Five Questions to Ask A Disability Lawyer Near You
Not every type of Disability Law is the same.
This simple fact confuses potential clients all the time.
So, how can you both find the right type of disability law firm, and simultaneously find the best one for your case?
Our suggestion, structure your exploration of law firms.
Or to be more direct? Start with these six questions and move on from there.
Who Else Will Be Involved In My Case?
Almost every law firm uses a team of attorneys, paralegals, and other support staff to develop your case/claim. In fact, it’s possible that the paralegal may become your go-to person for updates on your case status. The reasons for this are simple, the division of labor. You want your attorney ready to bring your best arguments forward in court. They need to be abreast of new laws, and the latest arguments. You certainly don’t want to have them spending time running down records! But they should have a team that is excellent at this exact thing.
This isn’t to say you should never talk to your attorney either. You most certainly should have that chance. It’s just more true that you will likely develop a great relationship with one of their paralegals or case managers as well. You might as well ask up front to know more about them!
Does the Firm Have a Communication Policy?
Up front, you should ask how regularly the firm will communicate with you, or how often they ask that you communicate with them. Some issues in disability law are resolved in weeks, and others are resolved in years! You might be in this situation for a long time…at some point, you will wonder what’s happening with your claim or case. Instead of waiting in silence, ask a question, or questions, that will lay the groundwork for how, when, and why you will be getting and giving updates with your disability law firm.
Does the Firm Do Other Types of Law?
Many firms represent clients in multiple areas of law. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, often the types of law that firms represent clients are complimentary. Disability and Bankruptcy, or Family Law & Estate Planning, for instance. Within these types of firms, lawyers can wear multiple hats too. So, it is pertinent in two ways to know what, if any, other types of law your disability lawyer(s) handle. First, it might be that you need their help in some other facet during the course of your claim. And second, you should ask, openly, whether their representation in multiple areas will be a conflict at any point, or will be a barrier in any way.
Can You Guarantee My Claim Will Be Approved?
This is a bit of a trick question. No one should be guaranteeing you success in your disability claim or case. But a good disability law firm will be able to describe to you how they can prepare your case for the best possible chances of success. In fact, they should have no trouble giving examples and describing a basic strategy to you within a couple minutes. If someone guarantees success, be cautious. However is someone describes to you how he or she can bring your case to a point where there is a high likelihood of success, be curious!
How Much Will It Cost Me if My Claim Is Not Approved?
Lastly, you have to ask about the dollars and cents! There are many different ways that fee agreements might get structured. Often these are on contingency, and there’s no expectation for a client to pay anything if a case is lost. Not everyone has the same philosophy on this. It’s OK to ask, in fact, it’s best to ask this as soon as possible. While disability law firms want to help you, this is a business too. Asking about price is to be expected.
Are Disability Attorneys Near Me Any Good?
No matter what stage you are in when filing a claim for long-term disability, hiring a disability attorney can be helpful.
Hiring a local disability attorney or hiring a big, law firm from out of state is one big decision you need to make.
Many people ask themselves, “Are disability attorneys near me any good?”. Let’s talk about what makes a good disability attorney and then compare disability attorneys near you and big law firms that may be out of state.
A Good Disability Attorney
What makes a good disability attorney? There are many traits that you define a good long-term disability attorney. Here are a few to look for:
- Professional and courteous – When you call a long-term disability attorneys office, you should be treated respectfully and courteously. You should feel important and taken seriously. Attorneys offices are very busy, but you are too so you should have your phone calls answered or returned promptly.
- Honesty – A good disability attorney should not promise you that they will get your claim approved. They should be honest about what changes you may have as well as give you a rough timeline of how long it will take.
- Case Management – You should be provided with a case manager or someone similar who can answer your questions and help you with your case when your attorney is not available. They should also keep you up to date on where your case stands.
- Experience – You want a disability attorney that has experience in long-term disability cases. They have strict deadlines and guidelines that need to be followed, and if your attorney has had experience, then they will be familiar with them. There are differences between Long-Term Disability, Social Security Disability, VA Disability, and other types of disability. You are looking for long-term disability, specifically.
Disability Attorneys Near You
What is the advantage of hiring a disability attorney near you? One of the biggest advantages is that local disability attorneys will know local and state laws. Another advantage is that local attorneys will also be familiar with the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) that may be overseeing your case should you go to court. This is important because if they know what the ALJ is looking for, they know what types of evidence to provide to improve your chances.
Having a disability attorney near you, allows you to meet with them face to face before you hire them and to be able to meet and check in with them during the process as well. However, national law firms have their bonuses too!
Big National Law Firms
National disability attorneys can often still do just as good of a job as a local attorney. The biggest disadvantage is that you may not even meet or speak to them until you need to go to court. They may also not be as familiar with local and state laws. However, they may practice more cases on a per-year basis simply due to the bigger market. You could be trading contact for experience.
