Radiologist Disabled by Dry Eye Syndrome Settles Lawsuit Against Lincoln National for Denial of Long-Term Disability Benefits Claim

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of the Plaintiff, Dr. B, recently settled a lawsuit against Lincoln National Life Insurance Company (“Lincoln National”) for the denial of Dr. B’s claim for long term disability insurance benefits.

Dr. B was a radiologist at a regional hospital, where he worked approximately 10-14 hour days which consisted primarily of interpreting diagnostic images on a computer monitor. The position demanded absolute accuracy in reading diagnostic images, as even a single mistake or omission could be the difference between life and death for a patient. He also performed interventional procedures (e.g. percutaneous biopsies of various organs, joint injections, and fluoroscopy) and consulted with physicians and patients to review his findings. His position also involved a substantial amount of physical activity, including assisting techs with moving or positioning larger patients, and wearing lead aprons to shield himself from radiation associated with imaging equipment.

Several years ago, Dr. B began to suffer from keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye syndrome), a condition that commonly affects radiologists.[1] Over the next several years, his condition progressively worsened, to the point that he often had to pull over on the drive to or from work to rest his eyes because his vision had become too blurry to drive. While his vision is good when his eyes are well-rested, even a small amount of computer usage causes his eyes to become sore, dry, and itchy, blurring his vision and requiring him to blink excessively and use eye drops to the fullest extent possible.

As a radiologist, Dr. B’s career (and his patients’ lives) depended on his ability to accurately read diagnostic images on a computer screen for several hours a day. Attempting to continue to work despite his severe dry eye syndrome would risk the lives of Dr. B’s patients every time he read a film.[2] Recognizing that Dr. B’s dry eye syndrome had become so severe that it was now endangering his patients, his employer terminated his employment. Shortly thereafter, Dr. B filed a claim for long term disability (LTD) benefits under a policy he had purchased from Lincoln National.

Despite strong supporting statements and medical records from Dr. B’s optometrist and ophthalmologist, Lincoln National denied his claim for LTD benefits, refusing to honor its obligations under the policy for which Dr. B had paid nearly 30 years of premiums. Dr. B hired O’Ryan Law Firm to help him recover the benefits owed to him by Lincoln National. We filed suit against Lincoln National in the Marion Superior Court on Dr. B’s behalf, and after several months of litigation, Lincoln National agreed to settle Dr. B’s claim.

If you are disabled and have been denied benefits under your disability insurance policy, please contact the Indiana disability attorneys at O’Ryan Law Firm to discuss your rights under your policy and the law.

[1] See Özkurt et al, “Is dry eye syndrome a work-related disease among radiologists?” Diagn Interv Radiol 2006; 12:163-165; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17160796, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1a08/43cff2acde06c926be1aaee20463250dcb70.pdf.

[2] See, e.g., Tahmasebi et al, “Eye problems in Radiologists,” European Society of Radiology, http://pdf.posterng.netkey.at/download/index.php?module=get_pdf_by_id&poster_id=107740 (“Interventional radiologists need 20/20 vision in both eyes to have excellent stereopsis and to perform the delicate procedures demanded in their occupation.”).