Dealing with the sudden onset of a debilitating disease/injury is never an easy task. If it’s a disabling medical condition that prevents you from earning an income, life can become nightmarish. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a true lifesaver in these situations.
Based on this, securing access to SSDI benefits is an uphill task. The eligibility requirements are quite complex and the Social Security Administration has a very unforgiving attitude towards mistakes and errors.
The rejection rates on SSDI applications can go as high as 70%. Whether you are at the first stage of application or contemplating an appeal against rejection by the SSA, it’s highly recommended that you consult experienced social security disability lawyers for guidance.
With a competent lawyer, you can significantly improve your odds of success. On this page, you will find a comprehensive list of all the questions you should ask your lawyer on the first call or meeting. These questions will help you pick the right social security disability lawyer for your case.
1. How much experience do you have in social security disability benefits cases?
This is one of the critical factors you should take into consideration when hiring a lawyer for your disability claims case. The legal profession is quite similar to the medical field when it comes to specialization.
Just as there are doctors who specialize in various disciplines like ENT, cardiology, orthopedics, and pediatrics, lawyers also tend to specialize in specific branches like criminal, civil rights, corporate, environmental, and of course, disabilities and insurance claims.
While anybody with a basic law degree and license can represent you, familiarity with the relevant laws and processes can make a huge difference in your odds of success. And the Social Security Administration laws and regulations are incredibly complex and stringent.
Another critical factor that gives experienced attorneys an edge over rookies is the connections they have built up over the years. A seasoned disability lawyer will know exactly who to call for medical expertise. They may even be familiar with the administrative judges who take up appeals.
So, for best results, you need lawyers who have decades of experience handling SSDI claims cases. The Lobb Law Firm has over 45 years of experience in helping clients secure their disability benefits in the state of Michigan. Give us a call today for a free consultation!
2. What is your win rate?
The win rate question is more related to honesty than anything else. In SSDI claims, the SSA tends to be very frugal when handing out positive verdicts. Stats indicate that nearly 70% of initial claims are rejected, and the same goes for around 50% of appeals.
If a seemingly experienced lawyer boasts of a high win percentage in disability claims cases, it could mean one of two things – a) they are lying outright; b) they only take strong cases and drop the ones that have low success rates halfway through the process just wasting that client’s time.
Either way, you should steer clear of lawyers in these categories. The social security disability attorneys at The Lobb Law Firm don’t follow predatory practices of this kind – if we agree to represent you, we will see it through to the end and show full commitment to your best interests.
3. Are you familiar with my disability/medical condition?
The bulk of the work of a disability lawyer revolves around medical reports and records. During the appeals process, they will have to hire medical experts and ask the right questions to establish the legitimacy of your disability insurance claims.
Over years of practice, most disability lawyers meet clients who suffer from a wide array of debilitating conditions and illnesses. If your condition is quite common – heart disease and cancer are examples – you should have no problem finding lawyers with adequate experience.
Based on this, if it is a rather rare or obscure condition, like some genetic disorders, you should ensure that the lawyer understands it properly. If they don’t show enough effort to learn more about your condition, you should consider looking at other lawyers.
Knowledge about your medical condition is vital if the lawyer really wants to win the case. After all, it is the lawyer’s job to accurately describe your condition and convince the authorities that you deserve social security disability benefits.
4. What are your professional credentials? Do you have memberships/accreditations with local or national organizations?
This is yet another due diligence question that you may want to ask in the beginning to ensure that the firm/lawyer is qualified and experienced. While many people take it for granted, you should always check if the lawyers are licensed to practice in your state.
Further, any special certifications they have in fields related to disability law could also indicate that they have additional qualifications and experience. Well-established social security disability lawyers and legal firms often receive awards and high ratings from industry associations for excellence.
The Lobb Law Firm attorneys have been consistently rated at the top in Detroit, MI, by various respected agencies like Martindale-Hubbell and DB Business. When you approach us, you are guaranteed legal services of the highest quality from experienced disability attorneys.
