Tips on Applying for Your Disability Benefits
No one starts working with the expectation that they will be disabled, but it does happen to a small percentage of workers every year.
In the unfortunate event that you find yourself needing to apply for disability benefits, whether it be short- or long-term benefits, you need to be prepared. Avoid making common mistakes that could hurt your claim and give yourself the best chance at success by following our general recommendations for making a disability benefits claim.
A successful disability claim will provide you with the financial support needed for you to focus on improving your physical and mental wellbeing.
In today’s post, NOVA Injury Law will be providing Atlantic Canadians with some helpful tips of what to do and not do when claiming disability benefits.
DO: Stay Informed on Your Insurance Policy
Knowledge is power, and specificity is required if you want to have your benefits approved.
Get a copy of your group benefits book or insurance policy and take the time to carefully read it over, giving particular attention to the terms and definitions.
Understanding your insurance policy is an important first step for anyone contemplating a claim for disability benefits. You should familiarize yourself with the part of your policy that dictates the proper procedure for filing a claim. Take note of any other important information, including how long you have to file a claim and any other requirements that may impact your eligibility for benefits.
It is also recommended that you review any other forms, documentation, or contracts that you receive from the insurance companies with careful precision. Never sign something from an insurance company without carefully reviewing it first and making sure you fully understand it.
If you are in doubt about whether you should sign something, it is best to speak with your lawyer first to avoid signing anything that could potentially be used against you during your case.
DON’T: Quit Your Job or Cut Back on Working Hours
Opting for fewer working hours or quitting your job outright may cost you your disability benefits.
Most disability benefits policies will require you to be actively at work when you apply for disability benefits. This means you will likely be prevented from making an application for benefits if you resign or are terminated. Similarly, most policies require employees to work a minimum number of hours to qualify for coverage. We recommend doing your research prior to making any decisions that could impact your eligibility for coverage.
If you do feel as if you cannot work at all, we recommend completing the application forms as soon as possible and using any sick time you have accumulated. Although it is important to submit your application while you are eligible and employed, you should not jeopardize your health and safety either.
If you are unable to take sick days and your employer is unwilling to accommodate your limitations during your application process, you should contact a disability lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. Call NOVA Injury Law today for FREE CASE REVIEW at 1-800-262-8104.
DO: Keep Records of Everything Related to Your Disability Case
Making a claim for disability benefits can be a long and drawn-out process.
At NOVA Injury Law, we recommend keeping records of everything related to your disability case from start to finish. This includes keeping track of your treatments, symptoms and even conversations with the insurance companies and your healthcare providers.
It may be easy to remember everything at first, but as time goes on, your limitations and abilities may change, and become increasingly difficult to keep track of.
Although you should always bring any worsening symptoms to your healthcare providers’ attention, keeping independent documentation of your pain and limitations is also recommended.
DON’T: Fail to be Honest
Although this piece of advice may seem redundant, honesty will be very important to your claim.
It applies to communication with your doctor, lawyer and when filing your claim. Fraudulent or exaggerated claims can backfire on you. It could even result in facing serious criminal charges, and at the very least your claim will be classified as invalid and denied accordingly.
The other side of being honest is making sure your doctors, insurance company and lawyer are aware of the full extent of your disability. Often claimants will understate their disability and downplay their limitations in hope that the insurance company will be more likely to approve their claim.
Claimants can let their optimism get in the way of providing an accurate account of their injuries, which can also be very damaging for their claim. It is in your best interest to remain upfront and honest about the extent of your disability and the impact it has on your life.
DO: Assume That the Insurance Company Is Spying on You
You should be mindful of your actions and behaviour, particularly when you are in public and online. It is best to air on the side of caution with participation in public activities that may be construed as proof that you are not disabled. The insurance companies may document this, even with video, and may use it against you.
Insurance companies hire private investigators and have their own investigation departments to look into you at very early stages of your claim, even before you have retained a lawyer. These investigators can do background checks on you, search your social media profiles, and even follow you around town as you go through your day.
