Nobody expects to suffer through an event that might cause a long-term disability. And when it happens, there are typically so many other things going on simultaneously that it can be difficult to weed through the paperwork and move forward. Here are some considerations that can help you decide if you should retain a lawyer for your long-term disability claim.
Know your policy
It’s advisable to dust off your long-term disability (LTD) policy before making a claim so that you know what to expect. If you did not keep a copy, your company’s HR representative may be able to supply you with a copy or tell you how to obtain one. While it depends on how long it’s been since the onset of your disability, keep in mind that LTD is meant to work in conjunction with a short-term disability policy, so it doesn’t typically pay out right after the disability occurs (that’s a job for short-term disability). It could be anywhere from a month to a year before you’re eligible. Look for other terms like “guaranteed renewable” or possibly “non-cancelable” to make sure the terms of your policy could not have changed since you first purchased it.
It’s also important to check if both the disability and the policy pertain to your ability to work in your current field of expertise, or any field at all. If the terminology, details, or the claim form are confusing to you, it might be a good time to look up disability lawyers in your area, so you have an advocate who will fight for you throughout the entire claims process. It’s helpful to keep as much documentation from your doctors as possible before you begin the process of filing your claim. Making sure your case has been documented in detail can help your claim go through more quickly, as the back-and-forth of sending in additional documents after the fact can add delays and increase the potential for a claim denial.
If your claim is denied
If you’ve already gone through the initial claim process and received a denial, this would be another good time to consult a disability lawyer. Some experts say that an initial claim denial is routine practice for some insurance companies betting that consumers won’t pursue the matter, and merely represents the first step in a standard claims process. At this point, if there is any documentation you failed to provide, you may want to include it, or ask if there are additional tests, scans, or labwork you could take that would clarify your condition. Sometimes just reading the verbiage of the denial carefully can make clear what helpful information might be missing.
A disability lawyer will be well-versed in various legal precedents and will also know what kinds of alternative information, like expert testimony or written opinions, can assist with your claim. If you still have not been able to win an approval after this point and you believe you are entitled to the disability insurance you’ve been paying for over time, then your lawyer will advise you on the feasibility of suing the insurance company. If a lawyer determines your case is solid, you might also be advised to sue for things like mental distress and “bad faith” behavior of the insurance company in addition to your monetary claim for LTD.
The bottom line may be the overall impact of the LTD on your life and earning disability. If the impact is severe or possibly lifelong, and your ability to provide for basic needs is affected, it could be well worth the investment of retaining a disability lawyer to ensure your claim is approved.