If you are applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may be wondering how much a disability lawyer can charge for their services.
Disability lawyers can help you with the complex and lengthy process of filing a claim, gathering evidence, appealing a denial, and representing you at a hearing.
However, hiring a disability lawyer does not have to break the bank. In fact, disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they only charge if they win your case and the SSA approves your claim.
What Is the Most a Disability Lawyer Can Charge? A Guide to Disability Benefits and Legal Fees
Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they only charge if they win your case and the SSA approves your claim.
The Commissioner of Social Security sets and structures the fees, calculating them at 25% of your past-due benefits (also known as backpay) and capping them at $6,000 per client.
However, the average fee is lower than the cap, at $3,750.
Past-due benefits are the benefits that you should have received from the date of your disability onset to the date of your approval. Suppose you applied for SSDI in January 2022 and received approval in July 2023; the amount of SSDI payments you missed from January 2022 to July 2023 would constitute your past-due benefits.
The SSA will deduct the lawyer’s fee from your first lump-sum payment of past-due benefits and send it directly to your lawyer.
You don’t have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket. However, you may have to pay some additional costs, such as filing fees, copying fees, postage fees, or medical record fees. These costs are usually minimal and vary depending on the lawyer.
If your case goes beyond the administrative level and into federal court, the lawyer’s fee may be higher than 25% or $6,000. In that case, you will have to sign a new fee agreement with your lawyer and get it approved by the court.
How Do Disability Lawyer Fees Work?
The SSA regulates disability lawyer fees and approves them accordingly.
When you sign a fee agreement with a disability lawyer, you agree to pay them 25% of your past-due benefits if they win your case.
Past-due benefits are the amount of money that the SSA owes you from the date of your disability onset to the date of your approval. Take, for instance, the scenario where you experienced a disability in January 2020 and the approval was granted in January 2022; in this case, you would be entitled to 24 months of past-due benefits.
The SSA will calculate your past-due benefits based on your monthly benefit amount, which depends on your work history and earnings record.
The average monthly benefit for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in 2023 is $1,483. The average monthly benefit for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries in 2023 is $914.
However, your actual benefit amount may be higher or lower depending on your individual circumstances.
The SSA will also deduct any offsets or reductions from your past-due benefits before paying them to you.
These may include workers’ compensation payments, other federal or state disability benefits, overpayments, taxes, child support, or alimony.
The SSA will then pay your lawyer directly from your past-due benefits before sending you the remaining balance.
The maximum amount that a disability lawyer can receive from your past-due benefits is $6,000. This means that if your past-due benefits are more than $24,000, your lawyer will only get $6,000 and you will get the rest.
However, if your past-due benefits are less than $24,000, your lawyer will get 25% of that amount and you will get the rest. For example, if your past-due benefits are $10,000, your lawyer will get $2,500 and you will get $7,500.
Some cases may go beyond the initial approval stage and require further appeals at the Appeals Council or federal court level. In these cases, the disability lawyer may request a higher fee than 25% or $6,000 from the SSA or the court.
However, this is rare and usually requires exceptional circumstances and evidence of substantial work done by the lawyer.
How Are Disability Lawyer Fees Paid?
Disability lawyer fees are paid directly by the SSA from your past-due benefits. You do not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket to hire a disability lawyer.
You only pay if you win your case and receive past-due benefits.
If you receive SSDI benefits, the SSA will withhold 25% of your past-due benefits (up to $6,000) and send it to your lawyer as their fee. The SSA will then send you a letter explaining how much they paid to your lawyer and how much they sent to you.
If you receive SSI benefits, the SSA will send you a check for all of your past-due benefits first.
Then, within 15 days of sending you the check, the SSA will send another check to your lawyer for their fee. The SSA will also send you a letter explaining how much they paid to your lawyer and how much they sent to you.
If you receive both SSDI and SSI benefits (also known as concurrent benefits), the SSA will first pay your SSDI past-due benefits to you and your lawyer as described above. Then, they will pay your SSI past-due benefits to you only.
The SSA will not deduct any fees from your SSI past-due benefits because they already paid them from your SSDI past-due benefits.
