Federal judge OKs class action status for suit against Unum Group

A federal judge Tuesday granted class-action status to a lawsuit that contends Unum Group, the nation’s largest disability insurer, schemed to deny or terminate claims of thousands of disabled Americans.

Jim Sabourin, a spokesman for the Chattanooga-based company, described the order as “procedural.” He said “it has nothing to do with the merits” of the 2003 lawsuit. The suit contends Unum Group violated the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, in claims handling, partly by creating secret documents in which non-medical employees set a “target date for cutting off future disability payments.”

The lawsuit was filed before 2004, when insurance regulators in 49 states agreed to settle an investigation of Unum Group’s claims handling, Sabourin said. That agreement required Unum Group, formerly UnumProvident, to reconsider about 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. The company in March changed its name to Unum Group, which includes subsidiaries Unum Life Insurance Co. of America, Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., Unum National Insurance Co., and Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co.

Sabourin said the company as part of the 2004 agreement is almost finished reassessing claims denials and terminations. “It’s a procedural ruling focused solely on class certification,” Sabourin said. “The relief sought is exactly what we have been doing in the reassessment process through the past two years.” He said that of the reassessed claims “about 30 percent” of the initial decisions were changed.

The order signed by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier shows the suit was filed by seven plaintiffs who are “insured under group long-term disability benefit plans’ policies underwritten and managed by UnumProvident’s subsidiaries.”

The plaintiffs contend the company denied more than 31,000 new claims from June 30, 1999 to the date of the suit filing and that at least 6,200 plan beneficiaries were “subjected to defendants’ alleged illegal claims practice.”

Collier in the class action order said “plaintiffs have not requested monetary relief. What they have requested is `declaratory relief determining the illegality of the conduct alleged and injunctive relief whereby UnumProvident and its subsidiaries are ordered to immediately cease, in all states of the United States of America, engaging in the offending practices.'”

Collier said that if the claims are proven true “some plaintiffs” may receive monetary relief. Unum shares rose 48 cents to $24.95 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.

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Do you help Unum claimants nationwide?

We represent Unum clients nationwide and we encourage you to contact us for a FREE immediate phone consultation with one of our experienced disability insurance attorneys.

Can you help with a Unum disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Unum. We have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants nationwide with monthly disability benefits. With more than 40 years of disability insurance experience we have helped individuals in almost every occupation and we are familiar with the disability income policies offered by Unum.

How do you help Unum claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Unum long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer.

Our experienced lawyers can assist with Unum:

  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Appeals of Disability Benefit Denials
  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Disability Benefit Lawsuits
  • Applying For Short or Long Term Disability Benefits
  • Daily Handling & Management of Your Disability Claim
  • Disability Insurance Lump-Sum Buyout or Settlement Negotiations

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.

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EH, M.D.

I am a physician with a long medical history including cancer, arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (formerly RSD). I expected to retire early. However, my health and work deteriorated rather rapidly. Suddenly I was no longer working and needed help negotiating my benefits. The first two attorneys I met were personally recommended. I soon learned that they had either limited or no experience with private LTD policies. I searched the internet for more information about Long Term Disability claims. The Dell & Schaefer website kept popping up with the answers to my questions. I liked both the text explanations and the videos. With nothing to lose, I requested a free consultation.

From the beginning, Attorney Steven Dell and legal assistant Merlin Bryan have been consistently honest, professional and patient. During my initial phone conversation with Steven Dell, it was clear that he understood both my medical conditions and my work situation. He had already read my LTD policies and was familiar with both the Unum and the Hartford insurance companies. Steven Dell is an excellent, thorough attorney. What does that mean? First, he knows what information is needed to submit a claim. Early on, he gave me a checklist of items he needed. At times, it felt like a part-time job, finding all of the financial, employment, and medical records he needed. Yet Steven Dell and Merlin Bryan were very patient whenever I had a health setback. They actually understood that folks with health problems have problems filling out paperwork. Second, he picked up the phone and contacted lawyers, human resources, personnel and insurance agents to keep the paperwork moving. Third, he is relentlessly thorough. I submitted hundreds of pages of paperwork. He actually seems to have read them! He double checked that dates, numbers and statements were accurate. He would not submit any paperwork until any discrepancies were discussed and resolved. At this time, two LTD claims have been approved and I have received my first benefits. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for this law firm. Thank you!

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