long term disability

Disability insurance companies frequently use video surveillance and other tactics, hoping to prove you’re exaggerating your symptoms. While no one likes the feeling of being watched, most surveillance is harmless. In this article, the experienced disability insurance lawyers at Bryant Legal Group outline common surveillance tactics and suggest ways you can protect your privacy and preserve your credibility.

Why Do Disability Insurers Use Surveillance?

When you file a claim for short-term or long-term disability benefits, your credibility is essential. Many disabling conditions, like chronic pain, fatigue, and depression, have a subjective component: you can’t prove someone’s level of anxiety using a diagnostic study like an MRI or CT scan. Instead, you have to rely on the accuracy of their statements. So, if the insurance company (or a judge) thinks you’re being less than honest about your symptoms, you may lose out on monthly benefits you deserve.

Insurance companies tend to believe that surveillance is the best way to undermine a person’s credibility. The insurance company hires someone to observe the person and go through their online activity, looking for evidence that calls their disability claims into question.

However, insurance companies also overemphasize the power of surveillance. Context plays a significant role when assessing any surveillance footage.

For example, suppose you have a disabling back condition, and a private investigator captures video footage of you playing with your dog at the park. A five-minute clip shows you performing activities like bending over, throwing a tennis ball, and strolling on a paved path. While the footage might seem a little damaging, a skilled disability insurance lawyer can help put it into context. After all, it’s only five minutes of your life.

On the other hand, if the investigator got hours of footage showing you reroofing your house, it’s going to be harder to explain that away.

Which Disability Insurance Companies Use Surveillance?

Every disability insurance company uses surveillance, although some are more known for the practice. For example, UNUM and The Hartford have well-documented histories of surveilling disability claimants. UNUM even uses “field visits” as an opportunity to get into people’s homes and look for “dirt.”

Any time an insurance company representative asks to meet with you, schedules an independent medical examination, or requests a functional capacity evaluation, you should assume you’re under surveillance.

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Look Out for These Common Disability Surveillance Tactics

Insurance companies conduct surveillance in many different ways. While stakeouts and physical tracking are still common, many insurers also embrace electronic investigations. Here’s what you need to look out for.

Physical Surveillance

Sometimes, private investigators will physically track you, following you to the grocery store, watching you at your child’s sporting events, and staking out your home. In these cases, the investigator will typically try to photograph or record your activities. However, the investigator cannot enter your property or try to film you in areas where you have an expectation of privacy, like your bedroom or the bathroom.

Electronic Surveillance

Electronic surveillance is increasingly common today. A simple internet search can offer up a wealth of information. Investigators will likely visit your social media profiles (as well as those of your friends and family), in hopes that they’ll find images and posts that suggest you’re more active and healthier than you claim. They may even argue that your LinkedIn account suggests you’re looking for work.

Sometimes, electronic surveillance is used in conjunction with physical surveillance. If you consistently check in to a location on social media, an investigator may use this information to follow you.

Field Visits

Field visits or interviews are often framed as a chance for you to “put a name with a face” and update the insurance company about your condition in your own words. However, as we mentioned earlier, a field visit or interview is often more about surveillance than getting to know you. Sometimes, the “insurance company representative” who you’re meeting with is really a private investigator. During the visit, the investigator is documenting your every move, the tidiness of your home, and whether you demonstrate any pain complaints or symptoms during your conversation.

RELATED: UNUM Field Visits: How to Protect Your Privacy and LTD Claim

How Can You Protect Your Privacy During a Disability Insurance Claim?

While you can’t prevent someone from filming you while running errands, there are ways you can protect your credibility and privacy during a disability insurance claim.