5. Where is your nearest office? Do you provide home visits or video consultations?
Accessibility is a major concern for clients suffering from severe disabilities. It’s not practical for such individuals to travel hours just to have a meeting with their lawyer. Ideally, you should pick a lawyer/disability law group that has a physical office relatively close to your residence if you prioritize face-to-face communication.
Some compassionate lawyers may even provide home visits if you are within a reasonable distance of their offices and have conditions that make it impossible to make a direct visit to the law office. And in the era of COVID, it is highly advisable for individuals with major health issues to avoid venturing outside to public spaces as much as possible.
Video consultations and meetings have become the norm since 2020 as a result of the virus. A reasonably competent social security disability attorney should be able to provide video consultations to clients who need them due to health concerns.
If you live in Michigan, The Lobb Law Firm is a great choice for all your SSDI disability, personal injury, and worker’s compensation cases. You can call us for a free consultation at 248-591-4090.
6. Who is the person directly responsible for handling my case?
This is a very pertinent question you should always ask when dealing with a law firm. The individual who handles your case review may not be the same one who is eventually tasked with your actual case.
For some people, particularly senior citizens, it can be quite unsettling to find an unfamiliar face handling their case in the later stages. You can avoid distress by seeking clarification in advance on this matter.
7. How often will we discuss the case? Whom should I call for updates?
Most lawyers will give you their contact details, as well as that of a paralegal or secretary that you can call for information and updates. At many of the larger law firms, they may even have multiple individuals including a specialized point person for each client.
Regarding case discussions, you should be looking at multiple discussions before the hearing stage. If the lawyer is not interested in meeting up to thrash out the details, that is a big red flag. You should always pick a social security disability attorney lawyers who show a keen interest in meeting with you and learning more about your situation.
8. How will you handle my SSD claims case?
All good social security disability lawyers have a specific approach plan laid out for each case. And since SSDI cases can vary drastically depending on several factors, the lawyer will have to tweak their attack plan accordingly. And remember, you will play a central role in the proceedings.
So, you want a lawyer whose techniques are a good match for your preferences. For example, here is a quick look at some of the many options and tools available to social security disability lawyers in a case:
- An appeal for expedited hearings if you have a terminal illness.
- Vocational evaluation by an expert to clearly show the negative impact of your medical condition on your ability to perform your regular job.
- Consultative examinations by medical experts to clarify any doubts regarding your state of health, prognosis, etc.
- Collecting medical records and evidence from your doctors to establish the timeline of your disabilities/illness.
The lawyer will have to select the appropriate methods depending on your situation and any potential weaknesses in your appeal. During the consultation process, once the lawyer has grasped the basics of your case, you should ask this question and see if the response sounds satisfactory.
9. Do you provide any assistance during the social security disability application phase?
The process for claiming Social Security disability benefits is quite long and has several steps. The first step is filling up and submitting the relevant application forms to the SSA. Technically, this step does not require the assistance of a lawyer.
The SSA has created several channels – online, phone, and direct visits to a nearby SSA office – which anybody can use to submit their disability claims application. And the risk of rejection is alarmingly high at this stage – around 65% or more.
Consequently, many lawyers prefer to skip this stage and sign on for disability cases once they get rejected. Having a lawyer assist you in filling out the forms can be a godsend, as they are quite exhaustive and complicated.
Hiring a veteran disability lawyer at this stage may also significantly improve your odds of getting early approval. If possible, you should hire a lawyer who is willing to help with your application from the very beginning.
10. Do you handle all the levels of the social security disability appeals process?
The SSDI appeals mechanism is quite complex and has multiple levels of escalation. If your first application is rejected on medical grounds, you can request a review by a different SSA examiner. If that also results in a rejection, you can appeal to an administrative law judge.
