Find an Attorney Using These Three Tips

If you need to find an attorney, then you need to read this article first in order to avoid making a costly mistake. You need to learn where to get an attorney referral as well as attorney advertising to avoid. 

A competent attorney is going to provide a certain level of client service and will discuss payment arrangements in advance. Before you visit that attorney you saw on television or in the phone book, you should take a minute to arm yourself with information that could potentially save your thousands of dollars.

Find An Attorney With A Referral From A Friend

Most clients do not know where to begin to look for an attorney. So, they contact the attorney with the most outrageous television commercials or the biggest yellow ad. This is often a mistake. 

Instead, you should get a referral from a friend that has used an attorney for the type of legal issues that you face. You can also contact your family accountant, banker or even pastor to find an attorney you can trust. In every case, follow up on your referral by checking the attorney out on the internet. There are a number of lawyer rating services available online. But it doe not stop there. You also need to review the attorney’s commitment to client service.

Evaluate Your Attorney’s Commitment To Service

Most clients become dissatisfied with their attorney because the attorney fails to treat them with the respect that a paying client deserves. Specifically, the single biggest complaint is that the attorney fails to keep his client abreast of the status of the case. A competent and professional attorney will return phone calls and provide regular status reports in writing to his client. 

In addition, a good attorney will be able to gather evidence, reports, medical records and witness statements in a timely and efficient manner. Once you understand what to expect in terms of client service, you can begin to think about how you are going to compensate your attorney for services rendered.

Discuss Attorney’s Fees Early On

The most important question that clients have when they try to find a lawyer is how they are going to pay for his services. This issue should be discussed very early in the attorney selection process. Depending on the type of case, the lawyer can charge a flat fee for simple matters, an hourly rate for other services. 

Personal injury clients will likely be offered a contingency fee (or modified contingency fee) arrangement whereby no money will be required up front. Regardless of the type of fee arrangement, the fee contract should be in writing and signed by both parties. 

Conduct Your Attorney Search With Confidence

Now that you know more about how to find an attorney, you can do so with confidence. Find a lawyer by way of referrals from trusted friends or professionals, not television or telephone advertisements. Demand that you attorney give you superior service and respect. Lastly, discuss your attorney fees early and get the agreement in writing. So, keep these key points in mind when you go out there and find an attorney that will serve you well.

Does Having an Attorney Determine Whether You Win or Lose Your Social Security Disability Case?

Did you know you can increase your odds of winning your Social Security (SSA) Disability case by more than 50% if you are represented by an attorney? Simply put, that’s a dramatic difference and one that every Social Security disability applicant should heed.

Congressional and SSA’s own statistics confirm this statement is true. The statistic came to light in November 2001, during Congressional testimony provided by Congressman Robert T. Matsui of California. During the hearing Congressman Matsui provided the following testimony:

“Professional representation is a valuable-and indeed vital-service. The disability determination process is complex. Claimants without professional representation appear to be far less likely to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. For example, in 2000, 64% of claimants represented by an attorney, but only 40% of those without one, were awarded benefits at the hearing level.”[1]

At the same hearing, Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. of Florida provided the following testimony:

“As many of you know, filing for Social Security benefits-especially disability benefits-is so complicated that many claimants must hire attorneys to guide them through the process.” [2]

Please understand I am not suggesting that you must have an attorney in order to win your disability case. People can and do win their cases on their own. In fact, SSA does not require you to have an attorney, you can represent yourself; but why on earth would you? Congressional and SSA’s own statistics show dramatic differences in the outcomes of cases depending on whether an attorney is involved.

I have debated for years on whether to write an article on why one should hire a disability attorney. I did not want the article to be viewed as self-serving for either myself or my profession. I am aware of the unfortunate stature attorneys hold in our society, some of which is deserved. I always enjoy the look in a person’s eyes when they learn I am an attorney; it is clear they are searching their mind to share the latest attorney joke…and most are very funny!

