Both disabilities and injuries are tragically common, and can occur anywhere from a workplace incident to a car accident and beyond. In many cases, the drain an injury or a disability puts on your finances is significant and it is necessary to begin a Disability or Personal Injury Claim. If you or someone you know intends to open a claim, or is in the process of opening one, it could be beneficial for them to hire a personal injury lawyer or disability lawyer to represent them.
What is the Difference Between a Personal Injury and a Disability?
Though personal injuries and disabilities are related, there are several key legal differences that are important to keep in mind when opening a claim and when hiring an attorney. Firstly, the length of time the person is affected matters. An injury is typically considered the more minor of the two. You might recover from an injury in a matter of weeks, while a physical disability could be lifelong.
The financial burden is also different for an injury versus a disability. With a personal injury, it may be necessary for you to take several weeks off work to recover. There may also be some hospital bills or medication costs. In the case of a physical disability, you may be required to stop working altogether as well as accrue extensive hospital bills. When deciding which lawyer to hire, it will be beneficial to know if you will be pursuing a personal injury claim or a disability claim.
When Should I Hire a Personal Injury or Disability Attorney?
If you have a disability and intend to open a Social Security or SSI claim, or if you have already begun a claim and have been denied, your chances of success are greatly increased with the help of a disability lawyer. Having a disability lawyer can help speed up what can be an incredibly long, arduous, and stressful process for the claimant, due to the complex nature of the Social Security Act and its regulations surrounding disabilities. Statistics show that claimants with a disability lawyer to represent them at their hearings are twice as likely to be approved. Disability lawyers can be helpful in ensuring your medical records are complete, and physicians are more likely to respond to a disability lawyer’s request for information than to one of their patients. They can also help prepare you for questioning and will be able to tell you what to expect in a hearing, which can be instrumental in reducing the anxiety surrounding a hearing.
In the case of personal injury, in cases where severe injuries, malpractice, or toxic exposure is involved, you will absolutely want to consult a lawyer. But while lawyers may not seem necessary in cases where the injured party is not badly injured and the responsible party is willing to accept liability, it is always beneficial to speak to a personal injury lawyer before wading into the murky waters of injury claims, especially if your injuries are severe enough that your settlement may differ greatly from the norm.
What Will it Cost to Hire a Personal Injury or Disability Attorney?
Most disability lawyers will not charge any upfront fees when taking on a disability case, and will instead only charge a fee if they win the case. This is referred to as a “contingency fee”, meaning the lawyer receiving payment is contingent on winning the case. This contingency fee will typically be 25% of the past-due benefits their client is awarded, up to $6000. If no past-due benefits are awarded, the lawyer receives no fee. When you hire a disability lawyer, you will be asked to sign a fee agreement that will allow the Social Security Administration to pay your lawyer the appropriate amount directly from your past-due benefits, should you be awarded any.
In some very specific cases, attorneys are allowed to submit a fee petition that will allow them to charge their clients a fee even if the SSA has not ruled in favor of awarding benefits. This can occur if multiple attorneys from different law firms have worked on your case; if you received past-due benefits after your attorney withdrew from your case; if your case goes to federal court; or if your case is ultimately denied by the SSA. In this last case, however, while the law does not prevent an attorney from submitting a fee petition, if an appropriate fee agreement was drawn up when the disability lawyer was hired, the attorney will not be able to collect a fee under the fee petition.
There are several ways a personal injury lawyer’s fees can be paid, but the most common is the contingency fee. However, there are three variations on the traditional contingency fee that a personal injury attorney and their clients can employ:
- Mixed hourly/contingent. The personal injury lawyer will charge their client a reduced hourly fee whatever the outcome of the claim. If the case is decided in favor of the plaintiff, the lawyer will receive a “bonus”, typically a percentage of what has been awarded the plaintiff.
- Sliding scale contingency. The personal injury lawyer’s fees will still only be paid if their client wins the case, but the longer the litigation progresses, the attorney will claim a larger percentage of the past-due benefits. For example, if the case is settled in the plaintiff’s favor without a lawsuit being filed, the personal injury lawyer’s contingency fee may remain at 25%. If the case goes all the way through trial, the percentage may become 40.
- Contingency hourly. This is similar to sliding scale contingency, except the personal injury lawyer’s fees will increase based solely on the amount of time they spend on the case, no matter how far the litigation process progresses. This is the least common of the three arrangements.
With so many different ways to arrange payment personal injury and disability lawyers are extremely accessible to their clientele, many of whom have reduced financial ability due to their injury or disability.
Will a Personal Injury or Disability Attorney Deny My Case?
Because a personal injury or disability lawyer will most of the time only be paid if they win their case, they are sometimes selective about the cases they accept. For instance, if a claimant has fired multiple disability lawyers or personal injury lawyers over the course of their claim, other lawyers may decline to work with that claimant. Lawyers may also deny a case if the applicant is under the age of 45, due to the decreased likelihood that a person younger than that will be seriously disabled or injured. For these reasons, it is important to be honest with your prospective disability lawyer or personal injury lawyer when you are considering hiring them.
The nature of personal injury and disability claims is a particularly convoluted and confusing area of law and it is for this reason that many claimants choose to seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer or a disability lawyer to represent them. If you need a personal injury lawyer to assist you, or if you have questions about a specific case, give us a call at 318-383-0094. You can also request a free consultation.