  • Live within your limitations: It can be hard to admit you can’t do all the things you love, but pushing yourself is equally bad for your health and your disability claim. First, you may aggravate your condition by doing too much. Second, if an investigator catches you, it can damage your claim.
  • Take a break from social media: Avoid using social media while your disability claim is pending. When you do post online, don’t forget to check your privacy settings (only people who are your friends should have access to your profiles). You should also ask your friends and family to refrain from posting images and status updates that include you. (It doesn’t hurt to take down your profile picture too.) If you get a “friend” or “follow” request from someone you don’t know, you should decline it right away.
  • Warn your loved ones: Sometimes, investigators will contact a claimant’s friends and family and ask for information. Your loved ones might not intend to make damaging statements, but they might make missteps when asked leading questions. Politely ask them to decline any requests for information that they get.
  • Consult a lawyer: If the insurance company hired a private investigator to track you, they’re preparing for a fight. It’s best to be proactive and speak with a disability insurance lawyer early on. That way, you’ll know where to turn if you have questions or need help with your long-term disability claim.
  • Call 911 if you feel unsafe or threatened: If someone won’t leave your property or is threatening your safety, you should contact the authorities. While you can always call your lawyer for advice about dealing with an investigator, call 911 if you think you’re in immediate danger.

Bryant Legal Group: Illinois’ Trusted Disability Insurance Lawyers

At Bryant Legal Group, we help people deal with disability surveillance and strengthen credibility. If you have concerns about physical or electronic surveillance, call our law firm today. We can educate you about your legal rights, suggest strategies that can protect your privacy, and help you stand up to the insurance company.

To schedule your free, no-risk consultation, contact us at (312) 561-3010 or use our online form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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long term disability

Before you file an ERISA lawsuit, you must follow a very specific process, and a single mistake can have serious consequences. Unfortunately, many disabled people don’t fully understand how ERISA claims work.

In this article, our experienced disability insurance lawyers outline the basics of an ERISA claim, how to “exhaust your administrative remedies,” and when you can file a disability insurance lawsuit.

What Is the ERISA Claims Process?

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) applies to most employer-funded benefit plans, including long-term and short-term disability policies. Many claimants mistakenly believe that this administrative appeals process will be quick and informal.

Unfortunately, the ERISA administrative appeals process has its own set of deadlines and procedures. Depending on the language of your ERISA plan, you may be required to go through up to two rounds of administrative appeals before you have fully “exhausted” your administrative remedies.

The typical process involves the following steps:

  • Application for benefits: You submit forms and information that notify the insurance company about your disability insurance claim.
  • Claim investigation: A claims adjuster reviews your information, medical records, job-related documents, and other evidence. Based on their assessment, they will either approve or deny your claim.
  • Administrative appeal: If you’re denied, you must file an appeal with the insurance company. You can (and should) add missing evidence and provide legal arguments about what you’re eligible for disability insurance. This may be a multi-stage process.
  • Insurance company’s final decision: The insurance company will review your claim and issue another decision. This is their final decision, and it ends the administrative appeal process.
  • Federal lawsuit: Now that you’ve “exhausted your administrative remedies,” you can file a federal lawsuit.

You cannot skip any of these steps; if you file a lawsuit before exhausting your administrative remedies, the court will reject your claim.

The administrative appeal process is essential to your ERISA claim. During this period, you can submit additional evidence for the insurance company to consider. This may include medical records, functional capacity evaluations, detailed letters from your physicians, and experts’ reports.

Typically, your disability insurance lawyer will request a copy of your administrative file (the insurance company’s file about your claim) and supplement it with as much supporting evidence as possible.

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What Happens Once I Exhaust My ERISA Administrative Remedies?

Once the insurance company issues its final decision, you have officially exhausted your administrative remedies. That means you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court. However, you must follow specific legal procedures and requirements.

Filing Deadline

First, you must file your lawsuit within a specific time frame. ERISA does not have its own statute of limitations, which is the part of the law that sets the deadlines for filing a lawsuit. Instead, the courts will apply your state’s most similar filing deadline. In Illinois, you have 10 years to file an ERISA lawsuit.

Filing a Complaint and Serving Your Lawsuit

When you file a lawsuit, you’ll have to file a series of documents, including a complaint. You must pay a filing fee, and you also need to serve the documents to the insurance company. If you have an ERISA lawyer, they will take care of all of these details for you. If you are unrepresented, you still must navigate all of these issues, and the Clerk of the Court cannot give you legal advice.

No Jury Trials

The courts do not currently permit jury trials in ERISA lawsuits, even though many lawyers argue that claimants should have a constitutional right to a trial under the Seventh Amendment. Instead, a federal judge will review your arguments, examine the evidence, and issue a decision.

