Columbus, OH: In 1997 Linda (not her real name) was involved in a serious car accident which left her disabled. Unumprovident did their due diligence and decided Linda had a legitimate claim. But in 2002, they had a change of mind—no reason, no explanation.
“Unumprovident talked to my doctors, they did a lot of research before they started to pay my long term disability benefits one year after the accident,” says Linda. “Then they just cut me off, right out of the blue. And I had been paying into this policy for more than 15 years without a claim.”
The giant insurance company didn’t even send Linda a letter of explanation. Linda re-read her policy and couldn’t find any reason to have her disability payments stopped. “I made my payments to them on time, I was never late on a premium panyment,” she adds. “They had absolutely no reason—my circumstances hadn’t changed and I am still disabled. I was living on a very limited budget and panicked—what was I going to do? I couldn’t afford an attorney…
“I called Unum (formerly UnumProvident) but don’t remember exactly what was said because I have problems with my memory since the accident. But I do remember them saying something like ‘That is our policy, that’s just the way it is.’ Then I asked them to send me a registered letter to explain why my benefits were cancelled.
Meanwhile, I still continued to make payments on my premiums because the reason they cut me off was obviously a mistake and I would soon be compensated—I assumed they would figure it out and I would get a check with back pay. I’ve been afraid all these years to stop payments to Unum. I thought about canceling my policy but then I heard about a class action lawsuit.
I heard that Unumprovident had illegally stopped paying long term disability benefits for no apparent reason on people like me who were disabled. Since Unum cut me off, I have been getting social security benefits and it has been a hardship. And I still haven’t got the letter from them.”
This is just one of the tactics UnumProvident (also called First Unum and Unum) uses to deny legitimate disability insurance claims. In cases like Linda’s, they simply stop payments to policy holders without an explanation while others are denied a claim outright. Unum has found many ways to practice bad faith.
UnumProvident was accused of bad faith denials of legitimate disability insurance claims and a class action lawsuit was first filed in November 2002 but it was transferred to Tennessee and certified in September 2007. The suit alleges that UnumProvident devised a scheme to illegally deny or terminate the long-term disability claims of thousands of people in violation of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
The lawsuit alleged that UnumProvident, now called Unum Group, cut costs by denying and terminating claims; provided financial incentives to in-house physicians who would rubber-stamp previously made business decisions; and authorized more senior in-house doctors to change the written reports of other “uncooperative” in-house doctors in order to justify a claim denial or termination.
According to court documents, the class is defined as “all plan participants and beneficiaries insured under ERISA-governed long-term disability insurance policies/plans issued by UnumProvident and the insuring subsidiaries of UnumProvident throughout the United States who have had a long-term disability claim denied, terminated, or suspended on or after June 30, 1999, by UnumProvident or one or more of its insuring subsidiaries after being subjected to any of the practices alleged in the complaint.”
An Unum representative said in September that “most, if not all, of the potential class members have already been well served by the claim reassessment process that is currently scheduled to conclude before the end of the year.”
Linda has not yet been “well served” by Unum.
Answering these broad-based questions isn’t easy. Help is a phone call away. You can contact Nancy Cavey, an experienced long-term disability attorney at 727-894-3188.