No "Do-overs" in Disability Claims

Because a disability income insurance claim requires you and your physician(s) not only to describe the medical (or psychological) nature of your disability but also why the disability makes it impossible for you to perform your occupational duties, any error or uncertainty is guaranteed to be seized upon by the insurer and used to attack your right to benefits.

Why is it of vitally more importance for a claimant to have good, knowledgeable advice about how to file a disability claim before filing a claim, than it is in filing a claim in just about any other field of insurance? An expert should help you understand the details required to file a DI claim in an accurate, responsible manner, with the proper supporting documents in proper form so that the insurance company will have no technical excuse for rejecting the claim or demanding more information from you before reviewing your claim.

This is particularly so if your claim is covered by the ERISA statute. Giving your insurer the least little edge at the time of filing your notice, provides the insurer with a big leg up in resisting benefits payments to you. This is because the ERISA statute provides the insurer with the first opportunity to declare whether, in its opinion, your claim is valid or invalid. More on ERISA.

It’s the same as with anything else. The party starting off with a decision in its favor has the advantage in that the other party -- in this case you -- has the burden of proof to show that the original decision is faulty. Sometimes when trying to do this, you are forced to rely heavily on the papers and reports you supplied in making the claim and if these documents are in error or are incomplete, they can hurt you in trying tomeet this burden of proof.

While on the subject of filing a claim, an important part of this area is the type of medical and occupational reports which are furnished to the insurer on your behalf. Medical experts are very important to presentation of your disability income claim as the entire basis of your position is that your illness or injury prevents you from attending to your occupation or, perhaps, any occupation.

So, the first thing is to be hopefully treated and examined by a doctor who is fully familiar with and experienced in your disability. However, no matter how skilled and knowledgeable a physician is, it does your insurance claim no good if the doctor can’t or won’t properly communicate the details of your true condition and the nature of your restrictions and limitations to the disability insurer.

So, while you are being treated it behooves you to express clearly to your physician that you expect to make a claim under a disability income policy. You may also explain that since you are disabled and can’t work, under the terms of your policy your future depends on the doctor providing the insurer accurate and complete reports on your condition.

Request that the doctor personally attend to any reports required on your behalf and that the reports be as complete and thorough as possible in describing your condition.

Try to impress upon your treating professionals how much your future wellbeing depends on the outcome of your disability claim and how you would appreciate their full and complete attention to your reports.

After all, just as in treating your injury or illness, the doctor’s knowledge and attention to detail in reporting your true condition determines your future.

Don't "Wrongfoot" Your Claim

Taking the first step in filing a claim for disability income benefits is not nearly the same as filing a claim for an auto accident, which is how many of us have our first claims experience with insurance companies. In fact, it is so different that an unintentional mistake in this first step can bring your whole hope of obtaining a benefit to a crashing halt, never to be resurrected.

In filing auto insurance claims, one usually gets the police report to open the claim and then follows with medical reports detailing the injury as a follow up. This procedure is usually enough to have the insurer either deny the claim or start to negotiate a settlement with you.

Not so with disability income insurance claims. With these claims there is an added factor – not only must you show you were you incapacitated to some degree by accident or illness, but you must also show that the incapacity prevented you from performing your work, either your usual occupation or any occupation, depending on the terms of your policy.

What makes this first step so vital is that disability carriers have large staffs of trained, experienced people going over disability income claims with a fine-toothed comb looking for any omission or inconsistency in the claim submission. It may be that your doctor’s report was too general in describing your disabling condition or that your description of your occupational duties omitted a key element or mistakenly described one of its functions. Without experience in filing such claims you would have no way of knowing you were making such an error.

If your disability income claim contains an error or omission, it will haunt you throughout your upcoming battle for proper benefits. At any administrative or judicial hearing, the insurance company will continually bring up the “warts” on your initial claim form to try to impeach your claim, no matter how you amend it to conform to what is required.

At the very least, the insurer will use the inadequacies of the initial claim to delay paying whatever monies may be due you.

The best defense against this insurance company defense tactic is to file a complete, accurate initial claim form.

Save yourself loads of headache – get it right from the get-go.