While a car accident itself may not be a reason to file a disability claim, many disability claims result from injuries sustained in a crash or other type of accident. While you may not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance if the injuries don’t totally incapacitate you for more than 12 months, many individual and group long term disability policies cover the inability to work due to these incidents as well as almost all short term disability policies. From back problems to broken bones to “whiplash,” there are many different types of injuries that can result from even seemingly minor vehicle accidents, including some that may not become apparent for an extended period of time. Today’s blog post is going to review some of the different types of injuries that may result from these accidents and how to obtain the disability benefits you deserve while recovering from these injuries. Continue reading
Deciphering the different definitions of disability is a surprisingly complicated process. Some of these definitions can be found in almost every policy, while some use attachments or riders to tweak the policy language. While the exact terminology may be different, there are five basic definitions of disability that are important to understand if you’re considering filing a claim for benefits or even if you’re just trying to decide what type of coverage to purchase.
- Own Occupation. Simply put, this definition defines you as totally disabled if you can no longer perform the material and substantial duties of your occupation. Some policies will even consider you totally disabled if you are unable to perform just one of the material and substantial duties of your occupation. If you are being paid benefits under an own occupation disability policy, you may be able to go back to work in a different type of job and still be entitled to benefits as long as you’re unable to perform the job from which you were declared totally disabled. Because of this liberal definition, these policies are usually more expensive and harder to obtain.
- Any Occupation. This definition is almost the opposite of Own Occupation. You’re only considered totally disabled if you cannot perform the duties of any occupation. Usually, the policy will include language that takes into consideration your education, training, experience, and earnings level as well. This prevents the insurance company from trying to envision you in a job for which you’re under-qualified or over-paid just to end your claim. This definition is often found in cheaper, group policies and can be challenging to collect benefits without strong medical evidence and very debilitating conditions.
- Split Definition Coverage. While this isn’t a definition of disability in and of itself, this definition is very common in disability insurance policies so it’s worth discussing. Many policies have definitions of disability that switch from Own Occupation to Any Occupation after a period of time that can range from 6 months to 5 years. Anyone receiving disability benefits under this type of coverage should be extremely wary leading up to this transition date, as insurance companies often plan for how to stop paying benefits around that time.
- Presumptive Total Disability. Regardless of your policy definition of disability, certain catastrophic injuries or illnesses are automatically considered totally disabling. These often let you skip some of the requirements that must be met to be considered totally disabled. You’re allowed to receive benefits immediately after the elimination period that will continue even if you return to work. The medical events that fall under this definition include the loss of sight in both eyes, loss of hearing, loss of speech, the use of both hands, the use of both feet, or the use of one hand and one foot. These losses must be complete. Different policies can have slightly different qualifications for Presumptive Disability and not all of the ailments listed above will qualify under every policy.
- Residual Disability. The first four definitions have been about Total Disability, but this isn’t the only way to qualify for benefits. Some policies include definitions of disability that will pay you a portion (or all) of your benefits if your work level and/or earnings are reduced. Under Residual Disability, claimants are paid benefits based on the relative amount of income they’ve lost due to their disability. This is calculated through a formula that takes into account the disabling condition and the percentage of pre-disability income the claimant continues to earn. Be aware – some cheaper policies include a clause that requires the claimant to have been totally disabled for a while before they’re able to collect residual disability benefits. There are two ways to purchase Residual Disability coverage: you can either purchase a Total Disability policy with a Residual Disability rider or you may purchase what is often called an income replacement policy. Income replacement is another term for residual coverage and can be the cheaper of the two option since it lacks specific Total Disability coverage.
- Partial Disability. This definition is very similar to but slightly different from Residual Disability. The main difference is that Partial Disability does not consider the loss of income calculations when determining the benefit amounts. Rather, if you’re considered partially disabled, the policy will pay you 50% of the total disability benefit amount. Partial Disability is also not offered as a standalone policy and is either included as a rider to a policy or as the base coverage in some rare policies. Benefits periods for Partial Disability are often much shorter, usually not extending beyond 6 to 12 months.
Even if your injury or illness may fit into one of these policy definitions, it doesn’t always mean you will receive benefits. There are many other policy considerations, such as appropriate care or diagnosis limitations, that can decide whether or not you’ll be able to collect your benefits. If you’re considering filing a disability claim and are not sure of the definitions in your policy, or if you’re not sure if you qualify for benefits under your policy’s definition, please call our firm toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or sign up for a free consultation on our website. We can help you get the answers you need to get the benefits you deserve.
