How Much Are The Fees For A Disability Attorney In California?
If you have a disability claim pending at any level of the Social Security or Supplemental Security Income disability process in California, it is inevitable that you might want to consider obtaining representation through a competent disability attorney or non-attorney disability representation to help win your disability claim.
Regardless of which type of representative you choose to handle your claim, that individual should be someone who specializes in Social Security Administration disability claims (meaning claims filed under the title II SSD or title 16 SSI program). In other words, you do not want a generalist but someone whose only focus is on Social Security Administrative law.
The clear inference is that you will want to avoid an attorney who handles many different types of cases (traffic, bankruptcy, wills and estates) since that individual will is not likely to be strongly familiar with the code of federal regulations as they apply (title 20) to adjudicating Social Security claims.
You can obtain the services of a disability representative or lawyer in California at any time during the life of your disability claim; however representation should always be in place at the disability hearing appeal level. This is true in California or any other state.
Social Security Disability hearings are held in front of an administrative law judge in a court room albeit an informal court room. A representative who knows Social Security Disability medical and vocational guidelines will be able to present your disability case in a manner that is most favorable to your being approved for disability benefits. There is enough statistical data to indicate that disability claimants who are represented are more likely to be approved for disability benefits at their disability hearing than those who are not.
The fee for representation
Of course, you want your disability claim to have the best chance of being approved, but like so most other disability claimants you may not have the money to pay retainers or attorney fees. Fortunately, Social Security has determined that all disability claimants should have the opportunity to have qualified representation for their disability claims.
To that end, they do not allow Social Security Disability representatives to charge any kind of upfront fees or retainers. They limit the amount of any potential fee to 21% of your disability back payment of benefits up to a maximum of $6000.00.
If 21% of your past-due benefits does not allow your representative to collect the maximum $6000.00 fee, your representative is also allowed to receive 21% of the past-due benefits that are paid to your dependents (i.e. spouse and children). Again, though, the total cumulative fee that is paid to the disability attorney or disability representative cannot go over the $6000.00 limit.
The fee paid to disability representatives is similar to a contingency basis, meaning your disability claim must be approved for the representative to receive pay for their services. In fact, they are not permitted to request a fee from you if your disability claim is denied.
This does not however prevent your disability attorney or representative from charging you for any expenses they incur while representing your disability claim. These expenses are known as out of pocket expenses; for example, they might include charges for medical records, copying, postage, etc.
Social Security generally withholds twenty-five percent of your disability back payment until they pay your representative. However, even if your representative's fee is withheld and paid by Social Security, you are still obligated pay any out of pocket expense you agreed to pay when you signed your fee agreement.
These expenses are paid separately from the representation fee. Most often your attorney or representative will bill you for any out of pocket expenses incurred during your disability claim whether you win or lose your case. Again these issues are should be plainly addressed in the fee agreement you sign with your attorney or representative.
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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