When to consult Georgia disability lawyers is a question many claimants may ask when seeking benefits. For some, hiring an attorney may not even be a consideration until after they’re denied and must appeal a decision that didn’t go in their favor.
However, is waiting until you must appeal really the best time to seek legal counsel?
There are many reasons one might choose to go through the initial application process on their own, such as worries about the cost of attorney’s fees or believing they have a sure thing of a case that will be approved.
First-time claimants may not know that, for instance, a majority of Social Security disability claims are initially denied and must be appealed during a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). They may also not understand how attorney fees are structured for Social Security cases.
No one should have to wait until something goes wrong to talk to a disability lawyer.
In general, the earlier you’re able to consult an attorney in your case, the better chance you’ll have of a positive outcome. Although this is far from a guaranteed win, the benefits of having an expert in disability law advocating for you throughout your case are many.
Here are several reasons you should talk to a lawyer about your claim as soon as possible.
Georgia Disability Lawyers Don’t Charge You Up Front Fees
When seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you are typically not charged an up-front lawyer’s fee. Instead, you would pay up to 25% of your past-due benefits, up to $6,000, only if you win your claim. This amount is strictly federally regulated.
If you lose your case, you usually won’t have to pay any fee.
This is called a contingency fee agreement, and it’s something you and your lawyer agree to in writing. The fee agreement must meet strict guidelines set by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
An initial case evaluation is also typically free. This is an initial meeting between you and a law firm for you to discuss the unique circumstances of your claim and your needs as a client, as well as how a legal team best feels they’ll be able to help you.
Therefore, there’s no reason not to discuss your case with a lawyer right away, when this can lead to your best chance of being approved for benefits.
Georgia Disability Lawyers Can Help You at Each Stage of Your Claim
Being denied Social Security disability benefits may be a good reason to hire a lawyer. However, there are some reasons you can be denied that a lawyer can help prevent in the first place. A disability lawyer will help ensure every possible avenue of approval for your condition is explored.
The best time to hire a lawyer is before you file your claim. This is because your attorney will be versed in what medical evidence and how that evidence is presented will be most persuasive to the SSA as they evaluate your disability.
At this stage, a lawyer will also help you:
- Meet deadlines.
- Fill out Social Security disability paperwork correctly.
- Understand a realistic timeline of your case.
- Navigate the SSA’s expectations as the case progresses.
- Find answers to questions you have about any aspect of your case.
If you and your attorney have presented your best possible case to the SSA and you’ve been initially denied, the next step is to seek reconsideration by another reviewer.
However, you’re statistically most likely to overturn an unfavorable decision in the next stage of appeal—a hearing before an ALJ.
At the appeal hearing stage, your lawyer can help you prepare to be questioned by the judge and others who may be present at your hearing, such as a Vocational Expert. If your lawyer has already worked with you through the initial stages of your claim, they’ll have a better understanding of why you were denied and how to address this.
A lawyer might also help at this stage by:
- gathering additional medical evidence and doctors’ opinions relevant to your claim
- questioning you during the hearing
- cross-examining experts at your hearing who try to disprove that your disability prevents you from working
If you lose at this stage of appeal, you will need to seek an appeal from the Appeals Council or even go to federal court. An attorney who’s familiar with you, your condition, and your claim can be an invaluable asset during these stages as well.
Georgia Disability Lawyers Know Georgia
Georgia disability lawyers are more likely to have working relationships with local court personnel and judges. This gives them better intuitions about the expectations and preferences of judges should your claim require a hearing. They can begin planning effective strategies for an appeal hearing long before you receive an initial approval or denial.
Judges may also be more receptive to an attorney whose reputation they respect and know from personal experience, making it easier for your attorney to advocate for you.
A local lawyer will understand how to navigate state and federal laws and regulations and apply those to the local court systems where they work day in and day out.
A Georgia firm will also have built their experience working with your neighbors. They’ll have a track record of how many disability claims they’ve won for their clients and how they treated those clients during those cases.
It’s likely that a local firm will care about their community and want their clients to walk away feeling like they did everything in their power to win their benefits cases. Word of mouth referrals can be a crucial way for these firms to connect with disabled Georgia residents seeking legal representation—and a crucial way for you to find an attorney who’ll represent you.
If your Social Security Disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.