The 10 Biggest Legal Mistakes Physicians Make When Filing a Disability Claim (Mistake #2)
Any medical or dental professional considering filing a claim or weighing long-term disability insurance policy options should be familiar with two key policy terms: “total disability” and “occupation.”
Misinterpreting the definitions of “total disability” and “occupation” and/or falling prey to other common pitfalls can lead to having your claim denied or your benefits terminated.
Ed Comitz’s article “The 10 Biggest Legal Mistakes Physicians Make When Filing a Claim for Disability,” published by SEAK, Inc. (2005), details ten of the most significant mistakes to avoid. The excerpt below explains the importance of understanding these crucial definitions in your policy:
MISTAKE NO. 2: Misunderstanding the Definitions of “Disability” and “Occupation”
Because there is no such thing as a “standard” disability insurance policy, the definitions of “disability” can significantly vary. Most physicians purchase “own-occupation” policies, which provide compensation following a disability that prevents the insured from performing the particular duties of his or her occupation. Thus, the insured may be entitled to benefits even if he or she could in fact perform work of a different nature. The central issue in many cases is the definition of “total disability,” which could variously mean that the insured cannot perform “all” or “every” duty of his or her occupation, or the “substantial and material duties” of his or her occupation.
Similarly, the term “occupation” may be specifically defined in the policy (e.g., “invasive cardiologist”) or may refer to the insured’s occupation immediately prior to the time that disability benefits are sought. In the latter situation, if the physician reduces his or her hours in the months preceding claim filing, the insurer may consider his or her occupation to be part-time rather than full-time. Similarly, the term “occupation” may be comprised not only of the duties of a physician’s specialty, but also of significant travel time, teaching engagements, or other areas in which the physician spends time or draws revenue. For example, “occupation” may be defined as “internist/professor/business owner,” in which case the physician may not be “totally disabled” if he or she can still teach or perform management functions.
Action Step: Physicians should read and fully understand their policy terms before filing a claim for benefits.
Even if you read how these terms are defined in your own policy, you may not realize the significance of the definitions if you do not have a full understanding of the claims process and/or you have never seen any other policies for comparison as a frame of reference. Being familiar with the several variations of “own occupation” policies being sold by insurers can help you determine whether you have a true own occupation policy.
To learn more about some of the tactics insurers use to deny claims and other mistakes to avoid, click here.