Life Insurance Policyholders Beware: California’s Statutory Lapse Safeguards Do Not Apply to Policies Issued Prior to January 1, 2013

Posted in: Bad Faith, Beneficiaries, Benefits, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance November 27, 2019

Life insurance lapse generally refers to coverage ending for insufficient or nonpayment of policy premiums. If premiums are not paid during the grace period to sustain the policy, then the life insurance ends.  The lapse of a life insurance policy at the wrong time could have disastrous consequences for persons or families because policyholders could easily lose their life insurance if a single premium is accidentally missed, even if they have been paying premiums on time for years. On January 1, 2013, California added new sections 10113.71 and 10113.72 to the Insurance Code, as a way of providing consumer safeguards against life insurance policy lapse.

California Insurance Code Sections 10113.71 and 10113.72 primarily do three things: (1) mandate that …

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Exhaustion of Remedies and the Failure to Raise an Argument on an ERISA Appeal: What Happens if an ERISA Claimant Misses a Key Factual or Legal Argument on Appeal?

Posted in: Administrative Record, Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog November 25, 2019

Under insurance policies governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), when an insurer denies a person’s claim for life insurance benefits, short-term-disability benefits or long-term-disability benefits, the beneficiary must request that the insurance company review the denial or termination if they intend to sue the insurer to obtain their benefits.  Courts refer to this review as an “administrative appeal” and the obligation to pursue that appeal as the duty to exhaust administrative remedies.  Courts have universally concluded that they “have the authority to enforce the exhaustion requirement in suits under ERISA, and that as a matter of sound policy they should usually do so.”  Amato v. Bernard, 618 F.2d 559, 568 (9th Cir. 1980).  The …

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Los Angeles Daily Journal Publishes Article on November 19, 2019 by Robert McKennon Entitled “Leveling the Field Between Insurers and Disability Claimants”

Posted in: Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles, News November 20, 2019

In the November 19, 2019 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Daily Journal published an article written by the McKennon Law Group PC’s Robert J. McKennon.  The article addresses a previous 2009 Daily Journal investigation that revealed insurers’ regular practice of improperly denying claims.  Since 2009, recent regulations promulgated by the Department of Labor and recent court opinions have helped even the playing field for claimants.  A full and fair review of a claim for benefits is required by statute and regulation, and helps prevent insurers from illicit claim denials as detailed in the Daily Journal investigation.  However, it remains to be seen whether these recent regulations and court decisions will ultimately have the effect of evening the …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Seven: Wrongful Insurer Practices and Full and Fair Review Requirement

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog November 12, 2019

In this several-part blog series titled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, to handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Seven of this series, we discuss the full and fair review required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), in contrast with the usual practices and power imbalance insurers employ to deny claims.  Our focus in this article will be mostly on disability insurance claim denials.

Every year, millions of Americans seeking to buy a safety net for their middle-class lifestyles enroll in individual or group disability …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Six: Independent Medical Evaluations and Peer Reviews

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog September 26, 2019

In this several-part blog series titled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, to handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Six of this series, we discuss Independent Medical Evaluations and Peer Reviews.  Our focus in this article will be mostly on disability insurance claim denials.

When an insurer examines a disability claim or appeal, it has the medical records examined by medical evaluators, typically a nurse or doctor.  In theory, this allows the insurer to determine whether the claim has merit.  In practice, it is typically a way …

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Los Angeles Daily Journal Publishes Article on August 28, 2019 by Robert McKennon Entitled “Ruling Could Send Shock Waves Through ERISA Claims Industry”

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles, Life Insurance, News, Retirement Plans September 04, 2019

In the August 28, 2019 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Daily Journal published an article written by the McKennon Law Group PC’s Robert J. McKennon.  The article addresses a recent case by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dorman v. Charles Schwab, which overruled the Ninth Circuit precedent Amaro v. Continental Can Co. and enforced an arbitration clause in a pension plan on the basis that Supreme Court precedent had impliedly overruled its opinion in Amaro.  Given the expansive reading of arbitration clauses by the Supreme Court and now the Ninth Circuit, it is likely that more ERISA pension claims will be litigated on an individualized basis and will be litigated in arbitration proceedings.

Ruling

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Court Denies Insurer’s Motion to Dismiss, Finding Plan Language Did Not Clearly Require Administrative Exhaustion Prior to Filing Suit

Posted in: Appeals, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Policy Interpretation September 04, 2019

Ordinarily, a participant or beneficiary of a plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) must avail himself or herself of the plan’s internal review procedures before bringing a civil action in federal court for recovery of plan benefits.  This includes group ERISA plans offering long-term disability, life, health or accidental death benefits.  Although ERISA does not explicitly require exhaustion of administrative remedies, federal courts have held that an ERISA plan participant must exhaust the plan’s administrative appeal procedure before filing a federal lawsuit.  See Vaught v. Scottsdale Healthcare Corp. Health Plan, 546 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2008).  However, according to the Ninth Circuit, this exhaustion requirement applies only if the plan itself requires exhaustion.  …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Five: Procedural and Practical Considerations to an ERISA Claim

Posted in: ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 22, 2019

In this several part Blog Series entitled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Five of this Series, we discuss procedural considerations to an ERISA claim, as well as deadlines and timeframes to carefully monitor.

When first reviewing a potential ERISA matter, it is crucial to first determine the procedural history of your client’s claim and whether there have been any denials.  Most denial letters in ERISA cases set forth specific deadlines to respond to an appeal.  In fact, the Department of …

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Speca v. Aetna: “Rush to Judgment” in Just 14 Days Violates ERISA Rights to Full and Fair Review and Appeal

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 22, 2019

ERISA guarantees claimants a “full and fair review” as well as an appeal of any denial by the insurance company.  Can a disability claims insurer deny a claim too quickly and thus violate its duty to provide a full and fair review?  A recent decision answered “yes” to this question.  In Speca v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 2019 WL 3754210 (D. Nev. August 8, 2019), the court ruled that Aetna Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”) did not provide a “full and fair review” and effectively cut off any meaningful access to an appeal when it denied a claim in just 14 days (without even waiting to receive any medical records).

Plaintiff, Paul Speca, worked at Home Depot until November 6, 2015 …

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The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim – Part Four: Denial of an ERISA Disability Claim or Appeal

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 16, 2019

In this several-part blog series titled The Basics of an ERISA Life, Health and Disability Insurance Claim, we discuss the basics of an ERISA life, health, accidental death and dismemberment and disability claim, from navigating a claim, to handling a claim denial and through preparing a case for litigation.  In Part Four of this series, we discuss ERISA claim denials.  Our focus in this article will be mostly on disability insurance claim denials.

When denying a claim, an insurer is required to provide a written explanation of the basis of its denial.  Under Section 503 of ERISA, “every employee benefit plan shall . . . provide adequate notice in writing to any participant or beneficiary whose claim for benefits …

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