CBA Blog

I was turned down for SSD and appealed twice. Now, I am scheduled for a hearing. What does that entail?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Statistically, the hearing level is when most successful SSD applicants are approved for benefits.  It is very important to make a strong case at this stage. This is when your case will be heard by an administrative law judge in the federal system.  You, a vocational expert witness, and sometimes a medical expert witness will testify under oath to answer questions the judge asks.  

The judge will evaluate your case, records, doctors’ opinions and other information in your file.  He or she will then make a decision as to your ability to work at either your previous job(s) or at any other jobs – even very simple jobs –in the economy.  This means it is critical that your file include all information that might help support your case.

Hearings are currently being scheduled about 10 months out, so if you are in the waiting period, it would be a good point to consult an attorney if you haven’t already done so.  The attorney will fully prepare the case, including preparing you for the kinds of questions the judge may ask you.

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I have filed twice and been turned down twice for SSD. What other options do I have available?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

After you have filed your original claim for SSD or SSI and are denied, you can appeal the decision.  It’s important to make the distinction that you will be filing an appeal on your current application instead of filing a new application.  If you fill out a new application each time you are denied, it will start the whole process over again—typically resulting in the same decision denying your claim. 

Once your appeal is filed, the state agency will review your file again, including any updates of medical records, limitations in your ability to function, medications, and treatments.  If you are denied benefits at this stage, you can then file an additional appeal.  This next appeal will be where a hearing is set at which you will appear before a judge and testify about why you cannot work.  Going before a judge is usually the most important stage of the disability proceedings.

This also is typically a good time to consult an attorney about the appeal process and to get help with gathering information for your hearing.

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I have filed for Social Security Disability, but haven’t heard anything for months. Should I contact an attorney?

By Stephen H. Olden, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

At the time of filing the application, a file is opened for the individual requesting SSD (or SSI) benefits.  Once Social Security opens a file, it is then sent to the corresponding state agency for review. The Social Security Administration has partnerships with each of the 50 states who take on the task of evaluating the claim for SSD or SSI benefits at this early stage of the process. This often includes gathering information from hospitals and doctors, finding medical records, and asking for further information from the claimant.  A physician then will review the data for Social Security and the decision is made.  Altogether, this process typically takes between four and five months. 

If you are originally denied for SSD or SSI, it would be beneficial to consult an attorney before filing an appeal.

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What if an attorney is not acting in my best interest?

By Steven F. Stuhlbarg, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

The attorney-client relationship works best when there is a high level of trust between the parties.  If you have concerns about your attorney, talk with him or her openly about your concerns.  Ask questions.  As in any relationship, communication is the key to improving the relationship.

Though it may not be in your best interest to do so, one option you always have is to fire your attorney.  Your right to fire your attorney is absolute, with or without cause, and regardless of whether you owe your attorney any money.

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How do attorneys normally charge clients?

by Albert T. Brown Jr., Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Lawyers who are retained to represent defendants in criminal matters frequently charge a flat fee payable in advance for the criminal representation, or for payment due at particular stages in the litigation. Those who handle criminal or divorce cases are prohibited from charging a fee that is dependent upon the outcome of the case.  Some routine matters are frequently billed on a flat fee basis.

The second fee system commonly employed is a contingent fee where a civil lawyer can charge a fee based upon the outcome of a particular project.  This could be the size of a verdict or settlement in a personal injury case, the amount of a tax reduction in a reevaluation case, or perhaps the amount of a tax refund in an income tax refund case.

Most other lawyers perform work on a time and materials basis, basing their charges on an hourly rate where the amount of time the lawyer spends on a case is multiplied by that rate to produce a fee due from the client plus expenses.

Lawyers are ethically prevented from charging an unreasonable fee and the factors which determine a reasonable fee are found in the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(a)

1. The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal services properly;

2. The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular   employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;

3. The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;

4. The amount involved and the results obtained;

5. The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;

6. The nature and the length of the professional relationship with the client;

7. The experience, reputation and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the            services; and

8. Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

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What if I fire my attorney?

by Steven F. Stuhlbarg, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Firing your lawyer can have a high cost.  It may be difficult to find a new lawyer in the middle of a case, and it may be expensive to bring a new lawyer up to speed.  It may be difficult for your new lawyer to meet deadlines that may exist in your legal matter.  And there is no guarantee that you will be any more comfortable with your new lawyer than you were with your old lawyer.

