Frank Darras, the Nation’s Leading Disability Lawyer Offers Advice About Recent Unumprovident Multi-State Settlement Agreement
Frank Darras, America’s leading disability litigator answers questions and concerns about this comprehensive and overwhelming opportunity for claimants who have been previously denied their benefits. With the signed acceptance of 40 states, Unum Life Insurance Co. of America (NYSE: UNM), Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., Unum National Insurance Co., and Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co., will have 15 days to notify entitled customers that their denied or closed claims can be reassessed.
What Claimants Need To Know, Part One: 1) 215,000 previously denied insureds will have one last chance to convince UnumProvident through the reassessment settlement agreement that they have been truly disabled. 2) For those entitled claimants denied in calendar years 2000-2004, the company will send written notice to the claimants’ last known address within 15 days offering reassessment. Claimants in this group will then have 180 days to fill out multiple forms requiring exacting medical and occupational information along with impairment limitations and earning data.
Assembling the medical information while disabled can be daunting but marrying occupational demands with restrictions and limitations in this format will be overwhelming for most. 3) For claimants denied in calendar years 1997-1999, the Company will NOT BE SENDING ANY NOTICE. Unfortunately for these claimants, the only way they will learn of their opportunity to participate is through word of mouth, reading about the agreement on the Internet or seeing an article in the newspaper. For these people, time is not on their side, as they must formally contact the Company within 180 days from the date their state signed the agreement or they are precluded from participating.
“We literally need to resurrect Paul Revere and have him ride through all 40 states to alert these disabled that their 180 days are ticking away,” says Darras. “Being disabled is hard enough, but having the opportunity to get the benefits they richly deserve and missing the 180 day window would be tragic. So, let’s make sure we alert everyone in this group so that no disabled are left behind.
“For many thousands of claimants, the time that they could have filed an action against the Company has come and gone. With blown statute of limitations, these people were completely out of luck. So, for those who wished the agreement had more teeth and bigger fines … restoring blown statutes is a holiday present everyone should be happy about.”
What You Need To Know, Part Two:
Claimants will want to know how soon or in what order the Company will reassess these 215,000 claims. Darras advises, “The reassessment will evaluate the earliest denials starting with 1997 first, then move on to later years.”
Questions and Answers:
1) Will we be able to get experienced counsel to help us through the process if we need one? “I sure hope so,” says Darras. “Many of these disabled tried to present their original claim and appeal without help the first time around, now is not the time, with all the disability chips on the table, to gamble.”
2) If the Company determines the insured is disabled, what can the insured expect to receive? Back disability benefits, maybe interest and the possibility of fees for your lawyer and the insured will go back on claim paying status with the Company.
3) If the insured has received social security disability benefits, is the Company required to give weight to the award? You bet. The Company must now give significant weight to any award of social security, which is a huge benefit to the truly disabled. After all, it’s not easy to get social security to award disability and absent extraneous circumstances;
the Company will now weigh the decision. Whether social security was awarded pre or post denial, it will surely help during reassessment.
4) What if insureds were denied benefits because their claim lacked objective evidence? Now the Company must give weight to both objective and subjective evidence, along with the appropriate consideration of the insured’s treating doctor’s opinion, which should level the impairment field. In addition, if the insured had two disabling conditions, like back pain and secondary depression, from a lack of mobility, the Company must look collectively at all of the conditions contributing to the disability and that is surely a good thing.
5) What if the Company denied the insured’s claim with the help of a financially biased medical examiner? Under the new claim objectives, the Company will use unbiased, independent examiners, which will be great for all disabled insureds.
6) What if the in-house medical director was not skilled in the sickness and the insured’s claim was denied? New reassessment objectives also require in-house medical personnel to be trained, skilled and to have all available medical information in hand before making impairment findings. This training and experience requirement will help ensure a level playing field for the disabled.
7) Will any of these new reassessment objectives survive and remain as good faith claim standards after the reassessment concludes at the end of 2006? All of UnumProvident’s claim objectives will survive the reassessment agreement and this is terrific news for the disabled for a number of reasons. First, UnumProvident’s commitment to these new claim objectives promotes good faith business practice by giving claim handlers a bright line of claim standards. Second, with the industry leader setting the good faith table with these new claim objectives, the rest of the disability carriers would be wise to follow the leader. Any time the leader in an industry commits to bright line, good faith standards, the consumer comes out on top.
Frank Darras says, “Much has been written about the size of the penalty and what was NOT included in the agreement, but now is not the time for ifs and buts, now is the time to roll up our sleeves and help.” With claimants in all 50 states and the largest disability practice in America, Darras says he is focusing on the opportunity to extend a guiding hand everywhere and every time he is asked. Rich or poor, big claim or small, Darras is convinced that all of those truly disabled need hard answers to tough questions and someone who knows how to speak the reassessment language.
Individuals with questions are encouraged to call Frank Darras at 800-458-4577.