Most employers offer long-term disability insurance policies to their employees to protect them in the event of a serious illness or disability. However, even when an employer does not offer these types of benefits, a person can purchase a policy from a private insurer. Unfortunately, employers and private insurers often deny valid long-term disability claims in an effort to save money, which can have devastating consequences for policyholders who are unable to return to work.
However, those whose claims have been denied do have the option of appealing the denial, either through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) appeals process or the court system. Filing a claim or attempting to appeal a denial can be time-consuming and difficult. If you were recently injured or diagnosed with a debilitating illness and are unable to work, contact an experienced long-term disability attorney who can explain your legal options.
Companies that choose to offer long-term disability benefits to their employees must comply with the terms contained in ERISA. For instance, when an employer denies a claim, the disabled employee must first go through a specific appeals process before he or she can file a lawsuit in court. Those who choose to appeal a denied claim must do so within 180 days of the initial denial and must often submit additional information to the insurer, including:
If, after reviewing a claim, the company affirms its decision to deny benefits, the claimant can file a lawsuit in federal court. Unfortunately, plaintiffs appealing a denied claim cannot seek punitive damages in court, as these types of claims are preempted by ERISA. For this reason, claimants are limited to suing for the benefits that they were owed under their plan.
Government and church employers are not required by law to abide by the terms of ERISA. This means that a policyholder whose claim has been denied does not have to go through the specific ERISA-approved appeals process, although they may be required to exhaust the policy’s internal appeals process before filing a claim in court. After providing additional medical documentation and addressing any problems with the original claim application, policyholders can then file claims of breach of contract, bad faith, or negligence in state court. Because these types of claims do not fall under the purview of ERISA, claimants may seek punitive damages from the court.
To learn more about how to file an appeal for a denied long-term disability claim, please contact Bartolic Law by calling our office or sending us a brief message. We are available to discuss your case at no obligation to you.