The next stage of appeal involves a council of judges, which is followed by the filing of a lawsuit in the Federal Court system. You can go all the way up to the Supreme Court if you feel that you are being unjustly treated.
Based on this, not all law firms and attorneys are inclined to stick around for the entire duration of this process. Usually, some attorneys prefer to stop after an unsuccessful appeal to the administrative judges.
They will often recommend your case to other social security disability lawyers if you want to take it to the Federal Courts. If you prefer having the same lawyer handle everything from start to finish, ask them if they have experience handling Federal Court cases.
The founder of The Lobb Law Firm, Joseph R. Lobb has extensive experience in litigation at both the state and Federal Courts in Michigan. Throughout his career, he has successfully appealed on behalf of disability insurance clients rejected by the SSA.
11. What can I do to improve my chances of winning?
No lawyer, no matter how good they are, can win a case without the support and cooperation of the client. In a disability claim before the SSA, even the tiniest factor can make a huge difference between outright rejection and approval.
Seasoned social security disability lawyers will usually tell you exactly what they expect from you all through the application and approval process. Seemingly innocuous things, like visiting your doctor frequently, and saving all the bills, can make a clear impact.
Always be ready to follow any instructions from the attorney. Ideally, you want to be as comprehensive as you can when providing them with documents and other forms of evidence. Be forthright and honest with your lawyer at all times, particularly about your work history.
12. Are there any other benefits that I can claim?
Apart from disability insurance, there are several programs run by the SSA, the VA, and various agencies of the federal government as well as state-level organizations. The VA service-related disability benefits, supplemental security income benefits, and long-term disability insurance are examples.
Since SSDI cases have notoriously low odds of success, having other benefits as potential fallbacks can be a great relief. You should proactively seek the opinion of a disability lawyer about your eligibility for other types of support. With their experience and knowledge, they may be able to help nudge you in the right direction.
13. How long will it take to resolve my SSDI claim?
This is a tough question and you should not expect any easy answers. If any lawyer promises a quick resolution within a few months, be extra cautious. The social security disability claims process is quite slow and a social security disability case can take many months, if not years.
It can take anywhere from 3-9 months for your initial application to be processed. If it gets rejected, the appeals process with its 4 different stages can take several years to reach its conclusion. Once you submit a request for a hearing, it will take them at least 8 – 16 months to move forward.
And in the next stage involving an appeals council, the proceedings can take between 14 – 18 months to reach any headway. There are no shortcuts here. The good news is that if things get delayed, you will receive back pay when you finally win your appeal.
14. Would you be willing to consider an on-the-record (OTR) request?
If you have overwhelming evidence supporting your claim for disability benefits, you can skip the hearing process altogether. To do this, your attorney should submit an OTR request to the judge. Since it involves compiling exhaustive evidence, the creation of such a document is a complex process that requires considerable effort.
Disability lawyers often have contrasting views on ORT requests – while some are willing to take the effort, others often prefer to let things take their course and contest the hearings at their pace. This is often the case if the lawyer does not have the time or resources to spare for the creation of an OTR.
You should inquire with the lawyer about the feasibility of an OTR request. Further, ask them upfront if they are comfortable with the idea of submitting such a request to prevent conflicts later down the line. If a social security lawyer is not even willing to consider it an option, you should probably seek help elsewhere.
15. What can you do about consultative exams?
A consultative exam (CE) is a thorough medical examination of the applicant conducted by an independent physician. The CE is ordered by the SSA and they will pay for it as well. It’s usually ordered when the SSA wants additional clarification regarding your medical condition.
Lack of adequate evidence in the medical records, delays in seeking medical treatment, outdated information, and suspicion of fraud are the common reasons for ordering a CE. Ideally, you want to avoid a CE if at all possible.
Competent disability lawyers can actually make a difference here by drafting supportive medical source statements that remove any discrepancies and fill in any blank spots in your application. A well-drafted medical source statement can reduce the chances of the SSA ordering a CE.
