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Questions to Ask a Potential ERISA Attorney

If you are unhappy with how your employer has treated you with respect to your benefits, you might find yourself in the market for an ERISA attorney. ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which was designed to strengthen the nation’s pension system. An ERISA attorney can analyze your case in a consultation and answer any questions you have. To ensure that you hire the best attorney available, remember to ask questions about their experience and other matters.

How Much of Your Practice is Devoted to ERISA?

ERISA is an enormously complex series of laws. Lawyers can spend years learning its different intricacies. In Chicago, some lawyers handle mostly divorces or criminal matters and possible do one or two ERISA cases on the side. Other lawyers will focus the bulk of their practice in this area of law. Because of the law’s complexity, you should ideally find an attorney who focuses most of their practice in this area, so drill down and find out how much of their practice a lawyer devotes to ERISA.

What Kinds of ERISA Claims Do You Typically Bring?

ERISA sets minimum standards for a variety of employee benefits, including:

  • Pensions
  • Healthcare plans
  • Disability insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Vacation time
  • Holiday time
  • Severance pay
  • Unemployment benefits

When shopping for a lawyer, also check how many cases the lawyer has handled that are directly like your own. For example, if you have a pension dispute, then you would ideally hire a lawyer who has also handled your type of pension dispute.

How do You Charge Fees?

Lawyers set their own fees, which can range from rock-bottom prices to thousands of dollars per hour. Generally, the more experienced and skilled the attorney, the more they will charge—but this is not always the case.

Before you hire an attorney, you should understand how he or she charges fees. Consider the following:

  • Does the lawyer charge by the hour? If so, how much?
  • Will other people work on the case? If so, how much do they charge?
  • Does the lawyer ever use flat-fee arrangements? If so, when?
  • Does the lawyer ever represent a plaintiff “on contingency”?

Under ERISA law, you might not have to pay anything in attorney’s fees. Judges have discretion to award plaintiff attorneys’ fees if they are successful with their claim. Discuss in your consultation whether you think your case might qualify for attorneys’ fees. A judge will consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to award attorneys’ fees, including:

  • The merit of each side’s position
  • The resources of the defendant
  • The unreasonableness of the denial of benefits
  • Whether awarding attorneys’ fees will have a deterrent effect on other plan administrators
  • Whether other employees will benefit under the same plan

Speak with a Chicago ERISA Attorney Today

Legal disputes are stressful, especially when the dispute involves employee pensions and other benefits. At Bartolic Law, we listen carefully to each of our client’s concerns and answer their questions completely and clearly. To schedule your consultation please call 312-635-1600 or submit our contact form.

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