If you insist on appealing on your own without legal representation, you should follow the steps below:
- Read the entire denial letter carefully from start to finish. Read it again a couple more times. The insurance company is legally obligated to advise you of the specific reasons it is denying your claim. The carrier must reference the specific policy provision on which the denial is based; describe what additional material or information, if any, is necessary to further evaluate and support your claim; and explain what specific steps you must take to appeal.
- Next, you should request your free copy of your claim file from the insurance company. Submit your request in writing immediately after the denial order to allow you sufficient time to review its contents before writing your appeal. This claim file should include a copy of your entire disability policy.
- You must submit your appeal to the insurance company before the specified deadline. You should do so in writing, not by telephone, preferably by certified mail with delivery confirmation. It is critical that you do not miss your deadline. The time to appeal starts immediately after the insurance company denies your claim.
- Your appeal letter should clearly state that you are appealing the denial of your disability claim. You should specifically state the basis for your appeal and list the additional evidence you are submitting in support of the claim.
- If you received assistance in filing the appeal, be sure to mention this fact in your letter because insurance companies have been known to point to a well-written appeal letter by the claimant as support for upholding their previous denial. If preparing the appeal letter and putting together the enclosures took you a significant amount of time, be sure to mention that fact as well.
You Will Need Evidence to Support Your Claim
Finally, do not assume that the insurance company obtained all of the medical records and other evidence relevant to your case. Carefully review the list of evidence the insurance company considered in rendering its decision and submit (or resubmit) anything that will help prove your disability. “Packing the record” with such evidence is critical. Don’t forget – in most cases, you cannot submit any additional evidence during the lawsuit, no matter how relevant it is to your case. The only thing the court will review is the information that was in the claim file at the time the insurance company made its decision. The appeals process is the perfect opportunity to add as much information as possible to the claim file. Such evidence may be critical to a lawsuit later down the line. For such reasons, I generally recommend that you do not handle your own appeal on your own. Remember- ERISA laws are unfair and difficult for non-attorneys to comprehend. For assistance with your appeal, call 850-308-7833 as soon as possible.