If you do fire your attorney, the discharged attorney still has obligations to you.  He or she must cooperate with you or with your new lawyer in making the transition.  The discharged attorney must return important documents or evidence to you or to your new lawyer.  If you are facing a deadline, the discharged attorney may be obliged to assist you by either getting the court’s permission to extend the deadline, or by helping you or your new lawyer to meet the deadline.  The discharged attorney has a continuing obligation not to disclose confidential information about you, even after he or she no longer represents you, and may not use confidential information about you to take unfair advantage of you.

When you fire an attorney in the middle of a case, the fired attorney is generally entitled to be paid for his or her legitimate work performed on your behalf.  In contingency fee cases, the fired attorney may be entitled to a percentage of the proceeds eventually obtained through settlement or judgment.

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What determines a medical malpractice case?

by John D. Holschuh Jr., Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

In determining if a case involves medical malpractice, it does not matter what the potential client or I as a lawyer might think about the case. In Ohio, whether a case is medical malpractice or not depends upon the expert opinion of a licensed physician, who after reviewing the medical records of the potential case, makes a determination as to its merits. In Ohio, Civil Rule 10 requires that before a medical malpractice complaint may be filed against a physician, there needs to be a sworn affidavit from a physician stating that he or she has reviewed the pertinent medical records and that in his or her opinion there was medical negligence resulting in harm to the client (Kentucky does not have this requirement). There is a provision where you can file a motion to request additional time to file the affidavit.

Additionally, not only does there have to be an affidavit, but the physician signing the affidavit has to be a licensed physician who spends a majority of his or her professional time in the active clinical practice of medicine and/or its teaching at an accredited institution. Further, the physician has to be in the same field of practice or specialty as the area of the potential claim.

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What is a contract?

by Timothy P. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Everyone deals with contracts, almost daily.  Sometimes they are in writing; other times they are spoken.  A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more persons to do, or not to do, a particular thing. There must be a “quid pro quo” which is a Latin phrase meaning “something for something else.”

There are three basic elements of a contract.  They are:

(1)   An offer;

(2)   An acceptance of the offer;

(3)   Good and valuable consideration to support that an offer has been made and accepted.

Further, there must be reasonable certainty as to what the parties to the contract are supposed to do, or not do, and when they are to do it and the amount of consideration involved.  Also, the parties must be competent to enter into a contract, being of sufficient a

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ge (18 in Ohio), of sound mind, and not under any legal disability.

 

Posted in Contracts/Business | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What do I tell the police when I am in a car accident?

by Timothy B. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

If you are in a car accident, cooperate with the police, making sure to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance card.  Try to avoid discussing what happened with anyone other than the police.  Limit your discussions to only setting forth the facts and do not make accusations and do not admit that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.  There may be some unknown factors which played a role in the accident which could make the liability situation different than what you initially perceive it to be.

Don’t assume that the responding law enforcement officer will compile a thorough and complete report and interview all witnesses.  Frequently, they don’t.  Get the names, telephone numbers and addresses of all drivers, passengers and witnesses involved in the accident.  Obtain license plate numbers and driver’s license numbers, the names of the insurance companies of all drivers involved, the registered owners of all cars, the year, make and model of all cars, and the names and badge numbers of all law enforcement officers and medical emergency personnel. 

You should also write a detailed description of how the accident occurred which you can rely on later if you forget any of the facts.  Include a map of the accident scene showing the direction of the vehicles before the accident and the positions where they came to rest.  If you have a camera, take pictures of the accident scene, vehicles and people.  If you don’t, as soon as possible after the accident, return to the scene to properly record all physical evidence, some of which will soon disappear such as vehicle debris and skid marks.

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What kinds of bankruptcy are there?

by Mark E. Godbey, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

There are four types of bankruptcy cases provided under the law:

  • Chapter 7 is known as “straight” bankruptcy or “liquidation.” It requires a debtor to give up property which exceeds certain limits called “exemptions,” so the property can be sold to pay creditors.
  • Chapter 11, known as “reorganization,” is used by businesses and a few individual debtors whose debts are very large.
  • Chapter 12 is reserved for family farmers and fishermen.
  • Chapter 13 is called “debt adjustment.” It requires a debtor to file a plan to pay debts (or parts of debts) from current income.

Most people filing bankruptcy will want to file under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.  Either type of case may be filed individually or by a married couple filing jointly.

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