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Job versus occupation Archives

Insurers Must Evaluate Cognitive/Mental Demands of An Occupation

DeBofsky, Sherman & Casciari attorneys Mark DeBofsky and Martina Sherman recently won the case of Wonsowski v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 2016 WL 3088141 (N.D. Ill. June 2, 2016) following a bench trial before Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown in the federal court in Chicago.  The case involved Shellie Wonsowski, who had worked as a mechanical engineer before becoming disabled on account of symptoms of idiopathic gastroparesis.  Although Wonsowski initially qualified for benefits, United terminated her benefit payments after concluding she was capable of returning to her regular occupation, which was classified as requiring sedentary exertion.

Job versus Occupation

In evaluating occupational disability claims, insurers distinguish between the insured's job and their occupation.  If an employee cannot perform their job, they may still be denied disability insurance benefits if they remain capable of performing their occupation as it is generally performed in the national economy.  Polnicky v. Liberty Life Assur.Co. of Boston, 2014 WL 6680725, 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 164890 (N.D.Cal. November 25, 2014) is an illustration of this issue.  There, a mortgage broker employed by Wells Fargo   claimed he was no longer able to make calls upon realtors and customers due to a spine impairment. However, the insurance company insisted that the occupation of "sales representative, financial services" could be performed within the bank while seated at a desk.  The court disagreed.

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