The second thing Social Security decided to do was to have us all charge the same amount. That's right - we all charge the same thing. We have to turn our fee agreements over to Social Security so you'd better believe we all charge what we're supposed to. How much do we charge? Once you're approved for Social Security benefits, they pay you back for all the time you should have been receiving benefits, but weren't because the paperwork hadn't gone through yet. Once you receive that back pay, that's what your attorney's fees come out of. We get 25% of the back pay or $6,000 - which ever is less. If you get $10,000 worth of back pay, we get $2,500. If you get $50,000 worth of back pay, we get $6,000. Get it?
We don't charge any money up front for our actual attorney's fees. Some attorneys charge a hundred or so dollars up front to cover medical records expenses. Others charge you for your medical records expenses at the end of the case. Some only charge it if you win. Some don't charge it at all. That should be the only variance in fees you see for a standard disability case. The cost should not change in different parts of the country.
If you have to go past the hearing level, which is the third appeal, most attorneys change their fees to a straight 25% of the back pay because the workload starts to become higher. If your case has to go to Federal Court, which is the fifth appeal, you will definitely be paying 25% of the back pay and will likely need to pay some of the court costs. Your attorney will still need to file a fee petition to get paid and Social Security or the Federal Court will still need to approve the fees.
If you have a non-standard case, such as an overpayment case, or a continuing disability review case where you had benefits but then were cut off, you likely cannot have your case treated as a contingency. Your attorney will probably need to do the work with an hourly fee, like most attorneys do.
A few more things to consider. Most clients don't realize that it is up to them to hire and fire the attorney. We attorneys have stricter rules about when we can and cannot fire a client. If you do not like your attorney, you can ask them to withdraw at any point and ask for a copy of your file. Your attorney can still ask for fees once your matter is finished if you win, but you can get a new attorney at any time.
When you pick an attorney, you need to be comfortable talking to the attorney and the attorney's office. It does you no good to have the best attorney in the world if you don't want to call the attorney with updates and questions. You have a contingency agreement - you are not paying hourly. It's the same as having a great doctor but not being able to call that doctor when you are sick. It does nothing for you. If you don't like your attorney, go and look for another one.
If you have any more questions on how attorney fees work or any other questions regarding Social Security disability, call The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231.