Usually, if you win your claim, you will end up paying a disability lawyer 25% of your past due benefits. The amount you pay cannot exceed $6,000. Because Social Security Disability Attorneys work on a “contingency basis”, claimants are not required to pay anything up front and are only required to pay in the event you receive a favorable decision. Your lawyer will be responsible for bearing the cost of continuing your claim for as long as it goes on, which can and often does take up to two years.
Past due benefits or ‘back pay’ re the benefits that should have been paid prior to you receiving a favorable decision. It is the lag time between when you became disabled and the time it takes for the SSA to make it’s determination. It is important to know that your disability attorney does not have the ability to take any percentage of your ongoing or future benefits.
Generally speaking, you and your attorney will enter into a written Fee Agreement that specifies the attorney/client fee arrangement. As mentioned above, that arrangement is almost always 25% of your past due benefits, not to exceed $6,000. Your attorney will then submit the fee agreement to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Upon successful completion of your claim, the SSA will pay your attorney directly from your past due benefits by sending 75% of your back pay directly to you and 25% directly to your attorney.
I would be remiss not to point out that in instances where a claim requires an appeal to the Appeals Council or Federal court, your attorney is permitted and often will request a larger fee due to the increased amount of work required for claims at those level.
Average Disability Lawyer Fees
Although the maximum fee that a claimant can typically pay an attorney is $6,000, the average fee paid is much lower. The average SSDI fee is around $4,400, while the average SSI fee is half that at $2,200. Claimants who are eligible for benefits under both programs (SSB) end up paying an average attorney fee of $3,600.
These fees sure seem like a lot, but personal injury attorneys typically charge a contingency fee of 33%. P.I. attorneys generally do not include caps on their fees either. Very few other areas of law utilize contingency fee agreements and almost all the fields that do charge a fee higher than 25% and do not include caps on those fees.
Another thing to consider is that claimants with attorneys are up to 3 times more successful than unrepresented claimants. Significantly improving the odds of winning your claim is another reason to justify a disability attorney’s fee.
Lastly, a claimant should consider that disability benefits are typically a benefit that will remain in place until the claimant reaches normal retirement age. The work that the disability attorney does could result in a lifetime benefit that are likely to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifetime benefits.