Case Study: Factual Disability v. Legal Disability – Part 1
In the next few posts we will be looking at the distinction between “factual” and “legal” disability. In Part 1, we will discuss the difference between a factual and a legal disability, and why that distinction matters. In Parts 2 and 3, we will look at an actual court case involving “factual” and “legal” disability.
What is “Factual Disability”?
Factual disability refers to incapacity caused by illness or injury that prevents a person from being physically or mentally able to engage in his or her occupation. This is the type of disability that most people think of in connection with a disability claim.
What is “Legal Disability”?
Legal disability is a broad term used to encompass all circumstances in which the law does not permit a person to engage in his or her profession, even though he or she may be physically and mentally able to do so. Here are some examples:
- Revocation or suspension of a professional license;
- Surrendering a professional license as part of a plea agreement or to avoid disciplinary action; and
- Practice restrictions imposed by a licensing board.
Why the Distinction Matters
In sum, someone with a “factual disability” is mentally or physically unable to engage in their profession. In contrast, someone with a “legal disability” is not allowed to engage in their profession. Courts have repeatedly held that disability insurance policies provide coverage for factual disabilities, but not for legal disabilities.
If a claimant has both a factual and legal disability, things become more complicated. In the next few posts, we will look at an example of how one court determined whether someone with both a factual and legal disability was entitled to benefits.