If you’ve visited before, you’ll notice we’ve updated our website to take it to the next level, I think it looks great, hope you do too. (Thanks Sumner)
I’m at the American Association for Justice summer convention in San Francisco for the next few days. This is a great organization that brings together the best and the brightest in the plaintiff trial bar and it’s great fun just hanging out with lawyers from the 50 different states and talking shop.
Since AAJ is Washington D.C. focused, there is naturally a good deal of talk about what is happening with President Obama’s push to create a national health care system. I spent half an hour in the hotel lobby yesterday debating the issue with a young salesman from a large health care corporation and naturally he was skeptical about any government changes to our current system.
Where my personal interest lies is in ERISA and whether that law will be modified so I can better assist my clients with long term disability claims who are being treated unfairly by their insurance companies.
ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. It’s a 1974 federal law that covers just about all employer provided health plans and LTD insurance falls into that category (it doesn’t apply to government or religious groups).
As it’s set up now, ERISA takes away your ability to file a lawsuit for the full remedies generally available when an insurance carrier acts unfairly, an area of law known as “insurance bad faith.” As a practical matter, the law is so protective of insurance companies that they feel comfortable denying meritorious claims, since the worst that will happen is a judge might order them to pay the benefits they owe anyways and maybe some attorneys fees.
We help people prepare their disability claims packages on an hourly fee basis an represent them in federal court in ERISA litigation on a hybrid hourly/contingent fee basis to try to make the process more affordable. But if Congress and the President restore bad faith rights to LTD insureds by changing ERISA (the Wall Street Journal hinted that might happen, lawyers here at AAJ aren’t so sure it’s in the cards), then that could go a long ways towards making the playing field a leveler place for people whose disability claims are unfairly denied.