Articles Posted in Bad Faith

The most basic answer is that the insurance company or claims administrator contends that you do not meet the definition of “disabled” or “disability” under the disability policy or plan. There are numerous technical reasons why claims are denied such as you are ineligible for benefits or you have not provided the information requested by the insurance company. As far as being ineligible, many disability policies require that you work so many months for your employer before you become eligible for the short or long term disability coverage. Also, you may no longer be eligible if your employment has been terminated and you have not already applied for the benefits. We encourage our clients to contact the Human Resources department immediately to obtain an application for short term and long term disability benefits when they know that they are no longer able to function at their job. Additionally, make sure that you send the insurance company all of the information and documents that they are requesting so that your claim is not tossed out because they didn’t receive a specific form or medical record. We know that at times it is frustrating dealing with their seemingly endless requests, but you don’t want to be denied because you “weren’t cooperating” with them, which is a requirement in the policy.

Once you have made it over the eligibility hurdle, the insurance companies find all sorts of reasons to deny disability claims: your medical records don’t support impairment, your doctor’s statement of disability doesn’t comport with the medical records, you worked for a long time after you were diagnosed, surveillance shows that you remain active, if you can work on a computer at home then you aren’t disabled, if you can shop at Wal-Mart then you can go back to work, you quit because you didn’t like your boss and their absolute favorite: our doctors (who never speak to you or examine you) say you can work. All of the insurance companies, including Cigna, Prudential, Hartford, MetLife, and Lincoln Financial, like to use their doctors to review and deny claims.

This is why the appeal process is so important and why an experienced lawyer can make all of the difference. This is no game to the insurance companies. They know that if they successfully deny your claim, they keep every penny of your disability payments. As a result, they are very aggressive at denying claims and making sure the denial sticks. We take the appeals process very seriously because this most likely is your last chance to respond to and rebut all of the bad information that the insurance company has stuffed into your file, some of which you may have never seen.
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952313_gavel.jpg Indiana law has long recognized that there is a legal duty implied in all insurance contracts that an insurance company must deal in good faith with its insured. Vernon Fire & Cas. Co. v. Sharp, 349 N.E.2d 173 (1976). The Indiana Supreme Court in Erie Ins. Co. v. Hickman, 622 N.E.2d 515 (Ind. 1993) expressly acknowledged the breach of this duty as an independent cause of action under Indiana law. The Court in Erie recognized that a special relationship exists between an insurance company and its insured because of the unique character of an insurance contract, specifically, the insurance company acts as a fiduciary to the insured. “Easily foreseeable is the harm that proximately results to an insured, who has a valid claim and is in need of insurance proceeds after a loss, if good faith is not exercised in determining whether to honor that claim.” The Court in Erie held that “[A]n insured who believes that an insurance claim has been wrongly denied may have available two distinct legal theories, one in contract and one in tort, each with separate although often overlapping, elements, defenses and recoveries.” The Court in Erie explained that a cause of action for the tortious breach of an insurer’s duty to deal with its insured in good faith arises when the insurer:

  1. makes an unfounded refusal to pay policy proceeds;
  2. causes an unfounded delay in making policy payments;
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