Hiring a Chicago Social Security disability attorney is an important decision. Statistically, disability claimants who hire an experienced Social Security disability lawyer are more successful than those who try to go it alone. However, not all Social Security disability lawyers are created equal. If you understand what will happen at your first appointment, and know what questions to ask, you will be better equipped to make an informed choice.
You Will Participate in a Detailed Interview.
A Social Security disability claim requires a detailed legal and medical analysis. At your initial appointment, your lawyer should ask questions about your:
- Medical diagnoses and symptoms;
- Treatment and medications (including side effects);
- The names and addresses of your doctors and other medical providers;
- Work and educational background;
- Daily activities and interests;
- Work and activity restrictions assigned by your medical providers;
- Income and household; and
- Other related factors.
It is important to give your lawyer honest and accurate information. If you need help explaining your medical conditions and limitations, you should bring notes, documents, or a trusted friend or family member to help with the interview.
Experienced Social Security disability lawyers evaluate and accept cases based on their assessments of the strength of the claim and your credibility. If you minimize your problems, a lawyer may not think your claim is strong enough to win. Conversely, if you exaggerate your symptoms (or try to hide damaging information), the lawyer may question your credibility and, consequently, be unwilling to take on your case. While a lawyer’s questions at this initial meeting may seem intrusive, it is important to be honest and forthcoming with your answers, so that the lawyer can gain a detailed and accurate understanding of your claim.
You May Be Asked to Bring Documents or Other Information with You.
If you have copies of your medical records or your Social Security disability file (typically on a CD or disc), you should bring this information with you to the appointment. While you do not have to get complete copies of your medical files, bring in any information you have. For example, your lawyer may appreciate copies of your:
- Doctor’s notes and hospital records;
- MRI, X-rays, and other diagnostic reports; and
- Work restrictions assigned by doctors or other medical professionals.
This information can give a lawyer a deeper understanding of your Social Security disability claim and the reasons you were initially denied benefits.
You Should Be Able to Ask Questions.
Chicago Social Security disability claims typically take about a year-and-a-half from hearing request to court date. (If additional appeals are needed, the wait is even longer.) You may be working with your lawyer for an extended period of time. For this reason, it is important that you choose a lawyer that you trust and respect.
During your first appointment, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer should be able to answer your questions and educate you about the Social Security disability process. For example, you should ask:
Are You Familiar with My Medical Conditions?
Some medical conditions are particularly difficult to understand and explain. Other conditions, like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, may be incorrectly viewed as “junk diagnoses.” Complicated or misunderstood conditions are frequently disputed by Social Security.
Don’t be afraid to ask if the lawyer has handled cases involving your condition. Medical knowledge is essential to a successful Social Security disability claim. You need a lawyer who can interpret your medical evidence and help the administrative law judge understand your medical impairment and functional limitations.
What Should I Expect During the Application or Appeal Process?
Again, the Social Security disability application and appeals processes are lengthy and involve a lot of work. Your lawyer should be able to educate you about the claims process and his or her work style.
Communication and mutual understanding are essential to the attorney-client relationship. It is important that you feel comfortable with your Social Security disability attorney, the process, and the law firm’s communication style. Be honest with yourself and the lawyer. If you prefer in-person appointments or regular updates via email, ask if this is an option.
You Will Sign a Series of Forms.
Before a Chicago Social Security disability attorney can begin working on your claim, you must sign a series of forms and documents. The Social Security Administration is very protective of your personal information. Before it will share anything with your lawyer, Social Security must receive specific forms.
At your initial legal consultation, you may be asked to sign some or all of the following documents:
- Social Security Appointment of Representative: A form that allows the lawyer to communicate with Social Security about your case.
- Medical releases: A release permitting your doctors to share information with your lawyer.
- Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration: A release that lets Social Security communicate with your doctors.
- The lawyer’s Fee Agreement.
Your Social Security disability lawyer should explain these forms in detail. Do not sign anything if you have questions or concerns.
The Social Security Administration regulates attorney’s fees. Under federal law, all lawyers charge a contingency fee; you should not have to pay an attorney’s fee unless you win your claim (i.e., payment is contingent upon winning). However, you may be charged for case costs (such as the cost of obtaining medical records and other information necessary for your claim.) Make sure you understand how your lawyer handles attorney’s fees and case costs before signing a fee agreement.
Chicago’s disabled workers deserve skilled representation and compassionate guidance during their disability claims. If you have questions about your Social Security disability claim, contact us. Our team of experienced Social Security disability lawyers will be happy to meet with you for an initial consultation.