Insurance Company Bias in ERISA Cases: Hartford’s History of Bias and Discovery of an Insurer’s Biased Claims Administration Process

Posted in: Abuse of Discretion, Conflict of Interest, Disability Insurance, Discovery, ERISA, Health Insurance, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance September 26, 2018

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), a 1974 federal law, sets minimum standards for many employee benefit plans and serves to provide protection for individuals in these plans.  Discovery in ERISA cases is often limited because the statute’s primary goal is to provide inexpensive and expeditious resolution to employee benefit claims.  District courts are generally limited to the administrative record unless a so-called structural conflict of interest exists.  Considering that insurers make benefit determinations on life, health and disability insurance claims and profit when an adverse decision is made, this scenario creates an inherent conflict of interest whenever an insurer administers a claim.

Courts find that a conflict of interest exists where the “entity that administers the plan, such …

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McKennon Law Group PC’s Trial Victory Included in Los Angeles Daily Journal’s September 21, 2018 List of Top Verdicts & Settlements

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Legal Articles, News September 25, 2018

In the September 21, 2018 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the Daily Journal published a list of its top “Verdicts & Settlements,” which included the McKennon Law Group’s case of Brian Wright v. AON Hewitt Absence Management LLC, et al.  The judgment in Mr. Wright’s favor was rated as the third highest award of damages for a plaintiff for the period of time covered.  The McKennon Law Group PC represented Mr. Wright in a dispute over the payment of short-term and long-term disability benefits.  We won this ERISA case at trial and our client was awarded all of his disability insurance benefits, attorney’s fees, costs and interest.  The list includes a summary of the case and the …

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Attending Physician’s Certifications of Disability: How Important Are They for Disability Insurance Claims Under ERISA?

Posted in: Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Social Security Administration September 14, 2018

Many employees are covered by group short-term disability insurance and/or group long-term disability insurance.  These plans provide benefits to employees who cannot return to work because of illness or injuries that prevent them from performing their work activities.  The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) governs most of these insurance plans.  Unfortunately, sometimes an insured becomes disabled and must support his claim for disability benefits.  The insured’s attending physician typically has examined the insured and determines that he cannot return to work.  The insured will want to use his physicians’ certification of disability to support his disability by submitting it to his insurer.  A common question is:  Must an insurance company accept the treating physician’s opinion regarding the …

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Do Arbitration Clauses in Employment Contracts Automatically Preclude Employees From Litigating ERISA Claims?

Posted in: Annuities, Beneficiaries, ERISA, Fiduciary Duty, Insurance Litigation Blog, Pensions, Retirement Plans August 29, 2018

Many times, employees must sign written employment contracts before beginning a new position.  These contracts generally set forth the terms of the relationship between the employer and employee.  They also establish both the rights and responsibilities of the two parties.  Employers often include an arbitration clause in their employment contract.  This means that any disputes that arise between the employer and employee must be settled through arbitration, rather than through the courts.

But what happens when an employee sues his employer not on his own behalf, but on behalf of another entity for claims that the employee cannot bring in his individual capacity?  For instance, in the context of ERISA, employees who participate in an employer-sponsored ERISA plan can bring …

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“Sole Cause” Provisions in Accidental Death and Dismemberment Policies: Are ERISA Claimants Getting a Fair Shake?

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Policy Interpretation August 22, 2018

According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among people ages 1 to 44.  For this reason, Accidental Death and Dismemberment (“AD&D”) Insurance should be an essential component of insurance coverage for most families.  As preventative care expands and baby boomers remain active, accidental deaths will likely continue to rise as the leading cause of death among individuals.  While AD&D coverage is important to protect families from unforeseen injuries and death that can have severe financial repercussions, insurance companies do not like to pay these claims as they often attempt to limit the scenarios in which an insured can recover an AD&D benefit by placing “sole cause” provisions in AD&D policies.  These provisions …

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Where Did My Long-Term Disability Benefits Go? Termination of Benefits Without Improvement of Insured’s Medical Condition

