How Does UNUM Define Disability?

    UNUM Group – the Tennessee-based Fortune 500 insurance company that includes UNUM US, UNUM UK, and Colonial Life – defines disability in its own unique way. This means that the most commonly-accepted interpretations of “disabled” or “disability” may not quite gel with what UNUM considers disabled. What should long term disability insurance claimants know about how UNUM defines “disability”?

    If a UNUM Claimant Can Still Perform Normal Daily Activities Are They Entitled To Benefits?

    One of the most common questions UNUM disability claimants ask is this – if you’re still able to perform most activities of daily living, are you entitled to long term disability benefits with UNUM? The answer is often yes, but depends on how closely these daily activities are tied to your work duties. In other words, someone whose job requires them to sling 40-pound boxes onto the back of a truck may no longer be able to work after a rotator cuff tear, but might still have no problem tinkering in their garden or going on a jog around the block. It’s important to note that UNUM can (and often will) engage in video surveillance and can use this sort of evidence against you. But in most cases, as long as you can show that your disability prevents you from engaging in work activities, you should be protected.

    UNUM’s Definition of “Own Occupation”

    UNUM defines a claimant’s “own occupation” or “regular occupation” broadly, and uses definitions and parameters from the national economy, not the claimant’s individual situation. (For example, if you can’t perform your former job because it requires you to assemble widgets while standing, while other widget-assemblers across the U.S. are often allowed to sit, UNUM may consider you able to perform your “own occupation” – since standing isn’t an essential function of the job.)

    How Can a Claimant Prove What Their “Own Occupation” Is?

    Proving a disability insurance claimant’s “own occupation” will depend on factors like the job title, the job description, and the job’s essential duties. Some occupations are common enough (and some disability insurance companies are big enough) to have their own classifications that are simply plugged into UNUM’s systems, while other occupations may need to be finessed a bit to reflect the claimant’s true duties and position.

    What Is “Any Gainful Occupation”?

    During the beginning of a UNUM disability claim, a disability insurance claimant will generally be qualified to receive long term disability benefits if they’re considered “unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your regular or own occupation” due to illness or injury. But after about two years, this definition shifts – 24 months into a claim, UNUM will consider a claimant disabled only if they’re unable to perform the material or substantial duties of any gainful occupation based upon their training, education, or experience. This is a much stricter standard, and simply being unable to perform the job you were doing when you became disabled may not be enough. UNUM can rely on a claimant’s work history, resume, and other data to create a profile in its vocational databank to see what other jobs, if any, the claimant is qualified to do even with their disability.

    If you need to apply for long term disability benefits, appeal a denial of benefits, or even sue UNUM to receive the disability insurance benefits to which you’re entitled, give Dell & Schaefer a call. Our disability lawyers can provide you with a free consultation to see how we can assist with your disability claim.

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    Questions About Hiring Us

    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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