There are three occasions when someone would consider hiring a lawyer for a disability insurance claim: Before filing a claim, after a claim has been denied, and prior to filing a lawsuit. Different considerations apply to hiring a lawyer for representation in connection with a disability insurance claim, but in each situation, a client’s expectations should be the same.
Do I Need a Disability Benefits Lawyer?
Here most common stages during your disability claim process when you should consider consulting with or hiring a disability benefits attorney:
Before Filing a Claim:
It is generally advisable to seek legal counsel and advice before filing a disability insurance claim. Insurance policies are complicated and can be difficult to understand; and the claim process may be challenging to navigate without guidance. Even if the attorney remains on the sidelines while the claim is being processed, it is helpful for claimants to have expectations how their claim will be decided and what may be helpful to submit in order to enhance the likelihood of approval. Hiring a lawyer before filing a claim also means that if any issues arise during the claim process, the attorney is up to speed and ready to jump in and protect the client’s rights. Insurance companies often rely on advice and counsel of their attorneys during the claim process. Claimants should too.
After a Claim Denial:
No lay person should handle a disability insurance claim appeal on their own behalf. No matter how smart and sophisticated they may be, disability insurance is complex; and handling a claim appeal properly is the key to success in court if the claim appeal is denied. Indeed, the failure to submit a thorough appeal may doom the claimant’s chances of winning in court if the appeal is denied.
Claimants should not be misled if an insurance company representative tells them that an appeal does not require a lawyer. And while hiring a lawyer results in legal fees, saving money should never be an excuse for not having a lawyer at your side considering the stakes of what is at issue. Many lawyers handle claim appeals on a contingency fee basis, which means no fees are due unless benefits are awarded. Thus, choosing not to hire a lawyer to handle an appeal of a denied disability insurance claim may turn out to be penny wise and pound foolish.
Before Filing a Lawsuit
Here, again, no layperson, or even an attorney who is not familiar with litigation of disability insurance disputes, should forego hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit on their behalf. Litigation is inherently complex; and litigation over disability insurance benefits increases the challenge even further, which makes having a lawyer on the claimant’s side is essential.
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What Should You Expect from Your Disability Benefits Lawyer?
When engaging an attorney, the client should both expect and demand the following of any attorney they choose:
1. Knowledgeable and Experienced
In hiring a lawyer to offer advice and counsel, or representation in a matter involving disability insurance, a potential client should know the lawyer they are hiring is well-versed in the field. If the benefits are derived from an employer-sponsored benefit plan, the claim is likely going to be governed by the ERISA law (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), which necessitates even a higher level of knowledge about that area of the law in addition to having familiarity with disability insurance. Claimants should therefore avoid hiring a lawyer who is a general practitioner and should look for a lawyer who focuses on handling disability insurance cases. Clients should also be wary of hiring a lawyer or law firm just because their name appears as the top result in a Google search. A top result from an internet search is not necessarily indicative of the law firm’s knowledge and experience. Instead, someone in need of a disability insurance lawyer should focus their search on learning more about the lawyer or law firm to make sure the lawyer really has the experience they may claim to possess. Read the lawyer’s biography to learn more about the cases the lawyer and law firm have litigated and whether they have handled similar matters for other clients.
Clients should also take the time to read what the lawyer has written about issues that may be similar or even almost identical to the client’s needs – not just self-published blogs, but also articles the lawyer may have published in authoritative legal publications such as law reviews written for other lawyers, bar association journals, and legal news sources. Finally, the client should see whether the lawyer has lectured on disability insurance related topics at legal seminars or teaches law students. A lawyer who teaches other practicing and budding lawyers is one who has been recognized by their peers as possessing expertise in the field.
All lawyers have an ethical duty to be zealous in their representation of their clients. But some stand out for leaving no stone unturned and putting in the hard work and effort that makes the difference between winning and losing. Clients can learn a lot about the lawyer and law firm they plan to hire by reading client testimonials and seeing what others have said about their experience with the lawyer and law firm.
Zealousness does not mean combativeness, though, and in the long run a client is better off hiring a disability lawyer who is well-respected by judges and opposing counsel. That does not mean the lawyer is “soft” or weak; it means the lawyer is effective and is recognized by their peers and courts as someone who gets the job done.
In addition, every client expects that the lawyer they hire is honest and ethical, but that also means the lawyer will scrupulously maintain all client confidences, avoid even the appearance of any conflict, and be entirely transparent in explaining fees and case expenses, along with claims and litigation strategy. In addition, the client should expect the lawyer to be compassionate. Spend time talking to the lawyer you plan to hire. Clients who have disability insurance claims are going through a hard time and need to know the lawyer cares about them and not just their case.
3. Responsive and Informative
The most commonly heard complaint about lawyers is that they fail to return phone calls. Clients have a right to expect prompt responses when they call or send emails to their attorneys. While responses to phone messages or emails sent in the evening, on weekends, or holidays may be delayed until the next business day begins, or the lawyer may be tied up in court, a deposition, or in a meeting when the client reaches out, clients appreciate responsiveness and being informed of the progress of their matter.
4. Realistic and Economical
Every client has expectations – but are those expectations realistic? A potential client should select a lawyer who tells them what they need to hear and know and not just what they want to know or hope to hear. Ideally, a client should select a lawyer who under-promises and over-delivers.
In looking for a lawyer, a client should select one who provides the best quality services at a fair price and who manages legal costs and expenses to provide the best “bang for the buck.” The availability of contingency fees in most disability insurance matters can make it feasible to pursue a case that would be unaffordable if the lawyer charged by the hour for their services. But sometimes an hourly fee arrangement is more economical than a contingency or flat fee; and not all contingency fee arrangements offered by lawyers are the same. The fee should be commensurate with the services performed and the results achieved.
Get the Right Attorney to Guide You and Defend Your Disability Insurance Claim
Disability insurance claims, either though individual insurance policy or an ERISA plan, are complex. No need to go through the process alone. Having the right legal representation is often the key to getting the benefits you are entitled to. Get in touch with one of the top-rated disability insurance or ERISA attorneys at DeBofsky Law to properly start and defend your claim.