Long before I became a lawyer, all the way back in childhood, I hated when people spoke in absolutes. For those who don’t know, speaking in absolutes is using all or nothing terms like: always/never; best/worst; everybody/nobody; can’t; nothing/everything; all the time; all/nothing; constantly; definitely; etc. I dislike absolutes because while on the surface they appear to make a message stronger (“this always happens to me” or “my mom’s cooking is the best”), they actually do the opposite by weakening your credibility.
Does anything happen “always”?
Think about it. Does anything happen “always”? Can you definitively say there’s no one on the planet who cooks better than your mom? Of course not! But in addition to saying something that you can’t prove, you have also opened yourself up to allow people to be able to prove – very easily I might add – that you are a liar. And once they can prove you lied about that one thing, they can then turn around and use that lie to cast doubt on everything else you say.
Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this because I see insurance companies regularly use this to their advantage in long-term disability (“LTD”) claims. When talking to doctors or filling out claim forms or speaking with claim representatives, people say things like they “never sit for more than 2 hours at a time,” or they “always use a cane when they walk,” or they “can’t lift more than 10 pounds,” or they are in “constant pain.” That sounds good, but when you say “never” all the insurance company has to do is catch you doing something one time, and that means you lied to them. And if you lied about that one thing, well then they say that that casts doubt on your credibility and thus all your self-reported symptoms including pain, fatigue, headaches, and mental problems.
I have had a few cases recently where my client speaking in absolutes was the major weakness in their case. For example, a woman with very legitimate, major back issues and carpal tunnel syndrome told the claim representative that she “never wears high heels anymore” and that she “can’t talk on the phone for more than 20 minutes at a time” because of the pain. The insurance company conducted surveillance, and even though the video was pretty innocuous, they saw her wearing heels to an event and speaking on her cell phone for about a half-hour. Even though those things had nothing to do with whether she could work or not, they allowed the insurance company to deny her claim saying “because you lied about these things, we don’t believe the rest of what you have to say.”
But the good news is, it’s an easy thing to fix.
And not only will it help your disability claim, you’ll sound a lot smarter and more credible to your friends and family too. So instead of “always” or “constantly” say “regularly” or “frequently” or “most of the time.” Instead of “never” say “rarely” or “infrequently.” Instead of “best” say “excellent.” Instead of “can’t” say “find it difficult to.” By changing your language slightly, you will retain your credibility even if something out of the norm occurs.
If you have questions about how to craft the language in your LTD or other claims, contact Kantor & Kantor, LLP to request a FREE consultation. We can be reached at (818) 886-2525 or via our online contact form.