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Disability Insurance

Q. What is disability insurance?

A. Disability insurance pays the insured benefits on a periodic basis to replace lost income caused by illness or incapacity. Some policies may provide for payment of a reduced benefit in the event of partial disability.

Q. What is total disability?

A. Total disability is defined in the insurance contract. Ordinarily, a person is totally disabled when the insured is wholly and continuously unable to be employed. Whether an insured meets the definition of "total disability" is often the subject of litigation, especially when the insured can perform only limited job duties or can only work for short periods and with substantial accommodation. A finding of total disability is a mixed medical and vocational issue, often requiring opinions from doctors and vocational specialists. Insurance companies generally have the right to have the insured undergo periodic examinations by doctors of their choice. Often, these insurance doctors are quite old-fashioned in their approach and tend to side with the insurance company. Claimants may seek out sympathetic physicians who will support their claims. It is not unusual for an insurance company to hire private investigators to follow and tape claimants to demonstrate the claimants ability to engage in certain activities.

Q. What is partial disability?

A. Some disability policies supply for reduced benefits if the insured becomes partially disabled, that is, they can perform some job duties and have suffered an income decrease due to disability. The definition and amount of disability benefit payable for partial disability should be clearly spelled out in the policy.

Q. For how long are disability benefits payable?

A. Disability policies will pay benefits for a defined number of years or to a defined age during the period of disability. Often, disability policies contain an elimination period, that is, they require a period of disability before benefits become payable.

Q. How much disability insurance can an individual purchase?

A. An insurance company will only sell insurance to cover a portion of the insured's income. An insured can't be able to purchase more disability insurance than what the tax returns for the 2 years before the policy was purchased show the applicant was earning. Many disability policies take care of a reduction in benefits should the insured receive other income replacement benefits, such as social security.



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