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Disability Insurance, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog August 15, 2018

Many people purchase accidental death and dismemberment insurance or disability insurance to protect themselves should they ever become injured and unable to work.  If they become injured, they file a claim with their insurance company, and, after a potentially lengthy process, the insurance company may start to pay disability or accidental death and dismemberment benefits.  Sometimes, however, after initially paying disability benefits, an insurer will suddenly change its stance on the insured’s disability and terminate the benefits.  But there is a problem: The insured has not recovered, and his medical condition has not become better.  The insured still cannot return to work.  If the insured was disabled, and nothing has changed, why the sudden termination of benefits?  Thankfully, courts also …

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Sitting: If you are Unable to do it, are you Totally Disabled Under a Long-Term Disability Policy?

Posted in: Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Insurance Litigation Blog, Policy Interpretation August 03, 2018

While most people tend to have a common-sense view of what it means to be disabled, under long-term disability (“LTD”) policies, an insured must satisfy the terms of a disability policy and its specific definitions of “disability” to receive LTD benefits.  Within the first two years of a disability claim, “disability” in a policy is normally defined as the inability to perform the essential duties of one’s own job. Thereafter, “disability” is usually defined as being prevented from performing one or more essential duties of any occupation for which an insured is qualified by education, training and experience.  This “own occupation” versus “any occupation” analysis is the source of a substantial amount of judicial opinion.

Insurance companies typically argue that

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The Latest Frontier for Forum Selection Clauses: ERISA Policies

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, ERISA, Health Insurance, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance July 26, 2018

Letters denying an insured’s claim often end by listing what steps an insured can take to challenge an unfavorable determination.  Assuming all administrative appeals have been exhausted, this generally involves filing a lawsuit. Depending on the language in the underlying insurance policy, the denial letter may state that if an insured wishes to bring suit, they must bring suit in a specific court in a particular state that could be on the other side of the country.  Clauses in contracts, such as insurance policies, that require filing suit in a particular jurisdiction are called “forum selection clauses.”

Courts often enforce forum selection clauses.  When determining whether to enforce a forum selection clause, a court will ask if the forum selection

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When Guarding the Henhouse, Some Foxes Go Rogue: When an Insurer’s Conflict of Interest Factors into Administrating Group Long-Term Disability ERISA Plans

Posted in: Abuse of Discretion, Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Conflict of Interest, Disability Insurance, Disability Insurance News, ERISA, Health Insurance, Insurance Litigation Blog, Life Insurance, News July 25, 2018

Few Americans can retire on their savings alone.  Many workers participate in an employee benefits plans, which serve to provide financial security in case of disability or retirement.  In the case of insurers that decide who qualifies for life, health and disability insurance benefits, there exists a major concern about the significant conflict of interest that exists when these insurers make these decisions and also pay for these benefits.  Will these insurers exalt their own interests of bottom line profitability over the interests of ERISA plan participants and beneficiaries who file claims for life, health and disability benefits? It is not a leap of logic that this conflict of interest results in insurance companies wrongfully denying ERISA benefit claims.

In

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Orange County Lawyer Publishes Article in July 2018 edition by Robert J. McKennon Entitled “Insurers’ Intermediaries: The Implications of Actions Taken by Agents, Employers, and Third-Party Administrators”

Posted in: Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Agent/Broker, Bad Faith, Disability Insurance, ERISA, Health Insurance, Legal Articles, Life Insurance July 13, 2018

In July 2018, The Orange County Bar Association published an article written by Robert J. McKennon and Stephanie L. Talavera of the McKennon Law Group PC in the Orange County Lawyer.  The article addresses the liability implications of the relationship between insurers and various types of intermediaries.  As the article explains, depending on the nature of the relationship between the insurer and others involved in the process, the insurer may be held liable for the actions of those who act as its intermediaries.  The article gives tips on how to make an insurer vicariously liable for the acts of those functioning as intermediaries in the insurance process.

Insurers’ Intermediaries: The Implications of Actions Taken by Agents, Employers and Third-Party Administrators

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