Field interviews with disability insurers are an inherently nerve-wracking experience. These interviews play a crucial role in determining eligibility for disability benefits, making it essential to approach them with caution and preparedness. While honesty and transparency are key, there are certain things that should be avoided during these interviews – what not to say – to ensure the process goes smoothly and to maximize your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid in a Disability Insurance Field Interview

While we have previously explored the do’s and don’ts of disability field interviews, this article goes into greater depth regarding some common pitfalls to avoid during a field interview with a disability insurer, focusing on what not to say to ensure a positive outcome.

Exaggerating or Falsifying Information

 One of the most critical mistakes individuals make during field interviews is exaggerating or falsifying information about their disability or limitations. While it may be tempting to embellish certain details to strengthen your case, doing so can have severe consequences.

Very often, around the same time as the field interview, disability insurers will conduct video surveillance. One of the purposes of this surveillance is to verify whether your statements your daily activities are truthful. Any activities you perform outside the home, such as driving, grocery shopping, and going to the gym, are fair game for video surveillance. If you tell the disability insurer you are unable to engage in the forgoing activities but are later seen doing them during video surveillance, the result is an inconsistency that the insurer can use to discredit you. Accordingly, you should provide the investigator with honest and accurate information about your condition and refrain from exaggeration or falsifying information.

Going It Alone

Going to a field interview without a lawyer or other advocate by your side is a common mistake that can jeopardize your disability claim. A lawyer can help you prepare for the interview, advise you on what to say and what not to say, and help you gather the necessary documentation and medical records to support your claim. During the interview itself, the lawyer can interrupt and/or redirect the interviewer if his or her questions become excessive, leading, or overly intrusive into private matters. With a lawyer by your side, you can approach the field interview with confidence, knowing that you have a knowledgeable advocate fighting for your best interests.

Failing to Ask If the Interview Can Be Conducted by Other Means

When a disability insurer requests a field interview, don’t be shy to ask if the interview can be conducted by another means, such as telephone or written questions. Particularly if you suffer from anxiety, the insurer should be sympathetic to the anxiety-provoking nature of such interviews and be open to alternative means of obtaining the information.

Allowing the Investigator Into Your Home

When an insurance company requests a field interview, the most logical place to conduct the interview may seem like your home. However, inviting a field interviewer into your home is a mistake. By inviting the interviewer into your home, you are giving him or her free reign to observe your living quarters and draw inferences. A better approach is to request that the interview be conducted at a neutral location, such as a lawyer’s office, restaurant, or by video conference or telephone.

Failing to Take a Break When Needed

A field interview can sometimes feel like a deposition. Because of the quasi-legal nature of the proceedings, claimants may be intimidated from interrupting the interview to get up, stretch, lie down, or take a break to address symptoms. However, failing to attend to your symptoms is another mistake. The investigator is observing your demeanor during the interview and will make note of things like whether you are taking breaks or engaging in other pain behaviors.

Allowing the Interview to Go Too Long

A field interview shouldn’t last more than one hour. Anything beyond that suggests that the interviewer is prying, or that the interviewer is trying to manipulate you to sit and talk longer than you say you can. When the interview is scheduled, convey to the insurer that you will consent to be interviewed for one hour, but that anything beyond that is not feasible due to interference from your symptoms.  Hold the investigator to that time frame. If you are uncomfortable doing that, schedule a doctor’s appointment or other commitment two hours after the start of the interview so that you have an excuse to end it.

Minimizing the Impact of Your Disability

Just as exaggerating the extent of your disability during a field interview can be detrimental to your case, so too can minimizing the impact of your disability. Some individuals may downplay their symptoms or limitations out of fear of appearing weak or undeserving of benefits. However, doing so can undermine the severity of your condition and lead to a denial of benefits.

Instead, be upfront about the challenges you face due to your disability, including any difficulties performing tasks related to your occupation. Provide specific examples of how your disability affects your work and daily life, and don’t hesitate to discuss any accommodations or support you require to function effectively.

Making Inconsistent Statements

Consistency is key during a field interview with a disability insurer. Making inconsistent statements or providing conflicting information can raise red flags and cast doubt on the credibility of your claim. Insurers may compare your statements during the interview with information provided in your application or medical records, so it’s essential to ensure consistency throughout the process.

Before the interview, take some time to review your application and any supporting documentation to refresh your memory. Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history, symptoms, and limitations consistently and accurately. If you’re unsure about something, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or request a break to collect your thoughts.

Discussing Unrelated Medical Conditions

During a field interview, it’s important to focus on the disability or condition for which you’re seeking benefits. While you may have other medical issues or comorbidities, discussing unrelated conditions in detail can distract from the primary purpose of the interview and potentially complicate your case.

For instance, nearly all group disability insurance policies and many individual disability insurance policies have provisions limiting benefits for mental and nervous conditions. While you may suffer from depression and anxiety on account of your medical impairment, expounding on those conditions during a field interview may invite unwelcome scrutiny as to whether your disability is physical or mental in nature.

Instead, stick to the facts related to your disability and how it impacts your ability to work. If asked about other medical conditions, provide brief and relevant information but emphasize that they are not the primary focus of your claim. Redirect the conversation back to your main disability and how it affects your daily functioning.

Speculating About Future Improvement

Avoid speculating about future improvement or downplaying the long-term effects of your disability during a field interview. Disability insurers are primarily concerned with your current condition and how it affects your ability to work, rather than any potential improvements down the line.

Instead, focus on providing a clear and accurate picture of your current symptoms and limitations, supported by medical evidence when possible. If your condition is expected to improve in the future, be honest about it, but emphasize the challenges you face in the present and the need for assistance or accommodations to maintain employment.

Avoid These Field Interview Missteps for a Smoother Process

Field interviews with disability insurers can be daunting, but avoiding these common pitfalls can help ensure a smoother and more successful process. By providing honest and consistent information about your disability and its impact on your life, you can increase your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve. Remember to stay focused, prepared, and truthful throughout the interview, and don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a disability lawyer if you encounter any challenges along the way.

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