If your Short-Term Disability (STD) or Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance claim has been denied or your disability benefits have been terminated and you are still not well enough to return to work, you may be looking for a lawyer to help you take over your fight with the insurance company.
If you search the internet you will find that there are many lawyers and law firms who list “Long-Term Disability” as one of the areas of law they practice. How do you know which lawyer or law firm is right for you? How do you know if the lawyer has enough real and meaningful experience dealing with long-term disability cases? How do you know which lawyer or law firm is going to understand what you are going through, believe in you and believe in your case, and truly fight for you to get you the best possible outcome?
These are all excellent questions and very valid concerns. The future of your health and your financial security may well depend on which lawyer you hire and how that lawyer handles your disability case. There is a lot riding on which lawyer you decide to hire. With so many lawyers to choose from, the task of finding the right lawyer for you can feel overwhelming.
Once you have found a lawyer online or been given the name of a lawyer from someone you know, reaching out to that lawyer can be intimidating. Calling a lawyer can be stressful enough in the best of times. If you are not well; if you are stressed about your health and your finances; if you are suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety or both; calling or emailing a lawyer can seem like a momentous task.
To help you find a disability lawyer who will be able to provide you with the dedication, experience and compassion you need in your fight for your disability benefits, we have put together three helpful lists to guide you in your search:
- What is important to me in a disability lawyer?
- What should I look for before I contact a disability lawyer?
- What questions should I ask a disability lawyer before I hire him/her?
We hope that these lists will help give you some guidance in your quest for the disability lawyer you need to resolve your disability benefits dispute in a way that is right for you.
First Things First: What is a Disability Lawyer?
Before we go on to our three lists, it is important to understand the difference between a “disability lawyer” and other lawyers who might practice disability law.
In recent years, mainly due to fewer cases and lower settlement values in other areas of law, many personal injury and employment lawyers are expanding their legal practices to include disability insurance law. This is why it may seem like there are so many disability lawyers out there. However, not all of these law firms or lawyers have the same experience when it comes to practicing disability law.
“Disability lawyers” or “disability law firms” focus exclusively on the practice of disability insurance law. Other lawyers, such as personal injury lawyers and employment lawyers, focus on very different areas of law but may also do some disability law.
If you are disabled from an injury and your LTD claim has been denied or terminated, your first thought might be to contact a personal injury law firm. If you are disabled and you are not able to go back to work, your first thought might be to contact an employment law firm. You might be surprised to learn that personal injury law and employment law are very different from disability insurance law. A personal injury lawyer or an employment lawyer might not have the same experience or focus on disability insurance law as a disability lawyer or a disability law firm.
Disability lawyers focus exclusively on representing people whose STD or LTD claims have been denied or terminated. (Though, if they are handling your disability claim, these lawyers may also agree to help you with a related injury or disability claim.)
Disability lawyers know disability insurance law, inside out. Some have decades of experience suing insurance companies for disability benefits. Some may have even worked for the insurance companies in the past. They know from their experience just how the disability insurance companies work and how those companies can be persuaded in your lawsuit.
Disability lawyers also know how to serve disabled clients who have serious physical and psychological illnesses. They understand that clients who are disabled need special representation to ensure that their health and finances are taken into account throughout their lawsuits. Disability lawyers know how to lessen the financial and emotional stress of litigation from the initial consultation meeting to the settlement of their cases.
Disability lawyers are dedicated to achieving a resolution that is right for each of their individual clients. They know that no two disabled clients are the same and no two disability cases are identical. Disability lawyers know the importance of personalized legal and client service that ensures disabled clients feel heard, supported and fought for.
How Do I Find a Disability Lawyer?
Finally, before we work through our three lists, you will need to find one or more disability lawyers or law firms from which to make your choice.
There are a number of ways you can go about finding a disability lawyer. You could ask friends or family members for recommendations. Your doctor or another treatment provider may have some suggestions for you. You may have hired a lawyer in the past for some other issue and that lawyer might be able to provide you with a recommendation. The Law Society Referral Service or your local legal aid clinic could also give you the names of a few lawyers who they believe can help you.
