Hartford has a Pattern of Conducting Surveillance on a Claimant’s Birthday

It is no secret that insurance companies perform routine surveillance to confirm the authenticity of the claim under review. The last thing a disabled claimant wants to worry about is being secretly followed by an undercover investigator especially on his or her birthday. Unfortunately, this is a pattern we have been seeing in disability claims with Hartford. Disability carriers will most often perform surveillance right around or during an IME exam, or several months before a definition of disability changes from own-occupation to any occupation. Hartford is well known for performing surveillance a few weeks or days before and/or after an in-person interview of the claimant.

We regularly receive calls from claimants worried that they are being followed by an investigator. Some insurance companies – like Hartford – are predictable as to when surveillance will be performed. One of our clients contacted us when Hartford terminated his long-term disability claim based primarily on an “activities check” – Hartford’s term for surveillance – which had been conducted on our client’s birthday. Mr. B had been on claim for over 4 years due to chronic pain syndrome, degenerative disc disease, neuropathy, severe low back pain and neck pain, as well as other disabling conditions.

Hartford had conducted surveillance on several occasions and had consistently reported that Mr. B lived an inactive lifestyle. Due to the severity of his symptoms, Mr. B would rarely leave his house for extended periods. On his birthday, Mr. B and his partner decided to celebrate by having dinner and going to a casino – a very rare activity and certainly not an accurate representation of Mr. B’s usual daily undertakings. The video surveillance consisted of short snippets of video and served as the basis for Hartford terminating Mr. B’s LTD claim.

On Appeal, we focused on the unreasonableness of Hartford’s decision to terminate Mr. B’s claim. Hartford had completely ignored Mr. B’s inactivity the entire day following his birthday – as Mr. B was undoubtedly suffering the effects of his birthday “activities.” The appeal also included additional evidence supporting Mr. B’s claim which ultimately led to Hartford overturning its denial. Mr. B is currently on claim and continues to be represented by our firm.

At the time it was unclear if Hartford had strategically chosen Mr. B’s birthday to perform an activities check or if it was merely a coincidence. Recently, we received a call from a claimant receiving long term disability benefits from Hartford who had received a denial letter based on surveillance video and an in-person interview that was requested by Hartford shortly after the activities check.

Upon reviewing the denial letter it came as no surprise that the activities check happened to coincide with Ms. W’s birthday. Coincidentally, Ms. W’s husband’s birthday happened to fall on the day before. Shortly following Ms. W’s birthday Hartford requested an in-person interview with Ms. W. Ms. W described her capabilities as she believed them to be and explained what her daily activities typically consist of. Several months following the interview, Ms. W was notified that her claim was terminated. The denial letter detailed the activities check and Ms. W’s interview answers.

Other carriers have been known to perform surveillance on days that the insurance company expects the claimant to be most active. After years of handling claims with Hartford it is clear that Hartford likes to perform surveillance on or around their claimants’ birthdays.

While video surveillance is common it is rarely a problem unless the claimant is seen doing something that he or she has claimed they cannot do.

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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.

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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.

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Dell & Schaefer Client Reviews   *****

Jim F.

My employer offered both Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability insurance as optional benefits among others. The premiums were significant, but since they could be payroll deducted I felt they could be reasonably managed and the security of continued income in the event of a medical disability was well worth the investment. As with the purchase of a first aid kit, most would prefer never having to use it.

I have been very fortunate to have had few illnesses or injuries throughout my life and more specifically my 45 year career as a healthcare professional. It wasn’t until early in 2012 that I was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive disease of the eye. Symptoms were minimal at that time, though regular visits to a retinal specialist, including regular therapy by ocular injection, were necessary to slow its progression, the symptoms did not appreciably interfere with my work. In spite of my treatments the condition continued to progress. In early 2014 the symptoms began to interfere dramatically with my day to day duties. My job required significant computer use and the reading of copious amounts of medical documentation. It became evident to me that I could no longer meet the expectation of my management and clinical position without working frighteningly long hours and enduring the relentless eye strain and other symptoms related to the illness.

Though I had always planned for eventual retirement from my full-time position, like most professionals I had hoped to be able to continue to practice my profession on a part-time basis throughout my retirement as long as I remained competent and able. That was not to be. Thankfully, I had the foresight to elect the disability benefit options offered by my company and have the premiums payroll deducted for many years. I notified my supervisor and HR representative that I had to stop working due to my condition and proceed with the disability application process.

All went very well and after using up my accrued vacation and sick time, my short-term disability benefits commenced. Since my condition is progressive and incurable I felt secure in knowing that once my short-term benefits were exhausted my benefits would continue under the long-term policy. However, much to my surprise, after receiving about a month of benefits I received notification from the insurance company that a decision had been made to terminate my benefits due to lack of objective medical evidence to support my claim, though significant documentation had been provided by my retinal specialist.

I was bewildered and unsure of how to proceed with an appeal of that decision. Since I had 180 days to do so, I decided to research the matter thoroughly. In spite of my being a veteran healthcare professional everything I had been reading on the subject cautioned about attempting to proceed with an appeal on my own. Legal representation was highly recommended.

I then began a review of local attorneys, hoping to find one that provided enough documentation on their website that indicated experience with non-social security disability related cases. I was also interested in seeing evidence of some experience with disability cases related to diseases of the eye and resultant vision impairment. I was unsuccessful.

So I expanded my search to include national law firms. It was then that I discovered Dell & Schaefer. After thoroughly reviewing their website, watching many of the video discussions, noting experience with vision related cases, particular documentation related to the insurance company that handled and then eventually denied my benefits, and reading a significant number of testimonials, I decided to request a free consultation as advertised. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

After that consultation, I was very confident that I was in very skilled hands which alone reduced my anxiety level immensely. Attorney Alexander Palamara and his Legal Assistant, Kathleen Bordes, immediately began managing my case, their professional expertise clearly evident.

They worked closely with my retinal specialist, my optometrist and the insurance company in compiling the medical documentation necessary for a successful appeal in an amazingly short period of time, keeping me fully informed all along the way. Shortly after being notified by the insurance company that my benefits would be reinstated and paid through the full term of my short-term policy I received a lump-sum payment.

Once the short-term disability appeal was successfully completed, Alex and Kathy immediately addressed the long-term policy benefits. Again in a remarkably short period of time I was granted those benefits, receiving a lump-sum payment for benefits to date and will receive a payment monthly going forward per the terms of my LTD policy.

I am extremely pleased with how my case was handled and the very favorable outcome. Alex and Kathy were a delight to work with and extremely professional in every way. Incidentally, the fee I paid to Dell and Schaefer for their incredible representation was very reasonable and very well earned.

I highly recommend the services of Dell & Schaefer to anyone who may find themselves in a similar disability-related situation.

***** 5 stars based on 202 reviews

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