What the Judge Will Consider—and What They Won’t

Federal judges are limited in what they can evaluate in an ERISA lawsuit. Once the insurance company makes its final decision and you exhaust your administrative remedies, you no longer can submit additional evidence. There are some limited exceptions to this rule; if you have questions about submitting additional evidence, consult an experienced disability lawyer.

However, federal judges in Illinois do have broad discretion when they review your ERISA claim and administrative record. Judges use a “de novo” standard of review, which means that they can consider all of the evidence and do not have to defer to the insurance company.

Does ERISA Apply to Every Disability Insurance Claim?

No. If you purchased your own disability insurance, state laws apply to your claim. ERISA covers most employer-sponsored disability insurance plans, but there are exceptions to this rule. For example, ERISA does not cover “church plans” and government employees’ benefit plans.

If you’re unsure whether state or federal laws control your legal claims, contact our office today. Our experienced ERISA lawyers can evaluate your plan and educate you about your legal options.

Bryant Legal Group:

Chicago’s Respected Disability Insurance Lawyers

At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve helped people throughout Illinois get the disability insurance benefits they deserve, recovering millions in compensation for our clients. If you’d like to learn more about our sophisticated, client-centered approach to ERISA and disability insurance appeals, contact our office today.

To schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney from our team, call us at (312) 586-9650 or complete our quick online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability

Most of us will experience knee pain during our lifetimes. This pain can stop us from doing the things we love, and it can even rule out simple activities like taking a walk or sitting down comfortably to read a book. When knee pain gets this severe, a knee replacement may offer much-needed relief.

However, not everyone who undergoes a total knee replacement can return to work and enjoy their life as they knew it. In these cases, long-term and short-term disability insurance can help.

To learn more about knee replacement and disability claims, keep reading.

What Is a Knee Replacement?

Our knees are remarkably complicated joints. Knees have many parts, such as:

  • Patella (the kneecap)
  • Two C-shaped pieces of cartilage, called the medial and lateral menisci, that absorb shocks and prevent bone-on-bone friction
  • Ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Articular cartilage
  • Bursae (fluid-filled sacs that help the knee move smoothly)
  • Tendons

The complexity of the knee leaves it vulnerable to injury. Trauma, degenerative wear and tear, and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can damage bones, erode cartilage, and constrict joint spaces. These types of injuries can cause excruciating pain, limit your range of motion, and prevent you from sitting, standing, and walking for extended periods. The chronic pain from a knee injury can even impact your mental health and make it difficult to concentrate.

The aim of a knee replacement is to reduce your pain and improve your range of motion. A knee replacement is a significant surgery that involves:

  • Removing damaged cartilage and part of the underlying bone
  • Replacing these structures with metal hardware, which typically is cemented into place
  • Resurfacing the patella if needed
  • Inserting a spacer between the metal implants so the joints can move smoothly and freely

For many people, a knee replacement is a surgery of last resort, performed only after less invasive options like physical and injection therapies fail to control the pain. However, knee replacements are also becoming more and more common. Today, surgeons in the U.S. perform about 600,000 total knee replacements each year.

What Should I Expect After a Knee Replacement?

Recovering from a knee replacement isn’t an easy process. Your body will need to adjust to the artificial joint, and you’ll need to rebuild muscle strength. The recovery process will probably involve physical therapy, follow-up appointments with your orthopedic surgeon, and pain management services.

Unfortunately, many knee replacement patients make some unpleasant discoveries in the weeks, months, and years after their knee replacement. These discoveries may include:

  • The surgery rarely restores a knee’s full range of motion
  • Post-operative clicking, popping, and pain are common
  • Implant issues can complicate recovery
  • Some patients deal with infections and blood clots
  • Hardware can loosen, causing cracking and other damage
  • Most knee replacements last for a maximum of 15–20 years

It can be frustrating to realize you won’t regain all the function you lost. Even worse, you may find yourself still unable to work after your total knee replacement.

RELATED ARTICLE: Chronic Pain and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

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If I Replace My Knee, Can I Get Disability Insurance Benefits?

Many people experience good results after a knee replacement, with an estimated 85% of knee replacement patients returning to work within a year. However, that leaves 15% of patients who can’t return to gainful employment after their difficult surgeries.