However, the testimony of Congressmen Matsui and Shaw confirms what SSA and many disability attorneys have known for years. With such a compelling statistic, it is my hope this article is viewed as educational, rather than self-serving.

So you know the difference a disability attorney can make in your case…what can do you do about it? For those of you who are now considering hiring an attorney, let me provide you with some basic information to assist you in your decision.

1. You only pay an Attorney’s fee if you win your Case!

The number one question on people’s minds is, “How can I afford an attorney when I am not working?” The answer is simple…you only pay the attorney a fee if you win your case. You do not pay an attorney upfront. Generally, every disability attorney will represent you on a contingency fee basis. Simply put, this means you do not pay an attorney’s fee unless you win your case. Thus, everyone seeking disability benefits can afford an attorney. The question you should be asking yourself is “can I afford not to be represented by an attorney?”

2. General information regarding the attorney’s fees

The SSA and federal law set the attorney’s fees in disability cases. The standard fee agreement most attorneys use states the attorney’s fee is contingent upon winning your case. The fee is 25% of all past due benefits for you and your family, up to a maximum of $5,300, or whichever is less. Some attorneys may use a fee agreement which provides for a maximum fee of $7,000.

It is worth noting that on February 1, 2002, SSA increased the maximum standard fee amount to $5,300 from $4,000. This is the first time the fee has been increased since 1990 and simply represented a cost of living adjustment.

Thus, the attorney’s fees are usually only a fraction of the benefits you receive; depending on the amount of your past due benefits, it can be a very small fraction.

3. What is my case worth if I win?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors including…how long you have been disabled, when or if you will ever return to work, the amount of your monthly benefit and whether you have eligible dependents.

For example, if you are 45 years old, your monthly benefit amount is $1,000, and you do not return to work before age 65; your case can easily be worth $250,000! This amount does not include the value of the Medicare or Medicaid insurance you will be eligible for after being found disabled. As many of you know, the price of medical insurance in middle age, with pre-existing medical conditions, can be staggering and not affordable. This of course assumes that an insurance company is willing to insure you.

4. Why you increase your odds of winning your case if you hire a Disability Attorney

There are many reasons hiring an attorney can significantly increase the odds of winning your case. One significant reason is that disability attorneys understand the complicated laws and regulations that determine success or failure. Two questions I always ask potential clients are, “Do you know what you need to prove in order to win your case?” and “If you do not know, how are you going to go about proving it?

You should hire an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law. Furthermore, I believe it is important to hire an attorney who has expertise in representing people with your type of diagnosis. It is important that your attorney believes in your case and that they can win it. I suggest you ask the attorney how much experience they have with your type of diagnosis and how often do they win? Any disability attorney should be willing to provide you with this information.

5. What an Attorney should do to increase the odds of winning your case

From the beginning, the attorney should set forth a strategy that you both of you should follow to win your case. It is critical to understand what is necessary to prove your case and how you will go about winning it. The sooner you know this, the sooner you can take steps to execute the strategy and thereby increase your odds of winning. Thus, you should consult with and hire an attorney either when you file your claim or as soon thereafter as possible.

Based on my experience in representing clients nationwide (remember Social Security is federal law and not state specific); literally none of them had a strategy or plan on how to win their case before they hired me. This is important because most of them were simply “doing whatever SSA told them to do” while their claim was being processed. This included seeing SSA’s doctors for an examination that often results in a denial of their claim.

It is important to understand that SSA is only obligated to investigate your case and is not charged with approving it. I am not suggesting that SSA denies every claim; I’m simply stating that my experience after having successfully represented many clients whose claims were previously denied by SSA because evidence was not obtained, not reviewed or SSA focused on what it wanted to in order to support a denial.

In conclusion, if you are contemplating filing a claim for SSA Disability benefits, I encourage you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to help you understand the process. The consultation should not cost you anything except your time. By understanding the process and having a strategy, you will significantly increase your odds of winning your case.

