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Washington disability attorney filed lawsuit against the Hartford Insurance Company for denial of long term disability benefits to mentally disabled woman

A disability attorney recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of his client at the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington against the Hartford Insurance Company (Hartford). In the case of Robin (Hunt) Hankel v The Hartford Insurance Company /The Hartford Financial services Group, the plaintiff was a woman employed in the health Safety and Environmental Management/ Engineering field for Harpers. While employed with Harpers, she contributed to a disability insurance plan which was issued by Hartford.

On November 29th 2003, the plaintiff was relieved from work due to several medical conditions that prevented her from fulfilling the material duties of her occupation. She was diagnosed as having severe mental disorders resulting in her being deemed as having mental disability.

Change of Disability Definition Results in Hartford Claim Denial

On June 8th 2007, the plaintiff was informed by Hartford that her case will be subjected to a disability test change and her current disability benefits would be exhausted on June 29th 2007. The plaintiff was told that in order for her to qualify to receive more benefits, she had to demonstrate that her impairments prevented her from performing the essential duties of “any occupation” as of July 3rd 2007.

On October 1st 2007, the plaintiff appealed Hartford’s decision to deny her LTD benefits and was instructed to submit documentations to support her ERISA appeal. The plaintiff diligently supplied three years of medical records from her attending physicians as instructed by Hartford. She was later told by one of Hartford’s staff that the plaintiff did not need to provide additional documentations including the Attending Physicians Statement and Physical Capacities Evaluation.

On April 7th 2008, independent examination was performed on the plaintiff by Hartford. And based on this independent review, Hartford concluded that the plaintiff failed to prove that she was unable to perform the essential duties of any occupation and denied her claim for long term disability (LTD) benefits on May 9th 2008. Part of the reason for the denial was the failure on the plaintiff’s part to submit the Attending Physicians Statement and Physical Capacities Evaluation.

On June 25th 2008, the plaintiff submitted additional documentations from her attending physician which stated that the plaintiff was suffering from Chronic major depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Stephen-Johnson Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Sleep Disorder, Neuropathy, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, severe allergies, back and neck pain associated with degenerative disease and early signs of multiple sclerosis. The physician’s letter also indicated that the plaintiff was taking a multitude of medications.

Despite the additional medical documentations submitted, Hartford made no effort to further evaluate the plaintiff’s claim for LTD benefit and issued a letter to the plaintiff on October 22nd 2008 stating that the final appeal decision had been reached on May 9th 2008, and was based on “a complete and final administrative record.”

Allegations made against Hartford in the lawsuit

The plaintiff claimed that Hartford had denied the plaintiff’s claim for LTD benefits even though there was convincing medial evidence to support her disability. In addition, the failure by the plaintiff to return the Attending Physicians Statement and Physical Capacities Evaluation was due to improper instructions by Hartford’s staff. As a result of Hartford’s actions, the plaintiff has suffered damages.

Relief Sought

The plaintiff is seeking from the Court the following relief:

  • An award of damages compensating the plaintiff for special damages
  • An award of damages for emotional stress suffered
  • An award of repayment of disability benefits to the Social Security Administration
  • An Award of attorney’s fee and costs
  • Reinstatement of the Plaintiff’s LTD benefits
  • Prejudgment interest
  • Any other relief deem just and equitable by the court.

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