Whom Should You Work With?
There is no good answer for you on this – work with the firm that makes you most comfortable. This is a big decision, and you should take the time to get it right. However, you are under the clock to get your claim and appeal finished, so do not take too long! If you need help, reach out to us, and we will be happy to help.
Is There a Difference Between Disability Attorneys?
There are many types of disability attorneys.
So, is a difference between types of disability attorneys?
The answer is yes…and no. You might be confused about this answer so let’s break it down.
Some of the Differences
The most significant difference is what type of disability the disability attorneys practice.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Veteran’s (VA) Service-connected disability
- Long-term disability
- Short-term disability
SSI and SSDI are both programs through the Social Security Administration. The same disability attorneys work with clients for both SSI and SSDI.
VA disability is for Veterans who have a disability that was caused by or worsened by a service connected event. You want disability attorneys who specialize in Veterans affairs.
Often Social Security disability attorneys work with VA disability as well. There are a lot of similarities between the two types of disability, from a procedural and practical standpoint.
On the other hand, long-term and short-term disability attorneys tend to specialize solely in those types of disability. This is mainly because of special laws that apply to those types of disability – namely, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, ERISA.
A Couple More Differences
Even though all types of disability attorneys are familiar with your state’s disability laws, every kind of disability has its own laws and deadlines to follow.
For example, long-term disability attorneys must follow strict guidelines and timelines within ERISA laws. There are also specific rules for the appeals process, so long-term disability attorneys must understand the ERISA laws and guidelines.
Social Security Disability attorneys need to know not only state disability laws but also federal disability laws. They also need to understand the strict appeals process for social security.
There are Some Similarities
All disability attorneys are there to help you with your disability claim. They can assist you in filling it our your initial application, or if you receive a denial letter, they assist you to write an appeal letter. Disability attorneys will also gather medical evidence to prove your claim and represent you if your case ends up going to court.
How to Know Which One You Need
To determine which type of disability attorney you need, you first must know if you are applying for SSI/SSDI, VA service-connected disability, or long-term/short-term disability. Once you determine that, you can start looking for disability attorneys who practice in the area you need.
Here is an article from our blog that helps break down how to find a good attorney that will help you.
Once you find the right type of disability attorney to help you, set up a consultation, read about the potential issues, and come prepared to ask questions.
What is the Cost of an ERISA Attorney?
After you have decided to file a long-term disability claim, your next biggest decision is whether or not you are going to hire an ERISA attorney.
If you are like most people, you may be concerned about the cost of hiring an ERISA attorney.
The cost of hiring an ERISA attorney varies from person to person depending on how much they are awarded for benefits, and from law firm to law firm, depending upon what they charge.
ERISA Attorney Fees
The majority of ERISA attorneys charge little or no upfront money. They instead work on a contingency basis, meaning they will only collect if you receive benefits. The percentage of your benefits that will go towards the attorney is usually between 25% to 40% of your settlement amount or monthly benefits.
Understand and Negotiate Your Attorney’s Fees
Before agreeing to any contingency fee, make sure you understand what the fees will cover. Most fees do not cover things such as copies, long distance phone calls, or postage.
You can also negotiate the attorney fees. If your attorney quotes you at 40% of your settlement or benefits, you can make a reasonable counter offer. If you and your attorney cannot come to a number you feel comfortable paying, you can also shop around and see if there is a different attorney that charges closer to what you feel comfortable paying
Remember though, that you may get what you pay for. A less expensive attorney might not have a lot of experience.
Also, keep in mind that the attorney fee will come out of your benefits whether you receive a lump sum or monthly payments. Find out if the attorney will be receiving a percentage of past due benefits or future benefits as well. Make sure you understand everything before agreeing to pay your attorney any portion of future benefits.
Your Long-term Disability Carrier May Pay Your Attorney’s Fees
There have been cases where the long-term disability provider paid attorney fees. In these cases, there has been an unreasonable nature of denial. You do not necessarily have to win your claim either (you only need to show a degree of success on the merits). It is entirely up to the judge to specifically order the carrier to pay.
Five factors the judge will look at before deciding:
- Did the opposing party act in bad faith?
- Is the opposing party able to pay an award of attorney’s fees?
- Will an award deter others from engaging in similar conduct
- Did the party requesting fees obtain a benefit for other plan participants through the litigation?
- What are the merits of the parties’ positions?
The awarded attorney’s fees will not cover the attorney’s time spent on the administrative appeal within the insurance company.
Other Expenses Related to Your Case
ERISA attorneys typically will cover other costs associated with your case but will require you to reimburse them after your case is completed. Some of these costs are:
- costs of obtaining medical records or expert opinions
- travel expenses
- filing fees
- copying costs, and
- long-distance phone calls
These are separate from the attorney’s fees and may be required to be paid even if you do not win your case, when you reach out to a long-term disability law firm, make sure you ask about this!
