Essential Tremors (ET): Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options associated with ET.  In Part 2, we will discuss how having an essential tremor could potentially affect your total disability claim.

How do I file for total disability when I have ET?

For those with an “Own Occupation” policy, which means you are considered totally disabled if you can no longer work in your own profession, having ET would certainly qualify you for benefits if you are a medical professional.

Many physicians think that they can simply decrease the types of procedures they perform or amount of time spent at working as their ET becomes more disabling, but this is the wrong move to make.  Changing your work responsibilities can alter your “occupation” under the terms of your disability policy.  For example, if you forego performing medical procedures and merely manage your practice, the insurance company may claim that your occupation has changed from a physician to an office manager, and attempt to decrease or deny your benefits.  Similarly, if you start to work part-time instead of full-time, and then file for disability, an insurance company will likely classify you as a part-time worker, and thus only give you part-time benefits.

Other physicians may decide to continue working in spite of their ET.  This is also a mistake.  Trying to work when you have ET places your patients at risk.  If a patient did get injured and filed suit, his or her attorney would almost certainly assert that you should not have been working with patients and that you knew your ET could harm the patient.

The correct way to deal with insurance companies and your condition is to stop working as soon as it impinges on your ability to perform your occupation and file for disability insurance.  Since, in many cases, the onset of ET is gradual, it is important to discuss you symptoms with your doctor so he or she can determine when your condition will progress to the point that it affects your work.


ET is a condition that can have an effect on actions as small as carrying a water glass or tying your shoes.  It can also affect your occupation and the financial security that comes from having total disability insurance.  We encourage you to speak with your doctor if you think you may be at risk for or have ET, and to contact a disability insurance attorney to help with the claims process if you are planning on filing for disability benefits.

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