Should I Take UNUM’s Disability Claims Settlement?
UNUM doesn’t want to pay out your long-term disability (LTD) benefits. UNUM is a for-profit company that’s much more interested in its shareholders’ happiness and profitability than your welfare. However, the company frequently offers disability claims settlements (sometimes called buyouts) to insureds. What gives?
At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve made a career out of standing up to UNUM, and we’re very familiar with their tactics. Here, we explain why you should accept a UNUM buyout and when you should fight back.
What Happens When You Settle a Long-Term Disability Claim With UNUM?
A settlement ends your long-term disability claim. In exchange for a lump-sum payment, you’ll give up your right to any unpaid LTD benefits that UNUM might owe you, both now and in the future. You exchange the hassle of UNUM’s phone calls, requests for field interviews, and IMEs for a check. But, you could potentially be giving up a lot.
UNUM must pay your monthly benefits while you remain disabled until you reach retirement age or until your death, depending on your disability policy terms. If you have a robust LTD policy, that could be a significant amount of money.
For example, suppose you’re a neurosurgeon with a UNUM LTD policy that pays 60% of your income or a flat benefit amount of $20,000 per month until you reach retirement age. You’re diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and can no longer work due to muscle weakness, mental fogginess, and fatigue. Before you became disabled, you earned $400,000 annually. That means UNUM will pay you $240,000 in LTD benefits each year. If you’re 10 years from retirement age when you become disabled, UNUM may have to pay you more than two million dollars in disability benefits.
Under these circumstances, it’s no surprise that UNUM would love to get your long-term disability insurance case off of their books.
Why Does UNUM Want to Settle My LTD Claim?
We seldom recommend that an insured accept UNUM’s first settlement offer. The insurance company rarely starts negotiations anywhere near a claim’s fair value. Instead, the claims adjuster will do their best to resolve your long-term disability claims for as little money as possible. It’s your job (and your disability insurance lawyer’s responsibility) to see how much more UNUM may be willing to offer toward a reasonable settlement.
A lot of factors can play into UNUM’s motivations for settling your claim. When you work with an LTD attorney, they can help you identify the likely reasons for UNUM’s sudden willingness to settle your disability insurance claim. Depending on your unique circumstances, they may include the following issues:
- As UNUM acquired other companies, it collected a large number of policies that have generous terms and offer significant benefit payments. Called the “closed block,” UNUM wants to get rid of as many of these claims as possible to save money.
- The company often tries to take advantage of unrepresented claimants, hoping they’ll take an unfairly low settlement.
- The company would rather pay you a lump sum than take your case to court or pay you a lifetime of benefits (if your LTD claim is very strong).
- If there are significant problems with your claim, the disability insurance company might offer a modest settlement rather than spend money litigating your claim.
UNUM also has a history of improperly denying long-term disability claims, acting in bad faith, and offering unreasonably low buyout payments. In 2004, the company (which was formerly known as UnumProvident) settled claims with multiple state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Labor. The company eventually paid out more than $15 million in fines and agreed to reassess hundreds of thousands of claims due to its systemic denial of valid disability insurance claims.
You should never assume UNUM’s settlement offer (especially its initial offer) is fair. Instead, consult an experienced disability insurance lawyer who can help you properly calculate your LTD claim’s worth.
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How Do I Know UNUM’s Settlement Offer Is Fair?
The easiest way to evaluate UNUM’s lump-sum settlement offer is to consult an experienced LTD attorney. Most law firms, including Bryant Legal Group, offer free consultations. A free consultation will confirm the information found here.
You can also retain Bryant Legal Group to analyze your specific offer and the specific factors of your case. Your disability insurance lawyer will consider a variety of factors when they evaluate the proposed buyout, including:
- Your age and life expectancy
- Your past earnings and monthly benefit amount
- Your functional limitations
- Your work history and education
- Your likelihood of returning to work
- The specific terms and conditions of your disability insurance policy, including its definition of disability, payment structure, and any exclusions or limitations that apply to your case
- Any potential defenses that UNUM may have in your claim
Your lawyer may need to investigate your claim. They will review your medical records, consult with vocational and medical experts, and assess the precise terms of your long-term disability insurance policy.
Unlike UNUM’s adjuster, a disability insurance lawyer will help you understand all the strengths and weaknesses associated with your claim and provide you with an honest assessment of its settlement value. You also won’t have to worry about up-front costs when you schedule a meeting at Bryant Legal Group, since our disability lawyers offer free consultations and case evaluations.
We’ll give you practical advice during your free consultation and suggest next steps, which may include negotiating with UNUM, appealing their claim denial, or filing a lawsuit.
What Happens if I Refuse to Settle With UNUM?
If you decide that UNUM’s settlement offer is unreasonably low, you can reject their proposal; the insurance company cannot force you to settle. However, if UNUM is voluntarily paying your benefits and you decide not to settle, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly scheduled for an independent medical evaluation, field interview, or the subject of a surveillance operation. It’s not uncommon for UNUM to start looking for reasons to issue a claim denial or reduce your monthly benefits after you reject a settlement offer.
But none of this means you should accept less money than your disability claim’s fair value. Instead, it’s best to be proactive and start working with a lawyer who can help you prepare your case for an appeal, negotiate with the insurance company, and help you navigate the contentious claims process.
At Bryant Legal Group, we’ve handled numerous UNUM disability claims involving both ERISA (employer-funded) plans and individual disability insurance policies. We understand UNUM’s tactics and help disabled professionals get the benefits they deserve, whether that requires an administrative appeal, lawsuit, or informal negotiations.
Bryant Legal Group: A Practical, Client-Focused Approach to Disability Law
Bryant Legal Group is one of Illinois’ premier disability insurance law firms, and we’ve built a formidable reputation in UNUM claims. If you have questions about a settlement offer, our disability insurance lawyers can help you understand all of your options and your case’s actual value. And, unlike UNUM’s adjuster, we’ll advocate for you and give you honest advice.
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