The problem isn’t limited to knee replacement patients who have physically demanding jobs, either. Even patients who work in a typical office setting sometimes discover they can’t stand or walk well enough to perform their work. Other patients find they can’t maintain their focus due to the combination of ongoing pain and medication side effects.

If you find yourself unable to work after a knee replacement surgery, you may be eligible for disability insurance benefits. The strength of your claim will depend on your symptoms, your medical records’ clarity, your professional background, and the terms and conditions of your disability insurance plan. To learn more about your options, get in touch with an experienced disability lawyer.

Bryant Legal Group: Experienced Chicago Disability Insurance Lawyers

If you’re still struggling after a total knee replacement or any other joint surgery, it’s time to build a plan for your future. At Bryant Legal Group, we assist disabled individuals throughout Chicago and Illinois with their complex disability insurance claims.

To schedule your free consultation and find out whether you may be able to receive vital disability benefits, call our office at 312-561-3010 or complete our online contact form.

References
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability

Almost every day, we speak with people who have questions about their UNUM long-term disability claims. Unfortunately, that insurance company has a reputation for mishandling disability claims and unfounded benefits denials.

At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve handled countless UNUM disability claims and understand how the company operates. While nothing compares to a personalized assessment from one of our disability lawyers, here are four things you need to know about UNUM.

1. UNUM Is One of the Largest Disability Insurance Companies in the Country

UNUM is a giant in the disability insurance industry. Globally, the company’s policies cover 36 million people and almost 194,000 businesses. A Fortune 500 business, UNUM reported more than $11.5 billion in revenue and paid out a little more than $8 billion in insurance benefits in 2018.

In addition to group and individual disability insurance, UNUM also sells life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment policies. Its subsidiaries include Provident Life and Accidental Insurance Company and The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company.

2. Every State Insurance Commissioner in the U.S. Has Sued UNUM

UNUM has faced nationwide scrutiny for its unfair business practices and mishandling of claims. In 2003, every state insurance commissioner in the United States — along with the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and the U.S. Department of Labor — sued UNUM due to its systemic unfair claims processes.

UNUM settled with 48 states in 2004, paying $15 million in fines and agreeing to restructure its claims processing systems and reevaluate 200,000 disability claims. However, the State of California refused to accept the settlement, and its insurance commissioner alleged that UNUM was an “outlaw company.” Eventually, California entered a separate agreement with the insurer that included another $8 million fine and changes to the company’s statewide claims handling procedures.

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3. UNUM Has Been Ranked One of the Worst Insurance Carriers in America.

In July 2008, the American Association for Justice (AAJ), an advocacy group for trial lawyers, ranked the United States’ ten worst insurance companies. It based these rankings on the company’s well-documented track record of improperly denied claims, fraudulent behaviors, and blatant disregard for claimants. The AAJ named UNUM the second worst insurer in the country.

While the insurance commissioners’ lawsuits played a significant role in UNUM’s ranking, the AAJ noted that even after UNUM settled its multiple lawsuits with the state insurance commissioners, it did not significantly improve its behaviors.

Three years after the settlements, UNUM had only reopened 10% of its eligible cases and was still denying valid claims. Today, experienced long-term disability lawyers are still winning cases against UNUM, convincing judges that its denials are arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to medical science.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Essential Questions You Should Ask a Disability Insurance Lawyer

4. You Need an Experienced Disability Lawyer When You’re Fighting UNUM

When you’re dealing with a company like UNUM, you don’t want to go it alone; it’s too easy to make mistakes and missteps. Instead, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced disability insurance lawyer early on — even before you complete your application for long-term disability benefits. An attorney can clearly explain your legal rights and options while also building a practical strategy that focuses on both your immediate needs and long-term goals.

At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve handled thousands of disability claims — many of them against UNUM. Our lawyers implement immense skill and their decades of experience to fight for the benefits their clients deserve, using sophisticated and aggressive techniques.

Bryant Legal Group: Disability Lawyers Who Stand Up to UNUM

If you’re struggling with a UNUM disability insurance claim, you need to speak with a lawyer who understands the company’s tactics. Bryant Legal Group is one of Chicago’s premier disability law firms, and we have successfully handled many UNUM claims.