These days most people who are looking for a lawyer will simply search online for a lawyer. If you search “disability lawyer” online, you will find page after page of lawyers who do disability law. As with all searches, the lawyers and law firms that come up first are usually larger law firms with large marketing budgets to help them move their business toward the tops of search lists. Those same law firms may also be advertising on television, on radio or on the backs of buses.
Some of these law firms may claim to be the “best” or “ranked #1” or claim to have won numerous “awards”. These claims can be misleading if you are not aware that they could just be another form of advertising, as opposed to a true reflection of the firm’s experience and effectiveness in representing disabled clients. These claims may also go against the Law Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct, as explained in an article in The Toronto Star written a few years ago.
Remember that just because a law firm is big or comes up high on a Google search list, has listed several “awards” it has received, or has tv/radio ads, does not necessarily mean that the law firm focuses on disability law or that it is the right disability law firm for you.
Whether you are given the name of a lawyer or law firm from someone you know or trust or whether you find a law firm online, it is still important that you make sure that the law firm or lawyer you choose has the necessary experience, dedication and compassion to serve you in a way that is right for you.
What is Important to Me in a Disability Lawyer?
Before you start researching law firms or contacting lawyers, you may want to consider what is important to you in a disability lawyer or in a disability law firm.
There are some basic things that everyone will want in their lawyer. These things include experience, professionalism, honesty, responsiveness, hardworking, thorough, intelligent, communicative and persuasive.
There are also a lot of other things that you may consider important, while other people may not. Just as no two disabled clients are alike, no two disability lawyers/law firms are alike. Thinking about what is important to you in a lawyer or law firm will help you to know when you have found the right lawyer or law firm for your disability case.
A List of Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you determine what is important to you in a disability lawyer or law firm:
- How important is it to me to feel comfortable talking to my lawyer about very personal financial and medical issues?
- Do I need my lawyer to act aggressively like lawyers on TV or would I prefer a lawyer who uses legal strategies and persuasive skills to win my case?
- Is my lawyer’s experience in disability law important to me or am I fine taking a chance with a less experienced lawyer whose fee is slightly less?
- Do I need to hire a big law firm or would I prefer a smaller, more personalized law firm and why?
- When I call the law firm, is it important to me that I am able to speak with the lawyer who is handling my case or am I okay with dealing with a lot of different people at the law firm, throughout my case?
- Am I okay with a whole legal team knowing the personal details of my case or would I rather have a smaller group of professionals going over my records and strategizing on my case?
- How important is it that my lawyer take steps to accommodate my emotional and physical conditions in our meetings and communications and throughout the lawsuit?
- How important is it to me that my lawyer is compassionate and patient and does not rush our meetings?
- Would I prefer to pay a lawyer for their time (hourly) or for their efforts (contingency)?
- Do I need a lawyer with an office close to where I live or, if most of our communications will be by telephone, video conference and email anyway, am I okay if the office is not close by?
- Is it important to me that my lawyer can operate virtually so that I do not need to go to the law firm to meet or sign documents?
- How important is it to me that my law firm values inclusivity and diversity?
Now that you have given some thought to what is important to you in a disability lawyer or disability law firm, you will be in a better place to make a good decision about which lawyer or law firm you ultimately hire or “retain”.
What Should I Look for Before I Contact a Disability Lawyer?
Keeping in mind what is important to you in a lawyer or law firm, you will still have some work to do before you actually contact a disability lawyer.
Doing your research before contacting a disability lawyer, could save you significant time, energy and stress, down the road. You do not want to end up consulting with several lawyers, repeating your story and providing personal information and documentation each time, if you don’t have to. You also don’t want to be in a position where you hire a lawyer out of desperation or “lawyer shopping fatigue”, not knowing for certain whether the lawyer you hired is equipped to handle your case and meet your expectations in terms of providing you with the type of service you need.
