Struggling with a disability that keeps you from working can be frustrating and financially stressful. If you have an individual or group long term disability policy with Principal Financial and have recently submitted a claim for disability insurance benefits, you might be wondering what to expect from the process. At Dell & Schaefer, we’ve handled quite a few Principal disability insurance claims and have a good idea of what disability insurance carriers are looking for when it comes to approving or denying a long term disability claim. Learn more about what you’ll need to prove to recover disability insurance benefits under a Principal policy.
Litigating a Group Disability Policy is Different From a Private Policy
The path your long term disability insurance claim will take depends on whether you have a group (ERISA) policy offered through your employer, or an individual policy purchased on the open market. Group or ERISA disability policies generally require a claimant to pursue at least one internal appeal of a claim denial. If a claimant doesn’t pursue this appeal, they can’t later file a disability lawsuit against the insurance carrier. Individual policies, on the other hand, don’t require any internal appeals – as soon as the claimant receives a denial letter, they can file a disability insurance lawsuit in state court.
In an ERISA claim, a disability insurance claimant will prevail only if they can show two factors: 1) they’re too disabled to work; and 2) Principal’s denial of the initial application for benefits was either arbitrary or capricious. And as a final wrinkle, when filing a lawsuit for long term disability benefits, the claimant is limited to presenting only the evidence that was already presented to Principal during the internal appeal. This is one reason it’s so important to seek legal advice before filing a claim for long term disability benefits, as inadvertently failing to include certain evidence in the record can make it much harder to prove you’re entitled to benefits under your policy.
Individual long term disability policies are litigated under state contract law, not federal law like ERISA claims. Jury trials are available, and to recover benefits, the claimant needs only to show that they’re too disabled to work (according to the policy’s definition of disability). In most cases, this is an easier standard to meet than the standard applied to ERISA claims.
How Principal Settles Disability Lawsuits
Principal Financial will generally offer disability insurance claimants a settlement at some point after they submit a disability claim and before the case goes to trial. Once a claimant accepts a disability insurance settlement offer, they give up any right to recover additional damages. Usually, Principal also will cancel the long term disability policy to make a clean break.
Because insurance companies always have a vested interest in settling a claim for as little as possible, it’s important to seek legal advice before accepting any settlement offer. Even if a dollar amount sounds generous to you, it may not be enough to fairly compensate you based on the strength of your disability claim and the language of your long term disability policy.
If you’re ready to get started on your claim for Principal Financial disability insurance benefits, Dell & Schaefer can help. We don’t charge you any legal fees or costs unless we can recover benefits on your behalf, so there’s no need to worry about having to spend money to secure your benefits. Give us a call today to set up a FREE consultation to discuss your disability claim with a member of our experienced legal team.