How Do Disability Lawyer Fees Compare to Other Types of Disability Benefits?
Disability lawyer fees are different from other types of disability benefits that you may receive from other sources, such as workers’ compensation, veterans’ benefits, private insurance, or state programs.
These benefits may have different eligibility criteria, payment amounts, and fee structures than Social Security disability benefits.
For example, workers’ compensation benefits are paid by your employer or their insurance company if you are injured or become ill because of your work.
The amount of benefits you receive depends on the severity of your injury or illness, your wages, and the state laws where you work.
Workers’ compensation benefits may also be subject to offsets or reductions from your Social Security disability benefits.
Workers’ compensation lawyers usually charge a contingency fee of 15% to 25% of your settlement or award, but this may vary by state and case.
How Much Do Other Types of Disability Lawyers Charge?
Veterans’ benefits are paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if you have a service-connected disability that affects your ability to work.
The amount of benefits you receive depends on your disability rating, which ranges from 0% to 100%. Veterans’ benefits are not subject to offsets or reductions from your Social Security disability benefits.
Veterans’ lawyers usually charge a contingency fee of 20% to 33% of your past-due benefits, but this may vary by case.
Private insurance benefits are paid by your own insurance company if you have a long-term disability policy that covers you in case of a disabling condition.
The amount of benefits you receive depends on the terms and conditions of your policy, such as the definition of disability, the benefit amount, the elimination period, and the duration of benefits.
Private insurance benefits may also be subject to offsets or reductions from your Social Security disability benefits. Private insurance lawyers usually charge an hourly fee or a flat fee for their services, but this may vary by case.
State disability benefits are paid by some states if you have a short-term or long-term disability that prevents you from working.
The amount of benefits you receive depends on the state laws and regulations where you live. State disability benefits may also be subject to offsets or reductions from your Social Security disability benefits. State disability lawyers usually charge a contingency fee of 25% to 40% of your past-due benefits, but this may vary by state and case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Lawyer Fees
Here are some common questions and answers about disability lawyer fees that you may find helpful.
Do I need a lawyer to apply for Social Security disability benefits?
No, you do not need a lawyer to apply for Social Security disability benefits. You can apply online, by phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. However, hiring a lawyer can increase your chances of winning your claim and getting the maximum amount of benefits that you deserve. A lawyer can help you with:
- Filling out the application forms correctly and completely
- Gathering and submitting medical and vocational evidence to support your claim
- Communicating with the SSA and responding to their requests
- Requesting reconsideration or appealing a denial
- Preparing for and representing you at a hearing
- Negotiating a settlement or pursuing further appeals
You can also check out some of the benefits of hiring a lawyer and read the full article about it.
How do I find a good disability lawyer?
Finding a good disability lawyer can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. You should look for a lawyer who:
- Has experience and expertise in handling Social Security disability cases
- Has a proven track record of success and positive reviews from past clients
- Has good communication skills and keeps you informed throughout the process
- Has reasonable fees and charges no upfront costs
- Has a professional and ethical reputation and is licensed to practice in your state
You can also check out some of the ways you can find a good disability lawyer and read the full article about it.
Disability benefits can provide financial support and security for people who cannot work due to a medical condition.
However, applying for disability benefits can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why many people choose to hire a disability lawyer to help them with their claim.
Disability lawyers charge a contingency fee based on a percentage of your past-due benefits, up to a maximum of $6,000 per client. This means that you don’t have to pay anything unless you win your case. Hiring a disability lawyer can improve your chances of getting approved for disability benefits and getting the most out of them.
If you are looking for a disability lawyer who can handle your case professionally and efficiently, contact Atticus today and match you with a top-rated lawyer who has experience in handling disability claims like yours. You can get a free consultation and pay nothing until you win your case.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about the disability insurance, don’t forget to check out our website for more interesting and informative content.
You can also check out these other articles on our blog:
- What are the most approved disability?
- How Long Does a Disability Appeal Take with a Lawyer?
- SSDI 101:Social Security Disability Insurance in 2023