The goal of surveillance is to try and catch you doing something, acting in a certain way, or saying something that will discredit your disability claim. For example, if you say you cannot run around or bend and they have video recordings of you playing soccer in your local league, it is not a very good look. Even if you are completely disabled, this will not stop an insurer from doing their due diligence and snooping on you.
DON’T: Let Too Much Time Go By
Sometimes people delay their decision to either apply for disability benefits or wait to retain a disability lawyer. Either can have unfortunate consequences for your claim.
There are time limits that start from the date of your onset of disability or the last day of work to apply for long term disability benefits. There are also time limits to sue from the date of denial of your disability benefits. Waiting on these time limits could jeopardize your case. Failing to apply within the allowed time period and failing to retain a lawyer to commence an action could end your claim before it is even started.
Limitation periods vary depending on province and type of benefit. In Nova Scotia, there is legislation that sets out a limitation period of two years for most claims. However, your claim for benefits may be subject to a limitation period that is shorter than the two-year period set out in provincial legislation.
Long term disability benefits (LTD), often include a typical limitation period of one year. It is important to look at the terms of your disability contract to determine the applicable time period. Every contract is different, so there is no blanket rule that applies across the board.
DO: Talk to a Lawyer
If your claim has been denied or terminated, you should contact an experienced disability insurance lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier a lawyer is involved, the better your chances are of getting the benefits you are owed. In addition to moving your claim along more smoothly, a lawyer can also advise you on other resources that are available to you.
At NOVA Injury Law, our disability lawyers only practice in the area of disability and injury. That means that we know how to fight against insurance companies and achieve excellent results for our clients.
We understand that adjusting to life with a disability can be overwhelming enough without dealing with the stress of being denied benefits. That is why our objective is to handle the legal work while you focus on your recovery.
Our team of disability lawyers is here to help you every step of the way so that you do not have to feel the stress of going against the insurance company on your work.
DON’T: Settle for Less Than You Deserve
A settlement is an agreement between the parties to a claim to resolve the matter. The terms are decided by the parties, and there is no requirement for neither party to engage in negotiation or reach an agreement.
In a disability law context, a settlement means that the disabled claimant is agreeing to end their legal claim in exchange for payment by the defendant for the monthly benefits that they should have paid you.
You should only consider settlement if it achieves your goal. If your goal is to get disability benefits, then you should make sure your settlement offer provides you with the disability benefits you were owed and ensures you are paid benefits going forward so long as you are disabled.
When contemplating settlement, you should consider what you have lost and what you may lose because of the insurance company’s decision to deny your claim. Consider the following factors when negotiating a settlement:
- Interest on unpaid benefits,
- Compensation for pension loss,
- Compensation for financial losses,
- Compensation for loss of any group medical benefits,
- Compensation for mental distress caused by the denial,
- Your costs to advance the legal team, and
- The portion of costs that you will have to pay your lawyer.
You cannot effectively negotiate a settlement until you know how much your claim is worth. However, it is difficult to appreciate how much your claim is worth when your losses and disability are ongoing.
Underestimating the value of your claim could result in accepting an offer for less than what it is worth. Accepting an early low-ball offer from the insurance company could result in negative financial consequences down the road.
If you are considering settling your claim, we strongly advise speaking with an experienced disability lawyer first.
How can NOVA Injury Law Help?
An experienced disability lawyer from NOVA Injury Law can provide you with help at each stage of the process, from application to trial.
Your lawyer will gauge what tasks are required at each stage of the process and work effectively to maximize your opportunity for a winning outcome. We will always put our clients first at NOVA Injury Law. We understand that a disability can be a life-changing event that not only affects a person’s physical health but can also impact their emotional and mental well-being as they try to adapt to a new lifestyle.
We work to ensure you have the resources and support needed to live a better live and have peace of mind about your financial status. You can learn more about how we handle disability claims here.
If you are in need of legal advice for applying for your disability benefits and are located in Halifax, Bedford or the wider Nova Scotia area, our personal injury lawyers are here to help. We also serve other areas of Atlantic Canada, including Prince Edward Island. Contact us today at 1-800-262-8104 to take advantage of your FREE CASE REVIEW – we are here to help!