This story involves us helping build our client’s long-term disability claim back to the date of the client’s termination of employment, and using that proof of disability to force a large, lump-sum settlement to the client in the early stages of a federal lawsuit.
Our client was a successful lawyer with an impeccable reputation. After many years in private practice, the attorney went in-house and was ultimately promoted to lead litigation attorney for a multi-billion-dollar profit center. In addition to managing litigation, the attorney met regularly with executives, department heads, and line staff to exchange ideas and provide insight.
Eventually, the attorney began to make mistakes, both on the job and at home. At first, they were minor, such as forgetting names and minor details. Then it progressed to more significant communication errors, the development of hand tremors, and the onset of orthostatic hypotension that caused frequent dizziness and occasional fainting.
Our client was terminated for poor performance. Shortly thereafter, and as the severity of symptoms increased, our client began to see specialists.
It was clear that our client suffered from a progression of physical and mental maladies that had begun a few years before termination, but our client did not seek treatment from doctors until several months after being fired. We needed to identify physicians who could not only diagnose our client’s disabling conditions, but who could also certify that the symptoms and conditions predated termination of the client’s employment in order to collect any benefits under the group long-term disability insurance policy.
Our client was fortunate to live in a city that is home to some of the world’s best specialists. Our client started with neuropsychological testing, which confirmed moderate cognitive impairment. Because of the severity of the orthostasis, our client also underwent a full battery of cardio tests. During a stress test, our client’s blood pressure dropped more than 80 points; the definition of hypotension is a drop of just 20. Nevertheless, the cardiologist ruled out heart problems; he felt the symptoms were likely due to a neurological disorder.
Our client was then referred to a team of neurologists specializing in various disorders. Several months of elaborate testing batteries ruled out several potential causes but did not reveal a clear one-size-explains-all disease.
In the end, the team of physicians – including several neurologists, a cardiologist, a neuropsychologist, and a psychiatrist – concluded that our client likely suffered from a rare neurological disorder that had first manifested at age 7. Without realizing it, our client had used coping mechanisms to navigate high school, college, law school and a prestigious legal career. Given the progressive nature of the disorder, the doctors were able to confirm that it was consistent with being the cause of the attorney’s mental and physical decline. A neurologist and neuropsychologist each certified disability as of a date prior to the attorney’s employment termination, helping us establish the client’s total disability from the employer-sponsored long-term disability plan under which the client was insured.
The insurance company denied our client’s disability claim anyway, but did so without addressing all of the supplemental proof and medical evidence we submitted establishing total disability.
After we filed the lawsuit, the insurance company’s counsel contacted our office and asked to mediate as soon as possible.
At the mediation, we persuaded the insurer that the various diagnoses and related symptoms caused severe disabling restrictions and limitations dating back to our client’s time with the company. We achieved a large six-figure settlement for our client.
A Happy Ending
Our case studies typically end with discussion of the result. But, here, there is more to the story. Once our client’s physicians understood that the onset of the neurological disorder predated the recent steep progression by more than 40 years, they devised a recovery regime consisting of a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications to return our client to the status quo. Over time, our client was able to manage symptomology in a manner similar to the coping strategies used from third grade onward.
Our client has since resumed working as a lawyer and contacts us often to thank us for the way we leveraged our extensive experience handling disability claims to identify the right combination of medical experts to treat the condition. This case demonstrates the benefit of engaging experienced and aggressive legal counsel who pursue insurance companies as part of their regular practice, and who do so as early in the process as possible. Obtaining and hiring the proper experts gave our client the facts needed to maximize recovery.
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