If you are forced to file an ERISA lawsuit against an insurance company for unfairly denying a claim for disability benefits, can you ask to be reimbursed for attorneys’ fees as part of your settlement?
If an insurance company has denied your claim for disability benefits, ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), the federal law that regulates most employee group disability benefits insurance plans, gives you the right to appeal that decision.
Many people opt to hire an experienced disability benefits attorney to represent their interests during the appeals process, while others choose not to. One of the major reasons people don’t seek legal assistance after a claim for disability benefits has been turned down is, they feel they can’t afford it.
This is a costly mistake. Statistically, your chances of successfully appealing a decision by an insurance company to deny your claim for disability benefits improve greatly when you are represented by an experienced disability benefits attorney.
You May Be Able to Collect Attorneys Fees in ERISA Disability Lawsuits Certain Circumstances
While ERISA allows you to sue an insurance company, it does not provide for the award of attorney fees — or any fees — for time spent and legal work done during the administrative appeal process. So, if a lawyer helps you prepare an administrative appeal and you win, you must pay the attorney’s fees.
But what if you’re forced to take an insurance company to court? Can you collect attorneys’ fees as part of a settlement in an ERISA lawsuit? The answer is maybe.
A 2010 decision by the Supreme Court (Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.) ruled that applicants can request reimbursement for legal fees from the insurance company if their denial of disability benefits was overturned in a Federal Court.
However, the decision to award attorney fees in ERISA disability lawsuits, as well as the amount (percentage) of attorney fees the insurer might be ordered to pay, is left up to a judge’s discretion. So, while you have a right to request reimbursement for legal fees, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get reimbursed.
Can You Afford Not to Have an Attorney?
Regardless of whether a judge decides to award you attorneys’ fees or not, having an experienced ERISA appeals attorney like M. Stanley Whitehead on your side could mean the difference between getting your badly needed benefits or having your claim permanently denied.
Stanley Whitehead is a Board-Certified Disability Benefits Attorney who has helped clients all over the US obtain the disability benefits they deserve after a private insurance company has denied their claim. He has represented clients at all phases of the appeals process – even arguing before a judge in federal court.
He’s prevailed against giants like Unum, Prudential, Sun Mutual, Liberty Mutual and others. In some of these cases, the judge has ordered an insurance company to pay his client’s legal fees.
If an insurance company has denied your claim for disability benefits, contact Houston long term disability attorney M. Stanley Whitehead without delay. M. Stanley Whitehead handles cases on a contingency basis, which means there are no up-front costs to a client and Mr. Whitehead only collects a fee after he’s secured your benefits.