Continuing with the list of The Ten Biggest Legal Mistakes Dentists Make, as adapted from disability attorney Ed Comitz’s article, published by SEAK, Inc. (2005), is Mistake #2.
MISTAKE NO. 2: Misunderstanding the Definitions of “Disability” and “Occupation”
Because there is no such thing as a “standard” disability insurance policy, the definitions of “disability” can significantly vary. Most dentists purchase “own-occupation” policies, which provide compensation following a disability that prevents the insured from performing the particular duties of his or her occupation. Thus, the insured may be entitled to benefits even if he or she could in fact perform work of a different nature. The central issue in many cases is the definition of “total disability,” which could variously mean that the insured cannot perform “all” or “every” duty of his or her occupation, or the “substantial and material duties” of his or her occupation. Similarly, the term “occupation” may be specifically defined in the policy (e.g., “invasive cardiologist”) or may refer to the insured’s occupation immediately prior to the time that disability benefits are sought. In the latter situation, if the physician reduces his or her hours in the months preceding claim filing, the insurer may consider his or her occupation to be part-time rather than full-time. Similarly, the term “occupation” may be comprised not only of the duties of a physician’s specialty, but also of significant travel time, teaching engagements, or other areas in which the physician spends time or draws revenue. For example, “occupation” may be defined as “dentist/professor/business owner,” in which case the dentist may not be “totally disabled” if he or she can still teach or perform management functions.
Action Step: Dentists should read and fully understand their policy terms before filing a claim for benefits.
The disability insurance attorneys at Comitz | Beethe provide legal representation to protect the disability benefits of medical and dental professionals nationwide and throughout metropolitan Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Flagstaff and Yuma. We provide disability income claim advice, assistance with filing disability claims, including completion of disability claim forms and representation in disability insurance litigation.