Do disability attorneys get paid up front? The answer is almost always no. Generally Social Security lawyers work off of contingency fees, meaning the only way an attorney can get paid is by winning your case. This is true for any Panama City disability attorney in our firm. And if he or she does not win your case, you pay nothing. If a person decides to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is highly advised to hire an attorney. Most attorneys have an agreement called a Contingency Fee agreement, which is approved by Social Security Administration (SSA) and allows SSA to pay attorneys if they win their claimant’s case. This agreement is to protect the interest of the attorney, making sure they are reimbursed for the work they put in.
By regulations of SSA, the most an attorney can charge is generally 25% of a claimant’s backpay or up to $6,000, whichever is less. If your attorney does win your case, the attorney can file a petition to request a higher fee in limited circumstances. As a matter of practice, our firm very rarely files fee petitions and when we do it is extremely rare that we request a fee higher than 25% of a claimant’s backpay. As a Panama City disability attorney, I generally prefer to not have to file a fee petition. However, an attorney can file a fee petition under the following circumstances:
- There was no written agreement between attorney or client
- SSA did not approve the fee agreement
- Client does not win past-due benefits (backpay)
- Client fires attorney
- Attorney withdrew from the case before the decision was made
Generally, when the time comes to pay the attorney, SSA handles payment of the attorney’s fee simultaneous with paying backpay to the claimant.
One of the many jobs of your attorney is to gather evidence to make your case stronger. When acquiring medical records, the attorney is usually charged for each page. These records may be necessary to rebut claims of doctors hired by social security to review your records and/or evaluate your condition. There are some attorneys that will ask for more money and will only use it for out of pocket expenses. There are others that will pay for the out of pocket expenses and will bill you after. Clients are responsible for paying for these copies and possibly court filing fees, whatever the out of pocket expenses are, it will be minimal. Clients that pay for out of pocket expenses need to know that it is separate from the attorney fee. As a Panama City disability attorney, my policy is that these costs are never owed if you do not win your case.
Some claimants’ benefits are terminated by SSA and they choose to receive “interim benefits” while they appeal the discontinuation of their benefits. The downside in these cases is that there is no backpay owed if you win an appeal and thus many lawyers do not represent claims whose benefits have been discontinued. However, our Panama City disability attorney represents people who appeal their discontinuation of benefits. In these cases, we will file a fee petition often win your case and ask SSA to determine a reasonable fee for our work.