A cancer diagnosis can bring up a number of cancer-related legal issues, such as insurance, employment, housing, finances, and estate planning. Triage Cancer provides many resources to help people understand their rights and options that might be available in order to effectively navigate many of these topics without requiring legal representation. However, there may be situations where it is appropriate and necessary for people to hire an attorney to help them exercise or enforce their legal rights.
One of the most common ways that people access legal assistance is through referrals from family, friends, and co-workers. Getting a recommendation from a trustworthy source can be a convenient way to find an attorney, but there are other options:
When hiring an attorney, it is important to consider a variety of issues:
Legal aid organizations, legal clinics, medical-legal partnerships, and other public interest law programs may provide free or low-cost legal services. However, hiring a private attorney could be significantly more expensive. Each attorney operates differently, but generally, for issues like employment discrimination or disability claims, attorneys work on contingency. This means the attorney will get a percentage of the settlement if the case is won. If the case is lost, then the attorney is usually only reimbursed for expenses. For most attorneys (e.g., employment attorneys), there is usually not a cap on a contingency fee.
One of the most common reasons a person dealing with cancer may want an attorney is to appeal a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) denial of benefits. Social Security Disability attorneys work on a contingency fee, meaning they will take a case even if the individual does not have the money upfront to pay for the attorney’s services. If the attorney wins an appeal, he or she will take a percentage of past-due benefits (retroactive and back payments) an individual receives. Any fee charged by a representative must be approved in writing by the SSA. The SSA will not approve a fee which exceeds 25% of the past-due benefits an individual is awarded, up to a maximum of $7,200. However, individuals should keep in mind that this representation may not be totally free. Attorneys are entitled to charge clients for other expenses that are not related to the fee for representation, such as reimbursement for the cost of obtaining medical records, postage, or travel expenses. Individuals should make sure they understand what the attorney charges for these types of services, prior to signing a contract with the attorney.
There are many options to help you access legal representation. Regardless of how you find an attorney, it is important to find someone you are comfortable with, and who is upfront about their experience and the cost of their services.
For more information, visit Triage Cancer's Cancer-Related Legal Issues Materials & Resources.
Last updated: 09/2022
Disclaimer: This handout is intended to provide general information on the topics presented. It is provided with the understanding that Triage Cancer is not engaged in rendering any legal, medical, or professional services by its publication or distribution. Although this content was reviewed by a professional, it should not be used as a substitute for professional services. © Triage Cancer 2022
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