When you purchase an own occupation individual disability insurance policy, the insurer promises to pay for total disability or residual disability in the event you are unable to perform the substantial and material duties of your occupation due to an injury or sickness. However, recovering under your disability policy may entail a multistep process as summarized below.
Step 1: Supporting Your Long-Term Disability Insurance Claim
Gather and request all relevant medical and occupational information. Your employer may need to provide information regarding your occupational duties and salary information. Health care providers may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to transmit your medical records. In the meantime, speak with your physicians/therapists about certifying your disability status in a letter to the insurer or by completion of an Attending Physician Form. Make sure your physicians/therapists understand your specific occupational duties (e.g., sitting or walking for prolonged periods, using a keyboard or specific tools, lifting requirements), so they have a clear picture of how your medical condition prevents you from performing these duties. A certification letter offers strong support for your disability, describing your medical condition and the objective and/or subjective proof of your medical condition, describing your occupational duties, and describing why your medical conditions render you unable to perform the substantial and material acts necessary to the performance of your occupation in the usual or customary way and with reasonable continuity.
Step 2: Filing Your Long-Term Disability Insurance Claim
Once you have obtained the necessary medical and occupational information necessary to support your disability claim, you must file a claim for disability benefits with your disability insurance carrier. If you do not have your disability policy handy, request a copy of from your insurer. The policy contains a description of your benefits and your insurer’s definition of “disability.” Review the insurer’s definition of “disability” and compare it with the California definition. Under California law, “total disability” means that the insured is unable to perform the substantial and material acts necessary to the prosecution of your occupation in the usual or customary way and with reasonable continuity. You need only satisfy the easier of the two standards to qualify for disability benefits under your individual policy. If you believe that you qualify, request and complete the required claim forms and submit them to the insurer. Many carriers now have the forms available online. Keep copies of all the documents you submit and all communications you have with the insurer.
Step 3: Monitoring Your Long-Term Disability Insurance Claim Status
The insurer must approve or deny your claim within 30 days following receipt of all necessary information. Note the insurer may request a 30-day extension by notifying you in writing within 30 days after your claim is filed. Similarly, if the insurer requests additional medical information, they may need to have another 30 days following receipt of the requested information to issue a decision on your claim. Therefore, the faster insurers receive your medical documents and support for your disability, the sooner they will render a decision on your disability insurance claim. Make a note on your calendar of the last correspondence you had with the disability insurance insurer, and call the insurer to check the claim status if you do not receive any updates within 30 days.
Step 4: Handling a Long-Term Disability Insurance Claim Denial
If your claim is denied, review the denial letter and note the reasons provided. Common reasons for denials include a lack of supporting medical documentation, the insurer’s determination that a medical condition is not severe enough to be disabling and/or that there is no objective evidence to support your disability. If you have additional supporting documentation, you may contact the insurer to submit additional information for an appeal, or another review of your claim. However, if your documentation supports your disability, and you suspect your insurer improperly denied your claim, consult with an experienced insurance coverage attorney such as the McKennon Law Group PC to determine whether you have a good case that the law firm will take on a contingency fee basis. If your insurer breached your disability insurance contract and/or acted in bad faith, an experienced attorney can help you recover not only the policy benefits, but also emotional distress damages, consequential damages, attorneys’ fees, pre-judgment interest and punitive damages.
McKennon Law Group PC is extremely well suited to litigate your ERISA and bad faith disability, health or life insurance claims. We are nationally recognized experts in insurance bad faith law and ERISA insurance claims, appeals and litigation. With offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, and San Diego, contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you with your ERISA and bad faith insurance claims.