Will My Disability Lawyer Drop My Case?
If you have hired a long-term disability lawyer, you may be concerned that your disability lawyer will drop your case.
This could not only delay the claims process but cause you to have to find another disability lawyer.
Unfortunately, there are some reasons that a disability lawyer may drop your case.
So, let’s cover those up front and help you retain your attorney for the long-haul.
Not Fulfilling Requests
One reason your disability lawyer may drop your case is if you are not fulfilling their requests. If your lawyer has asked you to send them the contact information for your doctor and you have not done so, they cannot proceed with your case. Therefore, they may drop you. Also, if you are not fulfilling their requests promptly or the by the agreed amount of time, will cause your disability lawyer to drop your case.
If you are not honest with your disability lawyer, they will not be able to represent you or help you with your claim. You need to be completely honest and do not exaggerate the truth. Not only do you make their job harder, but you make yourself look unreliable which can negatively impact your claim.
Lack of Medical Evidence
If there is not a sufficient amount of medical evidence to back your claim, then you will most likely not win your case. A disability lawyer may drop your case if they cannot collect enough medical evidence to prove that you are unable to work and need to collect long-term disability benefits.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
If you have an alcohol or substance abuse problem that is untreated and you are not upfront with your disability lawyer, they will drop your case if they find out. Most disability lawyers will work with you if you can prove that you are seeking treatment and that your disability would still exist even if you did not struggle with alcohol or substance abuse.
You Went Back to Work or Started Collecting Unemployment
A disability lawyer will drop your case if you go back to work or start collecting unemployment. Long-term disability benefits will not be given to you if you do either of these things and you will not need a disability lawyer to represent you.
Taking Too Long
Sometimes the claim process takes a very long time especially if you get denied. Disability lawyers will put a lot of time and effort into helping you with your initial application and then on your appeal. Sometimes even a second appeal (not all insurers allow 2nd appeals). Once you get to the hearing stage, there is even more time and effort that needs to be put in to win the claim. If a disability lawyer feels that the time and effort required does not balance out with the potential benefit (whether you win or not), they may drop your case.
Issues with Previous Lawyers
If you have worked with a previous disability attorney on the same claim, and they dropped you because of something you did or did not do, then your current disability lawyer may drop you too. If you have a reputation of not being cooperative, lying, or mistreating another disability lawyer and your current lawyer finds out, they will not want to work with you either.
If you have been dropped by your disability lawyer and would like us to look at your case, contact us today.
Choosing the ERISA Attorney That Will Beat Your Long Term Disability Denial
Have you been denied ERISA long-term disability?
If so, you should be looking for an ERISA attorney to help you beat your denial.
In this article, we will show you where to find ERISA attorneys and how to choose the right one for you.
Where to Look for an ERISA Attorney
ERISA is the Federal Law that governs most employer sponsored long-term disability policies. If you’d like to know more about ERISA and if it applies to your long-term disability claim, take a look at our article, ERISA Disability Denials.
This suggestion probably seems a bit elementary, but there’s an adage with data and search, “junk in, junk out.” Most people don’t know upfront that there are different types of disability lawyers, so they do a general search for “disability appeal,” or some variation thereof.
Knowing that you need an ERISA lawyer to help with your appeal, you should redo your search in Google, Bing, Yahoo, or whatever other search engine you prefer. Make sure to filter by location, or just add in “ERISA Lawyer near me,” as your search term.
The best part about searches like this is that you can quickly review 5-10 disability attorneys in a couple minutes. Here’s an article that breaks down how you can tell who the best one to handle your long-term disability claim will be.
Findlaw, NOLO, and AVVO
There are a lot of websites that exist to match potential clients with attorneys willing to pay for the leads. Perhaps the most popular are, Findlaw, NOLO, and AVVO. On each of them, you can choose which location you are looking in and choose what area of practice (in this case ERISA long-term disability). You will then get a results list that will tell you the name of the attorney, where they are located (along with contact information), reviews, and links to their website if they have one. This makes it easy to compare each ERISA attorney at a glance.
Again, these are attorneys that pay for your lead, so you may not be getting the whole picture of available help by going to these sites. One of the benefits with these sites, however, is that they compile reviews and even provide colleague reviews. Take a look at Jeff Warncke’s Avvo page, for instance.
Ask around. Talk to your HR rep, co-workers, union rep., friends, family, Facebook network… Any one of these people or groups may have had contact or connection with a long-term disability attorney. Choosing the right ERISA attorney is critically important to your disability appeal!
How to Choose an ERISA Attorney
You should aim to choose around three to five good ERISA attorneys that you think would be best for you.
