Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company sells long-term disability insurance actively and aggressively, but be forewarned: they will be equally aggressive in looking at ways to delay or deny your claim.
First, the company will look very carefully at the original application that you filed when applying for your policy. It wants to see if there is anything on the application that you did not represent accurately when you sought to buy the insurance.
For the first two years that you have the insurance, any mistake, whether intentional or not, could potentially provide a basis for the company to rescind your policy. When an insurance company rescinds a policy, that means it is canceled, meaning all of the premiums you previously paid are returned to you, with interest, and your policy is canceled, as if it never existed. After your policy has been in force for two years or more, insurance companies can still attempt to rescind the policy, but they will, most likely, have to prove that any mistakes on your application for the insurance were due to intentional fraud on your part.
Northwestern will then examine what job duties you list on your claim—not on the duties listed on your initial application. The company is going to seek to verify—or disprove—that you are actually doing what you claim to be doing when working in your occupation. There will also be scrutiny as to whether or not you are working in any other type of occupation, and that will include looking at your financial information and tax returns to see if you are reporting any other active income in areas besides your stated occupation.
For example, if you state that you are a full-time practicing dentist who also receives active income for managing real estate (in other words, it is not just passive income from investments), Northwestern will argue that you have a dual occupation. In this example, Northwestern will say that your disability will only be considered a total disability if you are unable to work in both real estate management and dentistry.
Northwestern will also review your medical records to see whether or not you have a diagnosis, and what restrictions and limitations are supported by your healthcare provider(s). This is typically done by every long-term disability insurance company.
The last thing that is a particular favorite of Northwestern Mutual is the field interview. This is a face-to-face interview between you and a representative of the company ostensibly geared towards them determining your restrictions and limitations, as well as better understanding your claim. In reality, these interviews are opportunities for the company to gather and marshal facts and evidence in an effort to figure out a way to deny your claim, or terminate it if it is already being paid.
All of these steps are going to be extraordinarily difficult and complicated when you are suffering from a disability, dealing with the potential loss of your profession, and dealing with an insurance company to get the benefits that you paid premiums to get. So, be forewarned when you have a claim with Northwestern Mutual—it will not be easy to collect.
Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack