Federal Appeal Court Upholds District Court Order to FedEx to Pay Long Term Total Disability Benefits to Its Employee

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently agreed with a federal district court in South Carolina that the Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) was blatantly wrong when it denied long-term total disability benefits to its employee who was injured on the job. The claimant, Richard Bilheimer, had been employed by FedEx for eight years when he was involved in his second on the job car wreck. He was left with major injuries and life-long medical problems, including chronic pain syndrome, degenerative and herniated discs, chronic cervical radiculitis and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

Bilheimer initially received six months of short-term disability benefits followed by 24 months of temporary long-term benefits from FedEx which administered its own disability benefits program. FedEx initially denied short term disability benefits to Bilheimer, but with the help of disability Attorneys Dell and Schaefer those benefits were paid. Total disability benefits were available to a person who was unable to “engage in any compensable employment for twenty-five hours per week.” So, when the temporary long-term benefits term expired, Bilheimer applied for total disability benefits.

As evidence to support his claim, Bilheimer presented reports from two experts, both of whom had examined him. One examining expert found Bilheimer suffered from several serious limitations in performing in the workplace. In addition to examining him, the other expert was also Bilheimer’s treating physician. Based on the examination and treatment, the doctor declared Bilheimer totally disabled, meaning he could not work at any employment even on a part-time basis for 25 hours a week.

FedEx denied the claim and the administrative appeal based on the conclusion of its peer review physicians who reviewed the medical records but never examined or observed Bilheimer. None of them even contacted the treating physicians. Even so, they concluded there was “no significant objective clinical documentation” that indicated Bilheimer could not work at “some employment” for a minimum of 25 hours a week. Bilheimer then filed a lawsuit in the District Court and the court ordered FedEx to pay him total disability benefits. FedEx continued to fight its former employee and appealed.

The Fourth Circuit agreed with the District Court and ordered FedEx to pay total disability benefits to Bilheimer. The appellate court stated that the district court correctly found the opinions of the treating physicians more persuasive than those presented by in the peer review reports.

The appellate court also expressed displeasure with FedEx in expecting Bilheimer to work at “some job” for 25 hours a week and held that nominal employment, “such as selling peanuts or pencils” does not amount to compensable employment. A person need not be “utterly helpless” in order to be considered disabled and “compensable employment” does not mean “any job at any place with any pay.”

Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the district courts finding that the weight of the evidence supported Bilheimer’s claim that he could not work at any employment for 25 hours per week. The court ordered FedEx to award Bilheimer the long term total disability benefits to which he was entitled.

If you have questions about collecting your disability benefits or need help pursuing your claim, call us at Dell & Shaefer for a free consultation.

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There are 2 comments

  • Azul,

    Federal as in Social Security disability. Please note we only handle short and long term disability insurance claims through private companies. If you are in need of assistance in finding a SSDI attorney in your area please feel free to contact our office and we can assist you with same.

    Stephen JessupJul 29, 2015  #2

  • I have been looking for a feaderl disability attorney since 2004. I have had bilateral knee replacement and had another claim closed out without my knowledge with a verbal notice that it will not be reopened even though I have and had been providing documentation on it. I really would like to obtain a consultation via telephone. I await a response.

    AzulJul 28, 2015  #1

FAQ

Do you work in my state?

Yes. We are a national disability insurance law firm that is available to represent you regardless of where you live in the United States. We have partner lawyers in every state and we have filed lawsuits in most federal courts nationwide. Our disability lawyers represent disability claimants at all stages of a claim for disability insurance benefits. There is nothing that our lawyers have not seen in the disability insurance world.

What are your fees?

Since we represent disability insurance claimants at different stages of a disability insurance claim we offer a variety of different fee options. We understand that claimants living on disability insurance benefits have a limited source of income; therefore we always try to work with the claimant to make our attorney fees as affordable as possible.

The three available fee options are a contingency fee agreement (no attorney fee or cost unless we make a recovery), hourly fee or fixed flat rate.

