In the last few years prominent (in term of advertising presence) personal injury/car wreck attorneys have begun handling social security disability cases in Texas. Tort reform in Texas has by most accounts reduced both the number of personal injury lawsuits and the amount of the actual monetary recovery. I have seen several brochures come through my mail for personal injury seminars which include a segment on how the PI lawyer can supplement his practice with social security disability cases.
These TV ad attorneys often feature dramatic and flamboyant depictions of an aggressive “junk yard dog” of an attorney hammering an adversary to win the case. Certainly there are some similarities between a personal injury and social security disability case. Moreover, I have no basis to conclude that these car wreck attorney firms do a poor job in social security disability.
But there are significant differences between personal injury and social security disability. Most notably, a social security disability case is not adversarial. In the important Administrative Law Judge hearing there is no attorney for the government present, and the Administrative Law Judge is an independent fact-finder. Aggressive combat between the plaintiff and defense attorney is considered part of the fact-finding process in a personal injury lawsuit. But a Texas social security disability attorney who brings a combative trial law style into the hearing room can only hurt his client.
Administrative Law Judges uniformly see themselves as unbiased, and view the role of the administrative hearing as an informal non-adversarial forum to weigh the facts and evidence, and hear claimant testimony. I have never ‘won’ an argument with an Administrative Law Judge. Rather, my role is to calmly persuade. Viewing the Administrative Law Judge as a foe to be defeated is a prescription for disaster.
In fairness to these Texas attorneys, it may be that there is little connection between their ‘over the top’ ads and the way they handle social security disability cases. Though I am personally offended by some of these ‘braying’ lawyers smashing things and yelling, they may be helping a lot of deserving Texas social security disability claimants.
Texas social security disability claimants need to look past the marketing hype and ask some important questions:
- Who is the attorney that will be walking into the Texas administrative law judge hearing with me?
- How much experience does she have in social security disability representation?
- What is the strategy for winning my case, and how will she present it?
- How important are social security disability cases to the firm I have hired: it is all they do or is it just a ‘side line’?