The goal is to narrow down your search to one or no more than a few lawyers or law firms before you call them or consult with them. To narrow down your search, you will want to find out key information about the law firms you are considering.
A List of Questions to Ask About Disability Law Firms You’re Considering
The following is a list of key questions you will want to ask about the disability lawyer or law firms you are looking into, before you call or email:
- Does this lawyer or law firm focus on disability insurance law or is disability law just one of many areas of law listed on the lawyer’s website?
- What is the lawyer’s or law firm’s experience in handling disability insurance cases?
- How long has the lawyer been focusing on disability law, specifically? Is this a new (5 years or less) area of law for this lawyer or law firm?
- Does the law firm seem to have good knowledge of disability law based on the information they have on their website and social media, including the content of their blog articles?
- What types of disability insurance cases does the law firm handle and against which insurance companies?
- Where is the law firm located? If it is not nearby, will the lawyer travel to meet clients or arrange for Examinations for Discovery and Mediation to take place in the town/city where I live?
- If I have difficulty leaving my home, will they be able to accommodate me and represent me, remotely? Are they set up with the necessary technology (such as video conferencing and electronic document signing programs)?
- What are the law firm’s values? Are those values in line with what is important to me in a lawyer or law firm?
- Do they have experience with clients who have my type of disability? Does it appear that they will understand what accommodations I will need in their representation of me?
- Does the law firm offer translation services if I do not speak English?
- Is the law firm inclusive? Do they value diversity?
- Does the law firm offer free consultations and is there a time limit for the initial consultation?
- Does the law firm offer flexible fee arrangements (such as options to pay hourly, contingency or a combination of both)?
To find this information most quickly and efficiently, you can go online and have a look at law firm websites, social media sites and individual lawyers’ LinkedIn pages. If you are still not able to find the answers you are looking for, you can call the lawyer or law firm with your questions before you decide to book your consultation.
Remember you want a disability law firm that is open to you calling/emailing and that will be patient with you and responsive to your questions. That openness and patience should start from the moment you contact them, even if you are not yet a client.
What Questions Should I Ask a Disability Lawyer Before I Hire Them?
Now that you know what you want in a lawyer and you know something about the law firms you have found, you are in a good position to narrow your search to no more than a few lawyers or law firms. If there is one law firm or lawyer that stands out to you, you should call or email them first to schedule an initial consultation. You may not need to meet with other lawyers if the first one is right for you.
Meeting with a lawyer for the first time can be nerve-wracking. You might not know what information to bring with you or what the lawyer is going to ask you or what information is too little or too much to share with a lawyer at your first meeting. (For more information about this first meeting, see our page about what you can expect at an initial consultation.)
When you call to schedule a consultation, an experienced disability law firm will make you feel at ease, immediately. They may ask you for some basic information (as required by the Law Society), a little bit about your case, and ask you to bring with you or send by email some documents (like letters from the insurance company and your benefit booklet/insurance policy). Even without these documents, an experienced disability lawyer should still be able to give you helpful information along with their initial view of your case, based on what you tell them.
Since it is important to get moving on your case as soon as possible, ideally you will want to speak with a disability lawyer the same day you call/email or the very next day. If you are not able to speak with a disability lawyer for several days, you should question whether they are the right firm for you; whether they will respond to you within a reasonable time if you do hire them; and most of all, whether they will truly understand the urgency of your financial and emotional state.
Sometimes when you call to make an appointment for an initial consultation, you might be surprised to find that a disability lawyer answers your call and is ready to speak with you about your case, right then and there.
When it comes to you asking questions during the initial consultation, remember that a disability lawyer should be able to answer all questions relating to disability insurance law and the litigation process. If they are not able to answer a question, the lawyer should let you know what additional information they need so that they can answer your question. They may also offer to book a second free consultation with you if they need more information to determine if you have a case they can help you with.
Some of the questions you may have, along with those listed below will probably be answered during the course of your consultation. You can always go through the list below, check off questions that have been answered, and then ask any questions that the lawyer may have missed.
