Why do disability lawyers in California sometimes not take cases?

There are lots of reasons behind this. The most likely answers for any situation, though, are usually either A. the disability lawyer you are considering hiring (or non attorney representative) does not believe the case has merit or B. the lawyer or rep does not want to bother with taking a case until its reached a particular level in the Social Security Disability or SSI system.

What do I mean by "level"? I mean that some reps will choose not to take a case until an initial denial has been received. Is this a good or bad practice?

Well, there are arguments on both sides. Some individuals offering advice to claimants would say "why should you get representation when you don't even know where your claim is potentially headed?" In other words, why take the chance of having to pay a fee for representation when its possible that your disability application in California may be approved, thus rendering the actual need for representation null and void?


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It's hard to argue with the logic. The truth is, many or most claimants will not need assistance until their claim has been turned down by a disability examiner at the initial claim level. And for those individuals there's nothing wrong with going it alone, and there's nothing wrong with going it alone all the way to a hearing (though few would recommend doing that, including me).

However, its also true that many claimants will benefit from assistance earlier on. And, in fact, there are some lawyers and representatives out there who will actually assist a claimant who has not even filed for disability yet. In other words, they will actually assist the individual with filing the disability application. However, I tend to think these reps are in the minority, simply because most will not want to take the time to do this. And I can tell you from personal experience that ,yes, it is very time-consuming to do this.

However, it can be very beneficial for individuals who, for whatever reason, feel the need for this level of service and reps who provide this service tend to stand out from the armies of disability lawyers and representatives who simply want "Slam dunk, easy winner" cases that require relatively little work for their fee.

So, why do disability lawyers and non attorney reps sometimes not take cases?

Answer one: Sometimes because they don't think the case can be won. And sometimes even this does a disservice to individuals because it can, in certain instances, amount to prejudging. And to prejudge a case before you even see the individual's records is going to mean that, a fair amount of the time, you're (the lawyer or the non attorney) going to be wrong about the merits of the case.

Answer two: Sometimes they don't take a case because a case has not received an initial decision yet. And when this happens, it may be that the lawyer or rep sincerely believes that representation is not yet required. Or, it may be that the lawyer or rep does not wish to expend the time (and in some instances, this may be because their caseload is large enough already).

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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