Here at Frankel & Newfield, PC, we represent doctors across the country when their disability insurers deny their claims or prematurely terminate their disability payments. The practice of medicine is both physically and mentally demanding, with long hours, stressful situations, life-and-death decision making and potential exposure to radiation and chemicals. For these reasons, unexpected disability and an interruption of salary is not unexpected.
Doctors can be financially vulnerable
While doctors make good money, they also have significant personal and family responsibilities. They may have many thousands of dollars in student debt early in their careers, an expensive private practice to maintain and a family to support. A sudden interruption in salary because of a disabling injury or illness can be professionally and personally catastrophic, which is why physicians should secure adequate disability insurance either through their employers or individual disability insurance contracts.
Own occupation or any occupation
Disability insurance will replace part of their salary should injury or sickness prevent work. It may be a smart decision to purchase disability insurance that pays benefits if the doctor cannot perform his or her exact “own occupation,” rather than not being able to work in “any occupation.” For example, Parkinson’s disease may prevent an eye surgeon from performing a delicate operation, but not “any occupation.”
Disability insurers are financially motivated to deny or terminate the disability claims of physicians because the monthly payout is a portion of a relatively high salary. For this reason, it is a good idea to involve an experienced attorney even at the initial claim stage to assist with the application and its processing. Certainly if benefits are denied or terminated, legal counsel should be involved to negotiate with the insurer for fair, proper benefits according to the contract and the law.
In serious cases, the lawyer will assist with internal insurance company appeals and when appropriate, a lawsuit to protect the doctor’s interests under the disability policy.