Congressional and Social Security’s statistics do not lie – it is penny wise and pound foolish not to hire a disability attorney.

[1] November 16, 2001 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Testimony of Honorable Robert T. Matsui of California, regarding the Attorney Fee Payment System Improvement Act 2001.

[2] November 16, 2001 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Testimony of Honorable E. Clay Shaw of Florida, regarding the Attorney Fee Payment System Improvement Act 2001.

5 Critical Mistakes Often Made When Hiring an Attorney & How to Avoid Those Mistakes

Attorney’s Fees – How to Avoid Large Legal Bills

Most attorneys make a good living and they do so by charging attorney’s fees. This begs the question, what exactly are attorney’s fees and what should I know about attorney’s fees before I hire a lawyer? This article describes the different types of attorney’s fees and provides a number of tips for determining which type of attorney fee is best for you.

  • A Few Minutes at a Time: The Hourly Attorneys Fee
  • Most attorneys charge hourly rates. Hourly rates are usually calculated by tracking hours in one, six, or ten minute increments. Some attorneys may even use hour increments. The rate attorneys charge per hour varies greatly based on the location of the attorney, the type of work to be performed, and the time required. It is not uncommon for specialized attorneys to charge in excess of $600 per hour. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate closer to $300 per hour. While hiring an attorney who charges higher hourly rates may sound ludicrous, clients should understand that a specialist may be able to perform work much faster than a non-specialist. This is especially true if the non-specialist will have to bill a significant amount of hours to get up to speed on a legal matter.

  • One Successful Legal Issue at a Time: The Contingent Attorneys Fee
  • Contingent attorney’s fees are also common. These fees are based on the success of the attorney in the legal matter. They are usually calculated using a set percentage. For example, a personal injury attorney may charge a contingency fee equal to 40 percent of any lawsuit recovery. These fees can routinely range from 30 to 60 percent. Contingency fees may encourage the attorney to use his best efforts to resolve the matter. If they extend to settlements reached before the lawsuit ends, contingency fees may also encourage the attorney to settle the matter for any amount in the beginning of the case. In this case the attorney will have performed little work and in exchange for earning a fee – albeit a smaller fee that he may have earned for putting in more effort.

  • One Legal Issue Regardless of Outcome: The Flat Attorneys Fee

Flat fees are less common for attorneys. These fees consist of specified payment or payments denominated in a dollar amount. These fees can vary significantly, but they should relate to the attorney’s estimation of how much time the case will take plus a profit component. Thus, a matter that will probably take ten hours for an attorney whose hourly rate is $300 per hour, might be offered by the attorney at $3,500.

Flat fees can help clients budget for legal costs, but they do have some drawbacks. Because they are not tied to the outcome of the case, the attorney may end up working faster and not smarter. Also, the attorney may be tempted to compartmentalize the job and charge a separate flat fee for each component. This can end up costing the client more than the contingent or hourly attorney fees they would have otherwise paid.

Conclusion

Clients should consider these options in deciding which attorney to hire. Ultimately, it is up to the client to negotiate an attorney fee payment arrangement that they are comfortable with. Most attorneys will be receptive to this type of negotiation.

Choosing a Medical Malpractice Attorney – How to Decide

There is a commercial on the radio which suggests you should not buy a house from a cabdriver who happens to take you past the house. The premise, of course, is that the cabdriver has little or no knowledge of the home or of you. The obvious truth of this simple message extends to almost every facet of our lives. Very few of us would hire someone for something as important as being a babysitter for our children or as relatively mundane as repairing our car without being sure that the person we hire knows what they are doing and has some positive track record that we can rely upon. With that basic premise in mind, I find myself consistently surprised at how often a person will hire an attorney to handle a medical malpractice case (as well as many other types of cases) without knowing who the attorney is; what experience they may have in the field; what their record of success in the field may be; or, where they stand in the eyes of their peers and adversaries.

