An injured employee with her lawyer.

Social Security disability claims are complicated and lengthy due to the federal regulations imposed by the Social Security Administration and the paperwork that is required to show proof of a disability. To simplify the filing process and increase your chances of claim approval, it’s important to know how to find a good disability lawyer who has experience with Social Security disability claims.

Disability Benefits in Illinois

In Illinois, people who become disabled from an illness or injury can file Social Security disability claims to collect monthly benefit payments. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows a disabled person to file a claim through two federal programs, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that assist people with disabilities.

The main difference between the two programs is how eligibility is determined. While Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available to low-income individuals whether they do or do not have a work history.

What Are the Different Types of Disability Cases?

After an illness or injury occurs, you should consider how to find a good disability lawyer, how a Chicago disability lawyer can help you get benefits, and what types of benefits are awarded in disability cases.

The Social Security Administration evaluates disability claims based on its Listing of Impairments. This listing describes impairments for each major body system that are considered severe enough to cause disability. This applies to adults with a work history applying for SSDI or SSI and children under 18 applying for SSI. For other listings, the evidence must show that the impairment has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

The SSA Listing of Impairments is divided into Part A and Part B:

Part A Listing of Impairments

Part A listings contain medical criteria that apply to the evaluation of impairments in adults. The medical criteria may also be applied to children under 18 when disease processes have a similar effect on adults and children.

Part B Listing of Impairments

Part B listings contain additional medical criteria that apply only to evaluating impairments in children when the criteria in Part A do not give appropriate consideration to the disease processes in childhood. When evaluating children, Part B is used first. If the medical criteria do not apply, Part A is used.

Disabilities can affect adults under Part A listings and children under Part B listings. Common types of disability cases that affect both include:

  • Cancers – This includes all malignant neoplastic diseases except cancers associated with viral (HIV) infections. Common disability cancer cases impact the breast, esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, liver, lungs, skin and soft tissues, and small and large intestines.
  • Congenital Disorders – These disorders often affect multiple body systems in both adults and children. Common disability cases involve non-mosaic Down syndrome, which causes cognitive disability, delayed physical development, congenital heart disease, and impaired hearing and vision.
  • Neurological Disorders – These disorders cause communication problems, disorganization, impaired motor function, and limitations in physical and mental functions. Common disability cases involve brain tumors, Cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord disorders.

How to Research Disability Lawyers

If you need to file a claim for Social Security disability benefits, Social Security disability lawyers are valuable assets because they know how the system works. An experienced disability lawyer can prove the severity of your illness or injury, negotiate the type of disability benefits you need, and oversee your benefit payments. If your claim is denied, your lawyer can file an appeal to get your claim reviewed. If you are planning to file a disability claim, you need to know how to find a good disability lawyer that represents your best interests.

Legal Directories and Referral Services

When you look for an experienced Illinois disability lawyer, you can search online for Chicago lawyers and ask friends and relatives for recommendations. You’re likely to find many legal directories of lawyers online, but you may have to scroll through many sponsored listings and ads. Reputable, experienced lawyers may lack a lot of online reviews and referrals because they are busy representing clients instead of focusing on marketing their firm.

As well as looking for recommendations online, it’s a good idea to ask people you know for a referral. Even if they have not worked directly with a Chicago Social Security lawyer, they may know other people who have or know about lawyers with good reputations.

What Is the Significance of Reading Client Reviews and Testimonials?

When considering how to find a good disability lawyer in Illinois, it’s important to read client reviews and review client testimonials shown on the lawyer’s website or social media pages. This information tells you what kind of cases they handle and what kind of results they have achieved in different types of legal claims and lawsuits. Some lawyers post successful claims or settlements on their website, but you should also ask a lawyer directly if he or she has handled other Social Security disability cases that are similar to your case, and what the results were. Asking this question gives you an idea of how many successful disability cases the lawyer has handled and what the outcome of your case might look like.

How Should You Prepare for Your First Meeting With a Potential Disability Lawyer?

After you determine how to find a good disability lawyer, you should schedule a meeting with the lawyer who seems like a good fit for your disability case. Before you meet, it’s important to prepare for your consultation by making a list of questions that address important matters related to the claim filing process, timelines to receive benefits, denied claims and appeals, legal fees, and available payment options.

Prepare a List of Questions to Ask During the Consultation

Before you meet with a Social Security lawyer, you should prepare a list of questions to ask during your consultation. Common questions to ask include:

  • Am I eligible for Social Security benefits?
  • Should I apply for SSDI or SSI benefits?
  • When should I apply for benefits?
  • What benefits can I expect to receive?
  • How long will it take to receive my monthly payments?
  • What should I do if my claim is denied?
  • Should I hire a disability lawyer or an advocate?

SSDI Lawyers Vs. Advocates

Although both lawyers and advocates can guide you through the Social Security disability claims process, there are advantages and benefits to hiring a disability lawyer.

Lawyers must pass the state bar exam and remain in good standing with the state bar association in where they practice law. Non-lawyer advocates are not required to have a law degree to practice, so they don’t have to take the bar exam or stay in good standing with the bar association.

Lawyers have attorney-client privilege, which allows your information to stay private. Non-lawyer advocates do not have that obligation to you, so information that you discuss doesn’t have to remain private.

Ethical guidelines bind lawyers, but non-lawyer advocates are not bound. Legal ethics refers to rules of professional responsibility that lawyers must follow. Lawyers are allowed to file legal appeal processes in Federal Court when necessary. Non-lawyer advocates are not permitted to represent people in any type of Social Security disability hearing.

Legal Fees and Payment Options

When you’re disabled and cannot work either temporarily or permanently, you don’t want to hire a disability lawyer that you can’t afford. Some cases may go on for months or even years due to complications with required paperwork, denied claims, and appeal processes. During your free case review with your Chicago lawyer, ask about legal fees and payment options.

In Illinois, Social Security disability lawyers typically do not require payment until the SSA approves your disability claim. Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, and are paid by the SSA once your disability claim is approved. Payments are made to the lawyer directly from the SSA by subtracting a percentage of your disability back pay to cover legal fees. According to federal law, a lawyer’s fee is capped at $6,000 or 25% of back pay, whichever amount is less.

An Illinois disability lawyer is allowed to bill for various out-of-pocket expenses, so you should discuss that in your first meeting and find out what those expenses include and if you have payment options.