Can a Disability Lawyer Guarantee Winning your Case?
In a press release, one particular disability lawyer claimed to have a 100 percent success rate in representing Social Security Disability claims.
Is this even possible? I suppose it may be, though it would seem to be extremely unlikely. Here's the thing. You will, from time to time, find ads and see TV commercials that indicate that "this or that" attorney or firm has a very high win ratio (90 percent, 95 percent, 97 percent, 99 percent--take your pick). However, in my own opinion, this is only achievable in one way---heavy duty screening of which cases to take and which not to take.
In fact, there's really no other way to get such a high win percentage and any disability attorney that tries to convince you, either directly or via advertising, that he wins an astoundingly high percentage of his cases due to the magnificance of his or her lawyering skills...is really blowing smoke up your you-know-what.
Let me tell you what realistic numbers are. At one particular firm (I've known the members of this firm for a number of years), they win more than 70 percent of their cases that are taken to hearing. That's a great win ratio. And its great because they don't screen their potential new clients so heavily that they only take guaranteed winners.
There are many attorneys who do this and they may only take individuals who are age 50 or older, or they may refuse to take certain types of cases, such as cases in which the primary allegation is fibromyalgia or depression or migraines (those are just examples). As the individuals at the firm I've referenced have said in the past, "What's the challenge in that?". And I agree. They've also said, "How are you helping people if you only take cases that are guaranteed winners?". And the answer is that you're not. If you are a disability representative and you only take guaranteed wins, you are not helping anyone. You're just lining your own pocketbook.
Now, the flip side of this is that some disability attorneys get criticized for taking what seems to be every case that walks through the front door. And the specific criticism is that these attorneys clog the system with useless claims. But guess what, a disability attorney can never know whether or not a claim has merit until they've seen medical records. And that means either gathering medical records, or viewing the social security file.
Toward this end, some reps will actually make an effort to view the social security file before deciding whether or not they will take a person's case, but in a large practice this becomes somewhat untenable. It is more practical to simply take a case and then when the opportunity arrives to view the exhibit file prior to a hearing then decide whether or not to proceed.
A disability lawyer who does things in this manner will at least give every individual who asks for help a fair chance without needlessly screening them out simply because the case does not immediately present itself as a guaranteed win.
However, back to the title of this post: can a disability lawyer guarantee that a case will be won? Never. And those who advertise that they win close to 100 percent of their cases are likely to be those who cherry-pick their cases.
Who would you rather have represent you? A cherry-picker who only wants a fee, or an attorney who has a true interest in helping disabled individuals win their benefits against a hostile and adversarial disability system?
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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