How Do You Fire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

You can fire your disability lawyer at any time if you feel your claim is not receiving the attention it deserves, and in some cases this is absolutely the best option.

However, there are some things to keep in mind when you choose to fire your disability attorney:

1. If you fire your disability lawyer, you could still be liable for expenses the lawyer has incurred up to that point. When you retain an attorney to represent you in a disability claim, you have to sign a legally binding fee agreement. This fee agreement specifies any out-of-pocket expenses that you agree to pay (such as making copies, obtaining medical records, travel, etc.) Read all fee agreements carefully before you sign.

2. Your old disability lawyer could petition Social Security for a portion of any back pay you are awarded, even if it is actually your new lawyer that represented you at the disability hearing. This is especially true if your former lawyer did a lot of work on your case before you fired him. If you are not happy with your legal representation, get a new lawyer as soon as possible.

3. You should both call and send a letter to the attorney to inform him that you no longer wish him to represent you. Your disability lawyer should then send a letter of withdrawal to Social Security so they remove his information from your claim.

If you do not inform your attorney and Social Security that you have switched legal representatives, it could create a nightmarish situation for you present attorney if your case is won and it is time to collect his fee. Some attorneys refuse to represent a claimant if the letter of withdrawal is not already on file with Social Security.

Most disability attorneys will not give their clients problems if they are informed of their desire to change legal representatives early on, before they have invested much time or money in the case. This is why it's really important for people to shop around a bit before going with a particular attorney, and to call regularly for status updates.

It is far less complicated for all involved if you start and finish your claim with the same attorney, but if that is not possible you should terminate the relationship with the attorney you first hired as soon as possible.

However, in some cases, particularly those in which the claim is not being represented with due diligence, firing the current disability lawyer becomes a necessity. Under these circumstances you should be sure to follow through by obtaining a withdrawal letter from your former representative, and calling the Social Security office to ensure that the withdrawal letter, along with a written statement from yourself saying you no longer want your initial lawyer to represent you, is received by Social Security in a timely manner.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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