16. How will you prepare me for the hearing?
The appeals and disability hearing process are not as strict as a court trial. But you should still expect the lawyers and the administrative law judge to ask you some questions as part of the cross-examination process.
Ideally, you want a lawyer who is willing to take the time out to explain the entire process and teach you how to best answer specific questions. This may require multiple meetings before the hearing stage. Always rely on lawyers who show an active interest in interacting with you.
If the lawyer is always dealing with you on phone and not willing to meet even once before the hearing stage, that is a major red flag. You should take your social security benefits case to a more attentive legal professional.
17. How often will we discuss the case?
Communication is essential in a long-drawn-out process like social security disability insurance claims and appeals. You will often go months without any progress on your application. It’s easy to get restless and frustrated with the glacial pace at which things may seem to move.
A lawyer or firm that goes into radio silence for months is a bad addition to this scenario. You want a more proactive approach, where the lawyer or point person is willing to keep in touch and provide constant updates whenever you seek them.
Punctuality is a critical requirement in SSDI cases – if the Social Security Administration schedules an appointment or meeting, you have to attend it at all costs. If the lawyer takes their eyes off the ball here, it can have a devastating impact on your chances.
This is why it’s crucial to focus on communication when you meet with any disability lawyer. Try to pick firms that have resources to help keep in touch with you and win the case for you.
18. How much do you charge for your services?
The potential cost of legal services is a major concern for individuals who are trying to claim disability benefits. In relation to this, there is some good news – there is a cap on how much social security disability lawyers can charge you for their services.
For social security disability benefits claims, the standard fee rate is capped at 25% of the past-due benefits. And this amount cannot exceed $6000. If any lawyer quotes a figure higher than this, you should be on your guard.
Even when a lawyer quotes a fee that is below or equal to $6000, you may want to ask for further clarification. Even if the fee is capped, disability lawyers can legally charge you for additional expenses – things like hiring medical experts, getting medical reports, or consultative exams.
Further, do keep in mind that the limit is only applicable in the earlier stages of the SSDI claims process. If your requests are repeatedly rejected, you may have to file a case in the Appeal Council or the Federal Court system. Once you reach these stages, the fee structure may change.
If you plan to contest the authorities’ decisions to the maximum extent possible, make it a point to ask about the legal costs. Transparency is of utmost importance to us here at The Lobb Law Firm – we will always provide you with complete information about the fee structure when you contact us.
19. Do I have to pay anything up-front?
In disability claim cases, the answer to this question is usually “no.” Most disability lawyers work on a contingency basis – i.e., they only get paid if you win your benefits claim. But it’s recommended that you ask a lawyer this question right in the beginning for clarification.
20. Do you provide free initial case review/consultation?
Similar to the concept of contingency payments, most lawyers and firms claim that they will review your case free of charge. Please do not take such claims at face value. Disability benefits claims can vary in complexity drastically depending on the type of disability and other circumstances.
If your case is already in the later stages of appeal, the amount of documentation that needs to be reviewed could be substantial. Some lawyers and firms may have a strict and narrow definition of what constitutes a “free consultation” or “free case review.”
At The Lobb Law Firm, we understand the impact additional expenses can have on the lives of people struggling with a disability. Our approach is firmly rooted in compassionate care and we do provide free consultations to all prospective clients.
The Lobb Law Firm is Ready to Fight Hard for all Your SSDI Benefit Needs in Detroit, MI
The attorneys at The Lobb Law Firm have nearly a century of combined experience in fighting personal injury, worker’s compensation, and disability insurance cases in the state of Michigan. Our firm has decades of experience to deliver the ideal level of care for our disability clients.
Our disability lawyers are always ready to offer free consultations and well-considered legal opinions on your case. We also offer contingency payment plans to all our SSDI clients. For a free review of your case by an experienced Michigan disability lawyer, please give us a call at 248-591-4090, or schedule an appointment using the form available here.