To request a free consultation, contact our office by calling 312-561-3010 or completing this brief online form.

References
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability

Long-term disability coverage is essentially the “private insurance” version of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) in that it operates as a wage replacement for those who are rendered incapable of working for an extended period of time due to their disabling condition.  Long-term disability benefits are often offered through one’s employer, but it is not uncommon for such benefits to be obtained independently through an individual plan.

If you are making a long-term disability claim, you are likely suffering from a serious and debilitating condition, and as such, an insurer’s failure to grant long-term disability benefits can be particularly damaging from both a financial and emotional standpoint.  Disabled policyholders who can no longer work — and who have also had their claims denied by their insurer — may find themselves stuck in a difficult situation at the crossroads of insurer greed, incompetence and administrative issues.  When pursuing a long-term disability claim, it’s therefore vital that you work with a qualified Chicago long-term disability attorney who can provide the necessary assistance you need.

What Makes Long-Term Disability Coverage Unique?

Long-term disability benefits are rather simple to understand.  Unlike short-term disability benefits, long-term disability benefits are intended to provide an income for an extended period of time to those who have been rendered incapable of working due to their qualifying, disabling condition.  This income may be percentage-based (i.e., you receive 50 percent of your wages as long-term disability benefits), or may be a specific amount (i.e., you receive $3,000 per month per the language of the long-term disability policy) that is not actually related to your wages.  In any case, long-term disability benefits are paid out for a period of at least a year, and up to age 65, depending on the plan.

For example, one plan may offer higher benefits and have a very broad definition of “disability,” but last for only five years, while another plan may offer lower benefits and have a stricter definition of “disability,” but last until retirement age.

Long-term disability benefits are intended to last for a sufficiently long enough time to serve as adequate compensation for the wage loss of the claimant.  Given that the overall benefits payout tends to be higher than short-term disability benefits (due to the lengthier period of time during which benefits are paid out), you are more likely to encounter insurer roadblocks when making a claim for long-term disability benefits.

Complete Disability — Definitions May Vary

What constitutes a qualifying “complete disability” depends on your particular coverage.  As a general rule, however, a disability in the context of long-term disability benefits is any condition that renders you incapable of working at your current job — stricter definitions are occasionally encountered, so be sure to confirm the language of your policy with a qualified Chicago long-term disability attorney here at Bryant Legal Group, P.C., before making a claim for benefits.

Some long-term disability insurance plans have a list of automatically qualifying conditions.  For example, your insurance plan may include certain debilitating immune system conditions, such as Lupus.  If you qualify under one of the listed conditions, then it will be quite difficult for the insurer to justifiably challenge your claim for benefits.

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Regular Updates Are Necessary

Each plan has a regular schedule for updates.  Further, benefits recipients are required to update the insurer whenever there has been a significant change in circumstances that may influence the long-term disability benefits at issue.  This is what is referred to as the insureds’ duty to provide continuing proof of loss. For example, if you have recovered from the disabling condition enough that you can return to your job, you will have to update the insurer so that they can terminate the benefits.  Failure to report could result in various penalties.  It is irrelevant whether your plan lasts for five years or until retirement age — if your condition is no longer disabling, then you cannot receive benefits.

Contact Us Today to Speak With an Experienced Chicago Long-Term Disability Attorney

If you have recently become disabled or are already suffering from a disabling condition and have had your long-term benefits claim denied by your insurer (whether the coverage is through your employer, or independent of your employer), it’s important that you consult with an experienced long-term disability attorney for guidance.  Your attorney can help you gather necessary evidence and repackage your application for benefits, challenge decisions made by the insurer through the appeals process, and potentially sue and recover damages on your behalf for wrongful denial.

Here at Bryant Legal Group, P.C., we have successfully advocated on behalf of disabled claimants for many years, helping policyholders obtain the long-term disability benefits to which they are entitled.  We understand that in the wake of a disabling condition, claimants are likely to feel overwhelmed and under pressure. To that end, we work closely with our clients and keep them updated on developments throughout the engagement process.

Call (312) 561-3010 today to speak with one of our long-term disability attorneys.  We look forward to assisting you.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

Request Your Free Consultation

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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