At our firm, we have many clients who contact us quite a while after they’ve become disabled and stopped working. These clients are desperate for income to support their family and need their disability benefits approved immediately, which is challenging at best when dealing with an insurance company. In order to avoid such desperate situations, it’s important to begin the process of preparing and filing your disability claim as soon as the doctor diagnoses you and tells you to stop working. This list provides 10 reasons that people delay filing their disability claims and how to prevent these problems from happening to you.
- Embarrassment about your condition. Many people think that disability is a personal failing and fault themselves for not being tough enough to deal with it. This is simply untrue. Disability strikes many different types of people in many different ways from all walks of life. You cannot simply choose to become injured or ill, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed by any physical or psychiatric medical conditions. The best thing for you to do is to focus on your fight to get better – and one of the important supports for you in this fight can be the benefits from the disability insurance protection you chose to purchase.
- Thinking you waited too long to file for benefits. Although the insurance company may have provisions in your policy limiting the length of time when you can apply for benefits, this is often difficult to enforce. There have been several rulings on this matter, such as Kaplan v. Northwestern Mutual Life. If you can show that the carrier’s investigation of your claim was not prejudiced by whatever delay in filing, and you can provide supporting information and records for the entire claimed disability period, the insurance company will almost always have to consider the entire claimed disability period.
- Giving up after a denial. Some people have had bad experiences with insurance claims departments. If you’ve been denied your benefits, there’s no reason simply to give up. It’s important to know the deadlines to file an appeal or to file a lawsuit. There is no recourse if you wait too long and miss your deadline. It’s important to keep up with dates in these types of situations. If you’ve experienced a claim denial or watched a friend or loved one go through the stress and anger of a disability claim denial, you know how hard it is to fight insurance companies and their deep pockets of resources. You may find it necessary to seek help from an experienced disability claim consulting firm or attorney to help guide you through different stages of the claim process.
- No matter what, you should keep trying to do your job. This can be one of the most damaging reasons claimants use to delay claiming their disability benefits. People obviously want to continue their careers but have to start compromising by reducing their tasks or spending more time to accomplish less work. Insurance companies consider your date of disability as the date you stopped working and look at the duties you were performing at that time. If you had reduced the nature or extent of your job duties in an effort to continue working, this less demanding job description may be used by the insurance company against your disability claim. Waiting to file for disability benefits as you continue to work can not only be detrimental to your health and well-being but also hurt your disability claim as well.
- Thinking your disability isn’t bad enough to warrant benefits. If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition and your doctor recommends that you stop (or reduce) working as part of your treatment, you’re likely eligible for disability benefits, no matter how you may feel about applying for them. Physicians don’t make rash recommendations to stop working, and their advice concerning your health shouldn’t be ignored. You have disability insurance for times such as this, so neglecting your benefits exactly when they are designed to protect you makes no sense!
- Failing to apply for benefits after a previous condition worsens. Just because you’ve been able to work through a condition before does not mean that you have to continue working if the condition worsens. Even if your initial claim was denied, you can (and should) re-apply for benefits within the parameters of the policy. If your condition has worsened to a point you’re no longer able to work, ask your physician to re-evaluate your work capabilities. If your physician agrees that you can no longer work, it’s important to go ahead and file your disability claim before you can no longer support yourself or your loved ones.
- Believing you will return to work too soon to receive benefits. No matter how long you think your disability will keep you out of work, you shouldn’t rely on returning to work and assuming it’s pointless to start a disability claim. If you’re able to return to work, the disability claim can be withdrawn, but if you’re not able to return as quickly or as fully as you thought, the disability claim process will have already begun and you’ll be more likely to receive your benefits in a timely manner. The insurance company will need an evaluation period to review your claim after it’s filed, no matter how badly you need the income. There is no harm in starting this process as soon as you find yourself unable to work.
- Failing to file due to unemployment benefits. If you were let go from your job due to your inability to perform your daily duties due to your disabling condition, unemployment benefits don’t have to be your only option. Even if you’re receiving these benefits, the maximum time period and other limitations in those benefits often makes them less desirable than disability benefits. If you’re receiving unemployment benefits, the assumption is that you’re able to work, looking for work, and will return to work as soon as you find a job. You may also be subject to limitations on the length of time you’re eligible to receive unemployment compensation, which is usually shorter than disability benefit periods. You may also cause undue stress on yourself by the requirement to actively look for a job, even though you may be functionally unable to perform some, most, or any jobs. Unemployment benefits may be easier to obtain at first but the downside should be considered.
- Wanting and waiting to gather all necessary records before filing a claim. While it’s always a good idea to be prepared for what the insurance company may request, you cannot wait indefinitely for your doctor to provide records. If you’re having problems obtaining the medical records you think are necessary or don’t know what you need in order to file a successful claim, it may be necessary to enlist help in filing your disability claim. An experienced disability claims consultant or attorney can help guide you through the process of obtaining the information needed to prove the elements of your disability, as well as make sure you have sufficient supporting documentation.
- Never quite getting around to filing benefits. Your condition may be sapping your time and energy, but if you’ve paid for a disability policy for years, it’s your right to get the benefits you deserve. As we’ve mentioned in several of our previous blog posts, filing a disability claim doesn’t have to be stressful to you. There are experts available to help you through this process. A disability claims consulting firm can do much of the work with you and even speak to the insurance company. If you don’t feel up to taking on the disability insurance company by yourself, these experts have the knowledge and experience to help you understand the why’s and how’s for what needs to be done.
If you are debating filing a disability claim or are wondering if you’ve waited too long to get the benefits you deserve, please call our offices toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or sign up for a free consultation on our website to see how we can help you. It is rarely too late to get the benefits you deserve.