You may think of many other questions that are specific to your case or that come to you as you speak with the lawyer. It’s a good idea to make a note of those questions before your call or jot them down during your consultation so that you remember to ask them. Disability lawyers should welcome you to call them back at a later date or email them with any lingering questions, knowing that it might be difficult for you to remember everything you discussed.
Questions to Ask at the Initial Consultation With a Disability Lawyer
The following is a list of questions that should be answered in the course of your initial consultation with an experienced disability lawyer. The answers to these questions will help you determine if the disability lawyer or law firm is right for you.
- You may want to ask the questions listed in the section above if you were not able to find answers online or on the law firm’s website. You may also want to ask those questions to confirm that the information you found online is accurate.
- Do I have a good case? Why or why not?
- What are my options? Do I have to sue the insurance company or should I appeal the denial of my disability claim?
- How long does it take for a disability insurance case to settle?
- Will you take my case to trial if the insurance company or I do not want to settle?
- How do disability insurance cases settle? (If I win, would the insurance company start paying me monthly or would they pay a lump sum to settle my case?)
- What if I don’t win my case?
- How can I support myself financially while I am waiting for my case to settle?
- Should I quit my job? Will my employer fire me? What about my extended health care?
- What if I want to try to go back to work and my case is still ongoing?
- If I start feeling better can I volunteer or go back to school or start my own business during the lawsuit?
- Do I need to pay my legal fees hourly or can I pay only if I win my case?
- Will I need to take medications or get other treatment solely to help my case or because the insurance company says that’s what I need to get better and get back to work?
- Do I need to apply for social assistance or CPP Disability Benefits? Will you help me with those?
- I have never sued anyone, what can I expect? What are the steps in litigation?
- Is litigation stressful? What will I have to do? How will you help me get through the process?
- I am very anxious/fatigued/depressed/in pain (insert disability or symptoms). How can you accommodate my physical and cognitive limitations in how you provide your legal services to me?
- Who will I be dealing with at the law firm? Can I contact you directly if I have a question/concern? How long would it take for you to get back to me if I call or email you?
- What are your fees? How and when are they paid? What are disbursements?
- Does the insurance company pay my legal fees if we settle or win the case?
- Should I be worried about surveillance? Will the insurance company have a private investigator follow me?
- Can I leave my house or go grocery shopping or socialize or go for walks, etc. while my case is ongoing?
You may want to ask some or all of these questions or you may have many more questions. Remember, the disability lawyer you speak with on your initial consultation should be compassionate and patient with you and not rush you.
What You Should Expect From Your Initial Consultation With a Disability Lawyer
An experienced disability lawyer should do the following at an initial consultation:
- Listen to you so that you feel heard;
- Ask you relevant and insightful questions;
- Provide you with some practical information in a way that you can understand;
- Answer any and all of your questions;
- Give you their honest view of your case; and
- Let you know if and how they can help you.
- If they can’t help you, they will send you to someone who can.
Honesty is also important. If the disability lawyer believes your case may not be worth pursuing, it’s important you understand why that is. Similarly, if the lawyer believes you have a good case and can help you, it is equally important you understand why that is. It will then be up to you to decide whether you feel the need to meet with other disability lawyers or if you have found the disability lawyer that is right for you.
If upon speaking with an experienced disability lawyer, you feel confident in their experience and ability to handle your case and support you in your lawsuit, then you are done your search and you can feel some relief knowing that you are in good hands and that you reached your decision in a well-thought-out and informed way. You can then focus all of your energy and efforts on your health, while your lawyer takes over your fight with the insurance company.
If you would like to discuss your Long-Term Disability claim with an experienced disability lawyer, MK Disability Lawyers LLP are experienced disability lawyers dedicated exclusively to the practice of disability insurance litigation. We have represented disabled clients in various professions against all major life/health insurance companies in Canada. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Please contact us online or by calling us at 844-697-4600.
The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. This blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, you understand that there is no solicitor-client relationship between you and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction. If your disability claim has been denied and you require legal advice, contact a lawyer specializing in disability law.