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. Continue reading
We have encountered several cases where claimants have been denied their benefits not because of incomplete or inconclusive evidence of their medical conditions but solely because their conditions kept them from working longer than the guidelines used by disability insurance claim departments. When evaluating disability claims, claims examiners rely on industry developed resources to determine the expected duration of the claim, regardless of the specific circumstances. Based on these claim management practices that have been put into place by most insurance companies, we’d like to shed some light on the process used to assign expected return to work dates for claims and the extra steps that claimants need to take to protect their benefits if they’re disabled beyond these arbitrary dates. Continue reading
We’ve often mentioned insurance company investigators and their tactics as extremely adept at developing reasons to deny legitimate disability claims. Insurance companies like to hire former FBI agents and police detectives who have been specifically taught to treat their targets as adversaries and be cynical of any answers – which they innocently refer to as being professional. These investigators have undergone specialized training on how to dig up information and how to conduct interviews that can be twisted against claimants and used by claims examiners to deny disability claims. Due to our connections, our firm has seen some of the confidential training materials used by disability claims operations that help provide insight into the investigative techniques and methods used to interview claimants. This information can be invaluable to claimants, allowing them to more properly prepare for the interview, whether it’s a scheduled appointment or an unannounced visit. Today’s blog is going to breakdown and summarize some of the key points to help you handle an interview and understand the underlying purposes for the questions. Continue reading
We have talked previously in our blog about the dangers social media can pose for your disability claim. As summer kicks into gear and many people enjoy outdoor activities and vacation traveling, it’s important to revisit some of the social media points we’ve made in the past and provide some new insight into how different Internet sites may be able to help your claim and improve your odds of obtaining the disability benefits you deserve. Continue reading
Cigna has agreed to a wide-ranging re-evaluation of its disability claim denials from 2008, 2009, and 2010 in California and from 2009 and 2010 in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
The settlement affects certain long term disability claims in all of Cigna’s units – Life Insurance Company of North America, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, and Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company.
After multiple complaints to the insurance commissioners in these states, regulators found that Cigna ignored Social Security decisions, discounted the findings of independent physicians, and didn’t consider workers’ compensation records when evaluating claims. These practices forced Cigna to set aside $77 million for payments to current and past claimants who were improperly denied their disability benefits as well as to pay fines to the states. In addition, the settlement requires Cigna to:
- Establish a remediation program in which the companies’ enhanced claim procedures will be applied to certain previously denied or adversely terminated claims for residents of California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, or Pennsylvania.
- Enhance claim procedures to improve the claims handling process to benefit current and future policyholders.
- Participate in a 24 month monitoring program conducted by the insurance departments of each state, involving random sampling and on-going consultations.
- Undergo a re-examination upon completion of the monitoring period.
- Pay fines and administrative fees totaling $1.7 million.
“This regulatory action is intended to provide long-awaited relief for consumers who have a right to expect that their carrier will make good on contractual promises. As regulators, we hold carriers accountable for adhering to laws and regulations of each state in which they conduct business. This settlement resulted from market conduct exams and encompassed issues of serious concern. It is a solid example of regulatory cooperation in protecting the policyholders of Connecticut and other jurisdictions.” said Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi.
For the official press release from the California Department of Insurance, click here.
For a copy of the Maine market conduct examination, click here.
The full regulatory settlement can be found here.
Although not quite the magnitude of UNUM’s market conduct settlement a few years ago, Cigna’s agreement can have a great impact on those claimants who were improperly denied their disability benefits.
If you think you may be eligible to have Cigna’s denial of your long term disability claim reviewed or have any questions about this settlement, please feel free to contact our offices toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.
With summer and the outdoor season upon us, there can be different causes of disability to deal with. One of the more common conditions we see during this time of year, especially in the Northeast, is Lyme disease. Although there is evidence that Lyme may be spread through multiple sources, the primary method of infection is a blacklegged or deer tick bite. Lyme is a complex multisystem inflammatory disease that can affect all of the major organ systems in your body and cause a wide range of symptoms including fever, headaches, rash, pain, vertigo, speech impairments, mood swings, depression, and hallucinations. In addition, these symptoms don’t always develop immediately. It can take days, weeks, or even years before the onset of symptoms due to Lyme disease, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint the causal event of the symptoms. Continue reading
Although we’re not lawyers or a law firm, paying attention to recent court cases and rulings helps us keep up with the constantly changing rules and regulations of disability insurance claims. In the recent past, we’ve seen two cases taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court as well as a few other cases that affect the way the disability insurance companies treat insureds and their claims and the options to be considered by claimants. These court rulings set precedents and rules for many future claims and help form the disability claims process almost as much as claims examiners or company policies. Today’s blog post is going to explore a few of the more relevant cases and their effects on disability claims. Continue reading
Diabetes is a growing health problem in America with over 26 million people suffering from the condition and another 79 million individuals suffering from pre-diabetes such as insulin resistance and Metabolic Syndrome. Only approximately 5 percent of diabetics suffer from Type 1 diabetes with the overwhelming majority suffering from Type 2 diabetes. While many of these individuals are able to work long and fulfilling careers, there are increasing numbers of people whose disease prevents them from continuing in their jobs and are forced to file claims for disability insurance benefits.
Insurance companies will often dispute and deny a disability claim based solely on a diabetic condition even if it’s shown that the condition was the root cause of the inability to work. It’s important to understand that technically, they may be correct. It’s not usually the diabetes that disables someone but one or more of the many complications that are caused by this disease. If you’re receiving regular care and treatment and are following the plan of your treating physician, being diabetic in and of itself is generally not disabling. If you find you’re unable to work and are filing a disability claim, you’ll want to document the nature and extent of the complications and the severity of their impacts on your work abilities. Continue reading