As a New Orleans area disability attorney, one of the first questions I am usually asked is "How much will this cost me?"
There are many falsehoods and misconceptions out there about how much it costs to hire a disability lawyer.
How much can a lawyer charge for disability?
Federal disability law fees are set by law and cannot exceed 25% of your back benefits.
In many cases, the maximum is $6,000 (if we win at the first hearing). That’s because I generally use the fee agreement process.
AND that amount is only due if I am successful in representing you. If your claim is denied, you owe no attorney fees.
For example, let’s assume that we are successful in getting your disability benefits.
Your onset date is set 24 months prior to today’s date (that means that SSA will owe you back benefits). Due to SSA laws, you can be paid 19 months of back benefits in this scenario (because SSA does not pay for the first 5 months). If your benefit amount is $850 per month, your back benefits would equal $16,150 ($850 X 19). The attorney’s fee on this amount would be $4037.50 ($16,150 X 25%).
Will a disability attorney take a percentage of my future benefits?
Here is another important aspect of a disability attorney’s fee: you do not owe a fee based on future benefits.
That is, you will not have to keep paying your disability attorney 25% of your monthly disability check.
Once the disability lawyer is paid from the back benefits, that is all you owe with respect to fees.
In some cases, disability attorneys charge costs (which are different from fees) whether your claim is successful or not.
What about costs?
Costs include things such as expenses incurred for medical records, long-distance phone calls, mail, parking at your hearing, and other costs paid to develop your disability case.
As an SSDI attorney in Louisiana, I generally handle the cost issue on a case-by-case basis. You should ask your disability lawyer (or disability representative) how they charge costs.
One thing to keep in mind if you use a disability representative from a national firm that must travel to your area is whether or not those travel costs will be charged to you.
This could include airfare, rental car, hotel stay, and meals. These costs can get expensive and really decrease the amount you end up with at the end of the day.
While the maximum amount of fees is limited by the law, costs are not limited in the same manner.
Thus, you need to watch costs and be mindful of them when you hire a disability lawyer. In Houma and other places, these costs can get excessive.
There is a possibility that a disability attorney may get more than the $6,000 if your case involves extensive work (usually because of multiple appeals to and from SSA and federal court).
However, even in that case, the fee charged to you cannot exceed 25% of your back benefits. In this case, the fee petition process would have to be used.
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