When a person is injured from medical malpractice, a lawsuit against a doctor or health care provider is usually the furthest thing from his or her mind. Concerns about one’s health; one’s ability to keep working and providing for a family; and, the ability to regain one’s place as a productive member of society are among the far more pressing issues. It is typically not until these concerns have been dealt with or accepted that people even consider whether malpractice might have occurred. Unfortunately, the realization that one’s life altering injury may have been preventable often adds to the difficulty of the situation.

It is within this emotionally charged and upsetting context that the search for a medical malpractice attorney typically begins. Of course, most people do not know which attorneys concentrate their practice in a specific area or which attorneys happen to focus their practice on the highly technical and difficult field of medical malpractice. Most attorney advertising suggests that the attorney who paid for the ad is an expert in every area of the law including medical malpractice. With the personal stresses and without any way to separate out which attorneys truly know how to handle a medical malpractice case, many people will hire the wrong lawyer.

A further part of the difficulty an injured person deals with when he or she considers a lawsuit is the perceived role of lawsuits in today’s society. Lawsuits are not and should not be about a “quick buck” or holding a company up for a “pay day”. The civil justice system is about accountability – about placing blame where it belongs. It is about making sure that those injured are compensated for that which they can never get back. It is about making sure that the individual, regardless of his or her financial or societal status, has the same rights as the rich and powerful. It is about assuring society that we are all equal.

Not every wrong can or should be the basis of a lawsuit. There are, however, many valid reasons to bring a lawsuit. Obviously, the simplest reason is to right a wrong. There is also great benefit to others in our community and our society as a whole in that meritorious lawsuits deter similar conduct. Unfortunately, the role of lawsuits in society has been damaged considerably by media attention of a handful of lawsuits, some of which were portrayed inaccurately to fit an agenda and some of which were portrayed correctly but should never have been brought. The end result is that, for a great number of people, lawsuits are nearly the definition of what is wrong with our society today. Critics of our judicial system depict our courts as out of control, attorneys as greedy and lawsuits as damaging to the economy and society as a whole.

Obviously, these are positions taken to drive an agenda. These critics do not address the accountability and equality a lawsuit can provide. They do not account for the positive societal changes the courts have engendered. They do not account for workplaces and products having been made safer by the effects of a lawsuit. They do not account for the millions of people who have been restored some of the ill-gotten gains fleeced by stockbrokers and corporations. They do not account for the many people who do not need to resort to public assistance for their health needs because a lawsuit has provided sufficient financial resources. In short, they do not account for any of the benefits to society of a lawsuit. Rather, they focus on some examples of ill-conceived or poorly prosecuted cases as representative of our system as a whole.

Take a moment to consider who drives these agendas: insurance companies; big business; negligent doctors and others. We must consider, before we accept their agenda, whether they have our best interests at heart or whether their agenda is designed to avoid accountability and increase profits. There are many questions a person must ask themselves before they even consider whether to bring a lawsuit. The most important of those questions, however, is why, over the course of centuries, wars have been waged and governments toppled by people demanding the equality and justice guaranteed by our courts?

A lawsuit is not appropriate in every instance but the decision to pursue this right should be an individual decision about what, under the circumstances, is right for an injured person and his or her family. The doctor whose mistake puts a child in a wheelchair for life or a young wife and mother in an early grave does not have to live with the family he or she has destroyed. The CEO whose decision to increase profit through the use of a toxic additive does not have to live in the town poisoned by that product. The insurance company accountant who refuses to pay for treatment to a seriously ill person who paid for that coverage does not have to watch the person die because they did not receive the treatment. These individuals do not have to live with the ramifications of their decisions and actions and their agenda to avoid responsibility should not drive the injured person’s decision to bring a lawsuit or not.

