If you’ve recently received a letter from Northwestern Mutual denying your claim for long term disability insurance benefits, you’re not alone. As one of the biggest (and most well-respected) long term disability insurance carriers operating in the U.S., Northwestern sends out tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of these letters each year. What should disability insurance applicants expect when suing Northwestern Mutual to recover the disability insurance benefits to which they’re entitled? Read on to learn what the attorneys at Dell & Schaefer have discovered about litigating long term disability insurance claims against Northwestern Mutual.
Northwestern Mutual’s employees are experienced and you must be prepared to get approved
Most long term disability insurance carriers take a defensive approach – essentially, “deny first and ask questions later.” Because not all disability insurance applicants will appeal a denial, this can help Northwestern weed out some potential claims on the front end; meanwhile, applicants who appeal a denial of disability benefits may often be approved simply because the insurance carrier didn’t have all the information at hand when it made its decision.
Northwestern Mutual, on the other hand, engages in a heavy offense by investigating claims thoroughly before denying them. Northwestern Mutual will conduct phone and in-person interviews to boost their defense to a decision to deny benefits well before any litigation actually occurs.
Northwestern Mutual’s executives also tend to place a great deal of trust in their claims investigators. Even though an in-house attorney oversees negotiations and mediations, claims investigators aren’t shy about jumping in with questions and explanations. This is very different than many other disability insurance companies, where an attorney leads most of the post-denial discussions and the claims investigators are essentially relegated to a silent role.
Factors that must be considered prior to filing a lawsuit against Northwestern Mutual
There are ways to reverse a denial of disability insurance benefits without having to file a disability insurance lawsuit. Applicants can avail themselves of an disability insurance appeal process or provide more information to bolster their original claim; however, here at Dell & Schaefer, we haven’t often seen these post-denial, pre-lawsuit negotiations result in a positive outcome for the disability insurance claimant. In many cases, it may be best to look ahead to litigation rather than trying to bootstrap a disability insurance claim denial into an approval outside the parameters of a civil lawsuit.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Northwestern Mutual operates on an “own occupation” definition of disability. This definition may shift after a certain period of time (generally two years). In other words, while Northwestern Mutual may initially have paid out disability benefits because an applicant’s disability prevented them from performing their prior occupation, after a while, the policy’s definition of disability can shift to “any occupation,” causing Northwestern to deny additional disability insurance benefits absent a showing that the applicant can no longer perform at any job.
For those in specialized or professional careers, this can be a blow; while a surgeon suffering from hand tremors may obviously no longer be able to perform surgery (thereby entitling them to benefits under the “own occupation” standard), they could be deemed able to perform any number of lower-paying careers that don’t require steady hands.
Over 90% of disability insurance lawsuits result in a lump-sum settlement
If a disability insurance claimant sues Northwestern Mutual in federal court, the judge will often order the parties to mediation before the claim may proceed. In other situations, either the disability applicant or Northwestern Mutual itself may reach out with an offer of settlement to avoid trial. The vast majority of disability lawsuits are resolved through settlement, and this can be a win-win for both sides – allowing an disability insurance applicant to recover a sum certain without the risk of going to trial, and allowing Northwestern Mutual to close the case and take this prospective liability off their books for good.
If you’d like a little help in navigating your Northwestern Mutual disability insurance claim, look no further than Dell & Schaefer. Our experienced nationwide network of attorneys has handled thousands of these claims and we can help you too. Visit our website or give us a call today to set up your FREE consultation with a member of our team.