% or $6,000.00 limit.

This discussion of attorney’s fees in Social Security disability cases is a simplified example. The SSA has established detailed rules that include exceptions which might apply in your case. In addition, not all disability lawyers work on contingency. If you want to appeal a denial of an application for Social Security disability benefits, or if you simply have questions about Social Security, then you should speak with a lawyer who focuses on Social Security law by filling out our free consultation form.