Making Insurance Companies Such as Hartford Aware That Parkinson’s Disease Is Disabling

Last month was Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a time that groups dedicated to finding a cure for the disease encourage education and activism to help people understand why Parkinson’s can be so devastating. See http://www.pdf.org/parkinson_awareness.

But Parkinson’s should not be in the spotlight only one month a year. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder affecting nearly one million Americans. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. Over time, deterioration of brain cells causes uncontrollable bodily movements. It also can cause memory loss and confusion. People live with the disease and the debilitating symptoms for many years.

One of the most vocal activists for Parkinson’s research is actor Michael J. Fox. Unlike most people living with the disease, Fox has been able to incorporate his Parkinson’s symptoms into his acting roles, maintaining the ability to earn a living. Few people with the disease have that option, and many are forced to rely on long-term disability benefits for their income. When insurers see people such as Fox continue to function in the workplace, they tend to believe most people with Parkinson’s can enjoy that same option. When insurers tell people with Parkinson’s there is no reason why they cannot work, the fight for benefits begins.
We have been able to help many people with Parkinson’s obtain benefits that their disability insurer denied.

Here is one example:
Our client, an office manager for Edward Jones, underwent neurological testing to determine why she was unable to recovery from back surgery. The tests revealed she suffered from Parkinson’s disease. When she advised her disability insurer, Continental Casualty, that she would not be able to return to work as previously anticipated, the insurer refused to pay further benefits. Hartford Insurance Company then assumed the obligations under the policy and had our client’s records reviewed by its medical reviewing service. Hartford denied benefits as well.
We sued on behalf of our client, convincing the court that Hartford erroneously evaluated our client’s disability using a “sedentary occupation” standard, which means that in order to receive benefits, the person with Parkinson’s must be unable to work at ANY job. Our client’s policy, however, only required that she be disabled from her chosen profession. Insurance companies will often apply the wrong standard, so you must not only know which standard is applicable in your policy, but also which standard the insurer relied on.

Hartford appealed the trial court’s verdict. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in the western United States, agreed that our client was unable to work and entitled to benefits, including those from the five years during which she fought her insurer in court.

Join us in our mission to convince insurance companies that Parkinson’s is a disabling disease. If you have been denied benefits because your insurer applied the wrong standard – or for any other reason – contact us at (800) 446-7529. We can help.

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