In every case we provide each client with a written fee agreement detailing the terms and conditions. We always offer a free initial phone consultation and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you in obtaining payment of your disability insurance benefits.

Do I have to come to your office to work with your law firm?

No. For purposes of efficiency and to reduce expenses for our clients we have found that 99% of our clients prefer to communicate via telephone, e-mail, fax, GoToMeeting.com sessions, or Skype. If you prefer an initial in-person meeting please let us know. A disability company will never require you to come to their office and similarly we are set up so that we handle your entire claim without the need for you to come to our office.

How can I contact you?

When you call us during normal business hours you will immediately speak with a disability attorney. We can be reached at 800-682-8331 or by email. Lawyer and staff must return all client calls same day. Client emails are usually replied to within the same business day and seem to be the preferred and most efficient method of communication for most clients.

Reviews

Bruce R. (Arizona)

Steve Dell has done an exceptional job with my disability application process. The firm is extremely well managed. They have acquired an incredible amount of experience over many years. I recommend them for disability insurance claims without reservation. 

Don (Florida)

I called this firm a few months ago completely disparaged due to a company cutting off disability benefits at a time that nearly caused me to lose everything.

Attorney Alex Palmera and Danielle worked hard to reach an amicable settlement and my case was settled a few months later. This is a good firm and the specific expertise in disability claims saved me countless hours of hassle at a time when an already fragile state existed.

Thank you Mr. Palamara and Danielle.

Sandra B. (Arkansas)

I have nothing but good things to say about how my buyout was handled with my disability claim. The level of professionalism was amazing. All of my questions and concerns were answered either by Danielle L. or Alex P. in such a timely manner and with such care I would recommend them in a heartbeat to anyone needing to approach their provider with buyout options.

They did a fantastic job communicating between the provider and me, always keeping my best interest at heart and always answering my many many questions. They really did take most of the stress out of this whole situation. I would give them a 10 out of 10 for every step of this crazy journey. Thank you so much for helping me through this.

Brenda R. (New York)

I needed assistance with an appeal for a LTD claim that was initially denied. Stephen understood what needed to happen to win the appeal and he did win the appeal for me.

Michael C. (Virginia)

Greg Dell and his assistant Anneli have been extremely responsive and helpful, not only our initial consultations, but in follow-ups 1 and 2 years later with the insurance company to ensure that they comply with their agreements (which they did), as well as a separate and only slightly-related inquiry about our health insurance. I always hear back from them very quickly, which is rare and greatly appreciated.

Jeff P. (Oklahoma)

After a very long and frustrating ordeal to keep my LTD payments coming I decided to seek assistance from and attorney. After much research and asking those in the legal profession Dell & Schaefer seemed to be the top choice. I reached out and Alex Palamara was the attorney assigned to my case. All I can say is the experience was outstanding. Both Alex and his Paralegal, Danielle Lauria were excellent to work with. They were very kind, concerned, understanding of my frustrations and treated me with the utmost respect. Communication was excellent with regular updates and telling me what I could expect in each stage of the process.

Alex was also very straight forward with what to expect and no pie in the sky promises or expectations were made. In the end we won our case and I believe it was solely due to their experience and knowledge of not only the laws but the insurance companies as a whole. I would highly recommend them and am very grateful for the help they afforded to me.

Chad B. (Illinois)

I originally spoke with 3 other long term disability lawyers about my case before contacting Dell and Schaefer. None of those law firms would take it. They said the chances of me winning was not good. After finding Dell and Schaefer online I spoke with one of the attorneys that has since left. He did take my case but later it was picked up by Rachel Alters. Rachel is amazing and a very intelligent attorney. She not only won my case but also was able to get my back pay for 6 months.

I also cannot say enough about Sonia Nogueira. Sonia was always quick to answer any of my questions. I would usually hear back from her within hours of sending her a email. I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t contacted them. My family and I cannot thank them enough. Don’t let an insurance company tell you they are not responsible for paying you. I paid them for 20 years monthly and they looked for any reason they could not to have to pay me when I needed my benefit. Thank you Rachel and Sonia for all you guys do.

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