Additionally, those injured by medical negligence often consider the personal and societal impact occasioned by prosecuting a suit. Not infrequently, the injured party or their family personally likes the physician suspecting of doing them harm. Even more frequently, a person injured by a medical professional is made to feel that a lawsuit against that doctor will cause the doctor to leave practice or move to another state. These feelings are generated by a well orchestrated and well financed campaign by the medical lobby. The clearly intended purpose of their message is to prevent lawsuits through guilt and fear.

It has been well documented that, not only does New York have one of the highest population of doctors in the country, but more than 50% of malpractice is caused by less than 5% of our doctors. Unfortunately, in most instances, it is the doctors who make up the 5% that orchestrate the media and political spin of the medical lobby. Rather than focusing their attention on improving the quality of care or increasing medical reimbursement rates by HMO’s and the government, which would benefit all doctors and, in large part, all of society, their attention is focused on stopping those most seriously injured from seeking redress in court. Not surprisingly, such an impact only serves to aid those doctors who commit malpractice and, by and large, damages society.

Once again, the decision to bring a lawsuit must be made on an individual basis. The fact that a physician, while maybe not a friend, was kindly or soft spoken as they committed an act of malpractice may be a driving factor in an individual decision. The ultimate question for the individual making the decision on whether to pursue a case against a doctor with a nice personality or demeanor is whether the wrong which was committed, although clearly unintended, is one which we would want repeated. The medical profession, by and large, does not discipline negligence. As such, the only opportunity to prevent a physician from continuing an unsafe practice or procedure is through the courts. Whether one is making this decision for oneself, a parent or a child, the issue is less about who we like and more about whether we would be comfortable knowing that someone else’s child or loved one has become injured because we allowed a tailored, politically driven, highly financed and, ultimately false story about doctors leaving the state deter us from the societal good of preventing bad medicine.

Having made the decision to pursue a potential lawsuit, an injured party must consider which attorney will prosecute the case on their behalf. As discussed above, choosing the right attorney should involve determining the person best suited to winning the lawsuit. Too often, the decision is made on the wrong criteria. The doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and corporate wrongdoers who have caused the injury in the first place have spent considerable time and effort to convince those injured through their negligence that all attorneys can handle any case with the same relative level of skill. They know that a lack of understanding, experience or knowledge by the attorney representing a person injured by negligence, even early in an investigation, can severely damage the ability of that attorney to successfully resolve even the most meritorious case. The standing of attorneys in society, which is generally self-inflicted, has led us to a place where an injured person frequently hires the first attorney they see; a relative; a friend; or, the guy who advertises on the television and radio. While some may be qualified to handle a malpractice case, the reality is that most will not. Needless to say, the generally poor results generated when an unqualified attorney handles a complex malpractice case, exacerbates the poor standing of attorneys in society and the willingness of litigants to feel that any attorney will do. The reality is that not all attorneys are capable of handling medical malpractice cases which are, by their very nature, complicated and difficult.

When making a decision as to who will represent you, your child or your loved one, the decision needs to be based on the same criteria you would rely upon for any other difficult decision. Does the attorney have experience with this type of case? How has this attorney and his or her firm performed on other malpractice cases? What is the standing of the attorney in the community as a whole and in the smaller community of malpractice attorneys? What does the attorneys peers say about him or her? What does the attorneys adversaries say about him or her? How do you interact with the attorney? Is he or she someone you feel you can trust? Does the attorney understand the intricacies of medicine and the law as it surrounds your case? Were you directed to this attorney by someone with your best interests at heart or by an advertisement or person with their own agenda or profit motive? In short, is this person the very best person in the field to properly, professionally and successfully prosecute this case for you, your child, your parent or other loved one?

The insurance companies and corporate America have carefully vetted the attorneys who want to work for them defending the lawsuits brought by people injured by their negligence. They only hire the very best attorneys with the skills to be successful, the knowledge of their subject and the experience to maximize the results for their clients. Before you hire an attorney to represent you in a complex case, you should do the same. It can be overwhelming and it can be difficult to work through the various candidates. However, the decision as to which attorney to hire is too important to leave to chance.