ERISA Disability Claims – Submit all Evidence During Appeal

If you have group disability insurance (through your employment), it is probably governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). If your disability claim is denied, under ERISA, you must appeal the denial prior to filing a lawsuit in federal court. We often handle appeals for clients. These appeals offer an opportunity to submit all evidence of disability, including medical records, results of evaluations designed to measure a person’s ability to work, doctor’s clinical notes, physical therapy notes, and even personnel files showing that a person performed well on the job, prior to stopping work due to disability. Generally, the appeal is the last chance a person has to submit evidence of disability, as a court may not hear witnesses or consider other evidence outside of what was generated during the claim and appeal period. GETTING ALL YOUR EVIDENCE TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY DURING THE APPEAL PERIOD IS THUS CRITICAL.

Interestingly, we have been noticing that when we submit appeals, claims representatives for insurance companies are attempting to return portions of the evidence we are submitting. This includes such things as information about medications and their side effects, relevant case law, and even video footage we sometimes produce to prove to the insurance company how physically-disabled and limited our clients are. The insurance companies have not produced any legal authority for returning information submitted on appeal, and we promptly send it back. In fact, this type of claims handling by an insurer is prohibited by the ERISA regulations, as among other things, it denies a claimant of her right to a full and fair review of her disability claim. Such a fair review is certainly informed by the claimant’s submission of all evidence which she feels may support her claim for disability.

This tactic by the insurers is a bold attempt to deny claimants full and fair reviews of their claims, as required by law. Worse, to the unsuspecting applicant, the insurance companies might get away with this practice, and thus deny the claimant the right to have all evidence before a court should the matter make its way to litigation. If this has happened to you, push back. If an insurance company is mistreating you or not playing fair in some other way, question them…and always do do in writing, with proof of mailing (or emailing).

If you have questions, or need help with an appeal, visit our website, or call us. We fight these battles every single day. Initial consultations are free. 818-446-7529.

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