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  • If you are unable to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits through your own or your employer’s disability insurance policy.  Many individuals obtain disability insurance through an employer as a benefit of employment.  Examples of such insurance include short term disability coverage, which provides disability payments for a set period of time (usually six months); and, long term disability insurance, which provides monthly compensation in the event a person is disabled for a lengthy period of time (usually more than than six months).

    Short term and long term disability benefits are governed by the applicable insurance policy language, which is contractual.  As a result of the contractual nature of private disability coverage, the policy language must be consulted to determine the nature of the benefits that are available.

    Assuming there is coverage, if an employee becomes disabled, he/she will apply and collect short term disability (STD) benefits. Generally, the individual will draw STD benefits for a period of 180 days.  If, after 180 days, the individual remains disabled, he/she may collect long term disability (LTD) benefits.  Most of the time, the LTD policy will provide disability benefits for a period of two years so long as the individual is unable to perform his/her “own occupation.”  After two years, LTD policies generally require that the individual be unable to perform “any occupation” in order to continue receiving disability benefits.  Some policies contain other exclusions that can limit benefits to a specific period of time, e.g., two years.

    If your claim for disability benefits is denied by an insurance company, it is very important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.  Typically the individual is provided with 180 days to appeal the denial, and eventually, the individual is afforded the opportunity to file a lawsuit.

    Often, individuals wait until it is time to file a lawsuit before contacting an attorney.  Waiting until it is time to file a lawsuit can be a serious mistake, particularly if the claim is governed by federal law (ERISA).  Once the case is presented to a Judge in federal court, the Judge is generally limited to a review of the decision making process and the evidence considered by the insurance company during that process.

    Thus, consulting with an attorney at the early stages of a long term disability case can be outcome determinative due to the fact that an attorney can help ensure that appropriate evidence is submitted at the administrative level of the claim process.  Failure to obtain and submit proper evidence and documentation prior to litigation can be the difference between winning and losing the case in court.

    Unum, a huge insurance company providing disability insurance to individuals through-out the United States, is based here in Chattanooga, TN.  Unum’s location in Chattanooga affords our office with the unique opportunity to help individuals all over the United States with regard to claims against Unum. Even if you don’t live in Chattanooga, we may be able to help you with your long term disability claim.

    Keep in mind, long term disability claims can be very difficult.  It is important that you contact an attorney with experience handling these particular cases.  Although many attorneys represents individuals with regard to Social Security Disability claims, a much smaller number of attorneys represent individuals with regard to long term disability benefits.

    If you have a Social Security Disability claim as well as a Long Term Disability claim, be sure to ask your attorney if he/she is able to handle both types of claims.  It is generally preferable to hire an attorney that can represent you on both claims because of the credit and offset issues that almost always arise during the course of these claims.

    In addition to helping individuals who contact us directly, we work with attorneys who need assistance advising their clients with ERISA or long term disability claims.

    We also represent individuals with continuous disability insurance claims, which are private insurance policies that provide benefits for individuals injured on the job (similar to workers’ compensation benefits).

    Patrick Cruise is one of a small number of lawyers in the Chattanooga area with experience representing individuals seeking benefits under ERISA and private disability insurance policies.  The Hamilton Firm also represents individuals in other private insurance claims, including Life Insurance, Homeowner’s Insurance, and Fire Loss claims. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.

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