Call each office and set up a consultation (most offer free ones) to meet with them. When speaking with them on the phone and during your consultation things you should look for are:
- * Courtesy: Are you treated with respect and like you are important from the time the phone is answered until the end of your consultation? If you do not feel comfortable at any point during the process, then that is not the ERISA attorney for you.
- * Professionalism: Do the attorney and staff behave professionally? Are they organized and prepared when you show up for your consultation? If they seem unprofessional and unorganized, they probably will handle your case the same way and will not be a good fit for you.
- * Communication: You are busy, and so are the ERISA attorneys. That is why it is important that you receive a call back promptly if you need to leave a message. It is also important that if you are unable to speak to the attorney, you are able to speak with a caseworker or someone who will be available to answer your questions.
While meeting with the ERISA attorney, some things you should ask about are:
- * Experience: Find out how much experience the attorney has with ERISA long-term disability. Do they work exclusively with ERISA or is that only a piece of what they practice? This is important because ERISA has strict deadlines and guidelines and if the attorney is not aware of these, this can greatly affect your outcome negatively.
- * Approval rates: Asking what their approval rate is gives you a good idea of not only how often they win cases, but you can also tell if they are going to try to make it sound like you are guaranteed to win your case. No ERISA attorney can guarantee a win.
Once you have met with the three ERISA attorneys you choose, think about your experience with them and decide which one you felt the most comfortable with. If you did not like any of them, do not worry. Just go back to your search results and pick a few more. Just because you set up a consultation, that does not mean you have to work with them. You want to make sure that you choose the ERISA attorney that is best for you because that will make it easier for you to be honest with them and ask the necessary questions to help your claim.
Of course, we’d love to make your short list too. We focus on beating insurance companies at their own game and have helped many people just like you in ERISA long-term disability claims.
Contact us today for a consultation of your case.
Do Insurance Companies Work with Long-Term Disability Lawyers?
If you are filing for long-term disability or appealing a long-term disability denial and have hired a long-term disability lawyer you may be wondering if your insurance company will work with your lawyer.
The short answer is no.
Long-term disability insurance providers will do their best not to have to pay you long-term disability benefits. They hope you do not lawyer-up and will still make you (and your lawyer) jump through hoops all over the place to get the benefits you have paid for and earned.
However, having a disability lawyer makes their job of denying your benefits exponentially harder. Your disability lawyer knows their tricks and will be on your side to counter them at every step.
Here are a couple ways that insurance carriers play dirty and why you want an attorney to fight back.
Unfair or Bad Faith Insurance Carriers
Some long-term disability insurance providers will deny your claim for unfair reasons. They act in bad faith by:
- Requiring excessive, unnecessary, or duplicate information
- Delaying your claim for an unreasonable amount of time
- Denying a valid claim for invalid reasons
- Paying lower disability benefits than what is stated in your LTD policy
Damaging and Unfair Evidence Collection
Insurance companies will hire private investigators to follow you around and record your day to day activities. They are trying to “catch” you doing things that you either claimed you could not do or that your doctor said you are not supposed to do. They will only show the footage that supports their denial.
For example, you could suffer from severe back pain and not be able to bend. While you were being recorded, you dropped your mail and bent to pick it up. The insurance provider, whom you’re actively fighting, will use an excerpt from spy footage of this event to their advantage. They will say, you can bend over, you are lying in your application and can work.
Of course, they will not show that when you stood back up you were in extreme pain and had to sit down for an hour with an ice pack to recover.
Another tactic that the insurance company uses is not to tell you that your record will be closed when you go to an administrative hearing. That means that you cannot add any additional or new medical evidence to support your claim. In this scenario, your lack of institutional and legal knowledge is being used against you in the most frustrating way? How do you know what you don’t know?
When to Hire a Long-term Disability Lawyer
So, when should you hire a long-term disability lawyer? As soon as possible!
It does not matter which step of the process for obtaining your long-term disability you are in.
Typically, long-term disability lawyers will give you a free consultation, so you do not have anything to lose.
How a Long-term Disability Lawyer Will Help
Long-term disability lawyers know the tricks that insurance companies use to avoid having to pay you benefits.
Long-term disability lawyers will:
- Help you gather all necessary medical evidence to help your claim.
- Fight any recordings the private investigator may use
- Make sure the insurance company is not delaying your claim unnecessarily or requesting excessive, unnecessary, or duplicate
- Review your LTD policy for the definition of disabled as well as the benefit amount you should receive.
- Prepare you for your hearing
- Question professional witness
- Hire vocational experts to help determine if you can do your own occupation or any occupation.
Insurance companies rely on the fact that you do not know the rules and procedures and will use that to their advantage. Beat them by getting an expert of your own!
Get Your Own Long-Term Disability Expert
If you need to speak to a long-term disability lawyer about your claim, we are here to help. It does not matter what stage of the long-term disability process you are in.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.