Need for a Lawyer

“At first, I doubted Frank’s rate of success.  Yada yada, right?  I had a really tough case with lots of issues.  I was amazed at how hard he worked.  He never gave up.  I didn’t expect to win.  It took more than two years, but I did.  Frank’s all he claims to be.”

- Leslie K.

Cortland County, NY

The Challenge

Filing a claim for disability insurance is like going to war.  To win, you have to be in it for the long haul.  Carriers make money collecting premiums, not paying benefits.  Their interests are opposed to those of claimants. 

Securing the initial award of benefits is hard enough.  Keeping benefits flowing after the initial award can be even harder. Carriers can make life miserable for claimants who have been awarded benefits.  They request frequent medical and informational updates.  They insist on conducting intrusive interviews over the phone and in person.  They require claimants to undergo repetitive medical examinations and other evaluations.  They scour the internet for potentially damaging information from social media sites and other online sources.  They conduct covert surveillance using private investigators to monitor and record claimants' daily living activities.  All this in an active effort to generate adverse claim information and terminate liability. 

Anyone who goes it alone on a disability claim risks getting tripped up sooner or later and losing benefits. This is no joke. It happens all the time. 

What does the lawyer do?

A disability lawyer’s basic job on an initial claim for benefits is to analyze the insurance policy and the relevant medical and non-medical evidence, and to prepare a comprehensive package of claim documents that conclusively establishes eligibility. 

The process involves close collaboration with the claimant and his or her physician(s), augmented by medical and vocational research, to fully understand the nature of the medical disorder at issue and how it limits personal and occupational functioning.  In some cases, it may also require arranging for second opinions or other independent assessments to corroborate key facts.  It always involves painstaking attention to the preparation of claim forms and explanatory narratives upon which the claim submission is based. 

Once a claim has been approved, a lawyer’s job is to manage the subsequent exchange of information between the claimant and carrier and maintain the ongoing flow of benefits.  This includes closely monitoring a claimant’s medical treatment; responding to the carrier’s requests for information; coordinating the preparation of medical and other updates; participating in investigative interviews; and providing ongoing guidance and advice regarding other post-eligibility risks and issues.  It's a decidedly hands-on process.

Should I hire a lawyer?

The most important decision anyone faced with the need to file a claim for disability insurance faces is whether to retain a lawyer to do so.  Some people conclude it’s not necessary to do this unless the claim is denied.  That’s often a mistake. 

No doubt it’s an expensive proposition to hire a lawyer.  However, disability claims are tricky—particularly when the claimant is a professional or other highly skilled individual, or when subjective symptoms such as pain or fatigue are involved. Money spent to properly document a claim and to keep benefits flowing is well worth it.  The cost of retaining counsel to appeal an adverse determination is much greater and can be prohibitive for some people. 

How can I find the best disability lawyer? 

Everyone wants to win, but no lawyer can guarantee success.  What a lawyer can and should do instead is to provide full and accurate information regarding his or her experience with disability law, including past success with similar claims.  A lawyer should also be courteous and a good listener, and he or she should make a solemn commitment to represent a client with the utmost diligence and in accordance with his or her professional responsibilities.

The best disability lawyers begin working with their clients right from the outset.  They understand the importance of getting all the facts straight and developing a professional relationship based on full disclosure and mutual respect. 

Before retaining a lawyer on a disability claim, you should consider the following:

  • Did the lawyer meet with you right at the outset to discuss your claim? Did he or she listen to you and seem interested in what you had to say?
  • Did the lawyer return your emails and telephone calls promptly and courteously?
  • How much experience does the lawyer have handling disability insurance claims?
  • What is the lawyer’s past record of success with such claims? Was he or she willing to discuss that with you plainly and unambiguously?
  • What kind of reputation does the lawyer have with other lawyers, former clients, physicians and judges?
  • Did the lawyer answer all your questions to your own satisfaction?

There is no magic formula for choosing the best lawyer.  However, if you predicate your decision on factors such as these, you’re apt to find yourself in good hands.