Social Security Attorney Fee Limits
If you are having trouble getting approval for your Social Security Disability benefits application, you should turn to a disability attorney to help with your claim. You might be worried about how much it could cost to hire a lawyer. However, the law limits the fees attorneys can earn representing clients in Social Security Disability cases.
When you need help pursuing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, get experienced legal representation that can give you the best chance at successfully recovering benefits. Reach out to The Disability Law Firm for a free initial case evaluation to learn more about how much hiring our Social Security attorney will cost and how our firm can assist you with your disability benefits claim.
Social Security Fee Agreements and Fee Petitions
Social Security attorneys represent disability clients on a “contingency fee” basis. A contingency fee means an attorney is not paid their legal fee unless they help you recover Social Security Disability benefits.
When accepting representation of a client, a Social Security attorney and the client will sign a written fee agreement, with the attorney sending the fee agreement to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for approval. If the SSA approves the agreement, it will pay the attorney’s fee out of the back benefits it awards in your SSD case.
When backpay or past-due benefits are not awarded in a disability claim, an attorney has the option of filing a fee petition with the SSA to request the agency authorize the attorney to receive a reasonable fee for their services.
What’s in a Disability Lawyer’s Fee Agreement?
An SSD lawyer’s fee agreement may include various provisions that govern the relationship between the attorney and the client, including the scope of the lawyer’s representation, guarantees regarding the frequency of communication, the attorney’s response time, and what tasks the client is expected to undertake in the case.
However, the Social Security Administration has only two main requirements for any fee agreement covering an SSD claim:
- The agreement may not charge the client a fee that exceeds the limits of Social Security regulations set forth.
- The attorney and the individual claiming Social Security benefits must sign the agreement. A parent may sign on behalf of a child claimant, and a guardian or attorney-in-fact may sign on behalf of an adult claimant.
How Are SSDI Attorney Fees Calculated and Paid?
A disability attorney’s legal fee is calculated according to the backpay you are awarded when you win your SSD case. This backpay includes the amounts of disability benefits you should have received had your claim been accepted at an earlier stage or other backpay amounts the SSA requires. When the Social Security Administration has approved your attorney’s fee agreement, it will pay your attorney the fee they have earned directly, deducted from your backpay award, and send you the balance of the award.
In addition to the legal fee, Social Security regulations allow disability attorneys to charge you for expenses incurred during your cases, such as processing or administrative fees to obtain your medical records or postage expenses. Some attorneys may ask you to provide a small advance of money at the start of your case, with this money placed in a trust account. Other attorneys may simply ask you to reimburse them for incurred costs at the end of the case.
What Are the Maximum Attorney Fees in SSI and SSDI Cases?
Under Social Security regulations, a disability attorney’s legal fee is capped at 25 percent of the total amount of backpay recovered in the client’s case, or $6,000, whichever is less.
For example, if you are awarded $10,000 of backpay, your attorney will receive a legal fee of $2,500, or 25 percent of $10,000. Conversely, if you are awarded $40,000 of backpay, your attorney can collect only $6,000, since 25 percent of $40,000 equals $10,000.
As of Nov. 30, 2022, the maximum will increase to 25 percent or $7,200, whichever is less.
When Do You Have to Pay the Disability Lawyer’s Fee?
In a contingency fee arrangement, you do not need to pay your disability lawyer’s legal fee until they win an award of back benefits in your case. In addition, your lawyer’s fee will be paid directly from Social Security, so you do not need to worry about sending your attorney a check at the end of your case.
Will a Disability Attorney Take a Percentage of My Future Benefits?
No. A disability attorney’s contingency fee percentage is limited solely to any back benefits you are awarded in your claim. When a claimant does not receive an award of back benefits, their attorney can be paid only by submitting a petition to the Social Security Administration for an award of a reasonable fee for the attorney’s work.
When a Lawyer May Be Able to Charge a Higher Fee
A disability lawyer may be entitled to charge fees that exceed Social Security’s cap on fees if the denial of a disability benefits application is appealed to a federal court. An attorney must obtain further approval from the Social Security Administration before being entitled to charge a higher fee for pursuing litigation in court.
A disability lawyer might also be entitled to charge a higher fee when they replaced a prior attorney that the client had fired. If the prior attorney does not waive their right to a fee upon being discharged from representation, the new lawyer will need to file a fee petition to apportion the fees between the two attorneys. In some cases, the SSA may award both attorneys fees that total more than the statutory cap on legal fees.
Contact Our Experienced Florida SSD Lawyer Today
With so much at stake, you should not leave the outcome of your Social Security Disability benefits application to chance. A seasoned SSD attorney can be a vital asset during the application and appeals process.