When should a Social Security disability claimant get a lawyer? Before filing a claim, or right after that, or is it better to wait? Sometimes claimants are told they don’t need lawyers, or don’t need them until the claim is denied at least once.
On the one hand, if a claimant does not hire a lawyer and is awarded benefits at the initial or reconsideration level, there are no legal fees. On the other hand, since such a small percentage of claimants win at those levels, by waiting to hire a lawyer they may be putting off their chances of winning. And a badly prepared record may hurt chances of eventually winning before an Administrative Law Judge.
We advise many clients before they file their claims, but most claimants do not see a lawyer until they have been turned down once or twice. That is understandable, because they think that their case is so strong that they can win without a lawyer! There are usually many forms to fill out at the initial and reconsideration levels – Functional Reports, Pain Questionnaires, and Disability Reports, for example. Completing these forms properly can increase a claimant’s chances of winning. We work with clients on in filling out these forms, in order to avoid mistakes often made by clients who are not represented by a lawyer. Given that most clients who win do so after the case goes to the Office of Hearings and Appeals, these questionnaires can play a considerable role in an Administrative Law Judge’s decision.
In addition to completing questionnaires, some of which are our own forms to help clarify conditions, we file all necessary appeals for our clients and keep track of deadlines for submitting records and other paperwork. It is important to file appeals within Social Security’s deadlines. Many unrepresented claimants miss those deadlines, which means that they have to start over by filing a new claim. If you are sick, it’s hard to stay focused on deadlines.
All fees are contingent – meaning if you don’t win, there is no fee. There is no savings in waiting until a later stage to contact a lawyer – the fee is the same. The fees on a case are set in accordance with Social Security’s regulations. It does not cost a claimant any more to retain our services early in the case. We can help do the forms, and file the appeals. This not only relieves the client of the burden and confusion of paperwork, but it also increases a client’s chances of winning by avoiding mistakes made by clients who do not have a lawyer to help them.