Great-West Denies Doctor with Kidney-Failure Due to Late Filing
As part of the Great-West ADA group disability policy, a disabled dentist whose disability claim has been denied may file a lawsuit against Great-West, but only after exhausting Great-West’s appeals process and receiving a final adverse claim decision on appeal.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for a dentist untrained in law or insurance to determine when Great-West’s “final decision” has been made; and, importantly, if a lawsuit is not thereafter timely filed within Great-West’s own proclaimed statute of limitations (which may be shorter than limitations periods under state law), the aggrieved dentist risks having his lawsuit thrown out as untimely. In other words, Great-West can avoid paying a legitimate disability claim based on a contractual technicality.
This is what happened in the case of Parsley v. Great-West. Dr. Parsley was a dentist with end-stage kidney failure who filed a disability claim with Great-West. After Great-West denied his claim for benefits, Dr. Parsley filed an appeal, which Great-West denied on March 1, 2014. Dr. Parsley went on to correspond with Great-West, filing what he thought were additional, supplemental appeals—all of which were denied, with the last denial occurring on April 15, 2019.
Dr. Parsley then filed a lawsuit, hoping to collect benefits for his obviously disabling condition; however, he was unable to do so, and his lawsuit was thrown out by the court.
The Great-West policy states that no legal action may be started “more than three years after the date of the Company’s final decision on the appeal.” At issue in Dr. Parsley’s case was whether Great-West’s final decision on appeal was in March 2014 or in April 2019.
Great-West argued that the final denial was in March 2014, and indicated that all of its subsequent replies to “claimed” follow-up appeals referred back to the “initial appeal denial,” which was Great-West’s final decision. Therefore, despite the fact that Dr. Parsley believed he was acting in good faith, and Great-West was actually corresponding with him about the merits of his claim each time he wrote to the carrier, the Court ultimately found that Great-West’s “final” decision was in March 2014.
This case shows the importance of understanding the terms of your disability policy, including how, when and where a lawsuit must be filed, what limitations periods apply to the lawsuit, and what constitutes a final appeal and decision. All too often disability insureds believe they are acting in good faith, supplying relevant information and trying to work things out, all the while their insurance company is lulling them into not following the rules of their contact.
An experienced disability insurance attorney, representing you from the outset of your claim, and who understands the particulars of your policy, can make sure that you take timely action so that you do not jeopardize your right to collect benefits.
If you have received a denial of your benefits and are considering appealing or filing a lawsuit, please feel free to reach out to one of our attorneys directly, before you unwittingly compromise your benefits.
 Parsley v. Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co., No. 22-60800-CIV-SINGHAL, 2002 WL 2341166 (S.D. Fla. June 29, 2022).
Every claim is unique and the discussion above is only a limited summary of the court’s ruling in this case. If you are concerned that your insurer is using any of the tactics above to evaluate your claim, an experienced disability insurance attorney can help you assess the situation and determine what options, if any, are available.