Two Main Legal Options for Insurance Disputes

Web Admin - Monday, March 21, 2016

legal options for insurance disputes, Illinois Insurance Dispute AttorneysPeople purchase insurance policies to put their minds at rest. However, countless valid claims are denied by insurance companies every year. Many individuals are upset when their insurance company disputes a claim and refuses to pay—insurance companies are in the business of making money, and paying out claims is not a part of their business plan. When you find yourself involved in an insurance dispute with your insurance company, an experienced Illinois insurance dispute lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company and your disputed claim. 

Settlement As a First Option 

The most common approach for handling insurance disputes is to enter into settlement negotiations. A majority of insurance disputes are successfully resolved via settlements. Settlement negotiations begin when your lawyer submits your claim to the insurance company. The insurance company is not interested in paying the full amount of the disputed claim, but may be persuaded into paying a reduced amount of the claim instead. The insurance company will most likely reject your settlement claim; however, it will likely pitch back to you a counter settlement offer. 

After discussing the counter offer with your lawyer, you and your lawyer can then determine if the counter offer is satisfactory or not. If not, you can reject the counter settlement offer and put forth another settlement offer of your own. This process repeats until you and the insurance company come to an agreement, or ultimately decide that a settlement is not going to work. When settlement negotiations fall apart and fail, the dispute must be brought before the courts to be resolved. 

Proceeding to Court As a Second Option

If all else fails, your lawyer can prepare your insurance dispute claim for court. As an initial matter, it is very likely that your insurance policy contains a clause directed to a statute of limitations for bringing an insurance dispute to court. Your lawyer should be able to review your policy and inform you of when you must file the action in court in order to prevent your claim from being time barred under the policy. 

Your case will most likely be based on contract law or the Illinois Insurance Code, both of which your insurance dispute lawyer is highly familiar with. Additionally, your cause of action will most likely be based on a breach of contract (i.e., the insurance company refusing to pay, as per the insurance contract), or a violation of the Illinois Insurance Code. Your insurance dispute lawyer will work closely with you to develop your strongest case against your insurance company so that you can get the claim payout that you need. 

If you are having difficulty with your insurance company refusing to payout a valid claim, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois insurance dispute attorneys today. Our firm serves the communities of Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Inverness, Palatine, Des Plaines, Schaumburg, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. 

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Appealing ERISA Life Insurance Claim Denial

Web Admin - Friday, August 21, 2015

Illinois insurance dispute lawyerThe Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) governs certain life insurance plans offered by employers. Whether or not ERISA covers an insurance plan is important because it will impact the way in which a claim denial may be appealed. Additionally, claims governed by ERISA have more limited remedy options than under traditional state law.

What is ERISA?

Under ERISA, minimum standards are established for benefit plans offered by employers, including life insurance plans. However, ERISA is only applicable to private employers that offer employer-sponsored insurance (or other benefit plans) to employees. ERISA does not mandate that plans are offered by employers, but does set standards and rules that must be met for those employers that do offer plans. ERISA does not apply to individually purchased, private insurance plans.

Additionally, ERISA does not apply to the following plans:

  1. - A government plan;
  2. - A church plan with respect to which no election has been made under section 410(d) of title 26;
  3. - A plan maintained strictly for the purpose of complying with relevant workers’ compensation laws or unemployment compensation or disability insurance laws;
  4. - A plan maintained outside of the United States for the benefit of nonresident illegal immigrants; or
  5. - An excess benefit plan that is not funded.

Appealing a Claim Denial

The process for appeal begins with the insurance company sending a letter to the claimant explaining that the claim has been denied. A claimant has the right to receive all “relevant documents” to the case, but this must be requested. It is important to request the plan administrator to send these documents. After the claimant has all of the documents and is ready to state his or her case, the request for an administrative review should be made. However, a request for this review must be made within 180 days of the denial of the claim. It is important to note that, under ERISA-governed plans, a lawsuit is not available until an administrative review is conducted.

For the review, the insurance company will provide the reasons for denying the claim. The claimant should respond to these thoroughly and objectively. This is a critical step, because the information provided at this stage will be the information that the judge will review upon appeal in the event that the administrative review is not favorable to the claimant. Similarly, the administrative review is limited to the evidence and medical documents that have been provided to the company.

If the administrative review does not overturn the denial of the claim, the decision can be appealed by filing a federal lawsuit. ERISA does not allow for punitive damage awards or bad faith claims in these types of lawsuits. Additionally, the case is heard and ruled on by a judge, not a jury. As a result of these differences, quite often it can be beneficial to attempt to argue that ERISA does not cover the insurance plan.

Appealing denial of claims governed by ERISA can be complicated. For more information about the process and how an experienced Illinois insurance dispute attorney can help, contact us today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC proudly provides legal representation for communities such as Des Plaines, Crystal Lake, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Barrington.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

What to Expect When Suing an Insurance Company

Web Admin - Thursday, September 11, 2014

insurance lawsuit, Palatine insurance lawyerPeople purchase insurance with the goal of protecting themselves in the event that something unfortunate happens. However, no matter how hard people try to understand their policies and the limitations on them, many people face situations where they feel that the insurance company should be compensating them, but the company refuses. When this happens, people have a variety of options.

First, they can enter into an internal appeals process. Most insurance companies have a function that allows other employees of the company to review refusals and determine if they were warranted. If that fails, then the Illinois Department of Insurance also investigates some insurance-related issues. Alternatively, people with issues that neither of those strategies can solve may need to sue their insurance company if they want to see the compensation that they have already paid for. It is important for people to understand the process of a lawsuit and the length of time that it may take. Insurance companies are expert litigators, and they may drag the process out.

Understanding a Lawsuit

The beginning part of the process for filing a lawsuit against your insurance company involves hiring a lawyer and filing a complaint against them. The complaint is a legal document that triggers a lawsuit, and lays out the general allegations against the insurance company. Once this happens, the insurance company is allowed to respond with a document called an answer. The answer takes each fact asserted by the complaint and either confirms or denies them, so that both parties understand what is in dispute. Once this happens your lawyer and the insurance company lawyers will engage in discovery.

Discovery is a legal process in which both sides ask the other side questions to better understand the facts. This is mainly done through requests for documents, written questions called interrogatories that the other side has to answer, and depositions, which are in-person interviews. The majority of lawsuits end at some point during this phase. As more information comes out, both sides begin to understand their chances of winning at trial, and they likely reach a settlement. In the event that there is no settlement, the case moves to trial where both sides' attorneys present their arguments to the judge, who eventually makes the final legal decision.

Your Part in the Process

Not every step in that process will require the client's involvement. Initial interviews will need to be done for the attorney to get a picture of the case, and there will also be periodic conferences as new facts appear or the case moves forward. The most intensive piece that the client will need to do is prepare for a deposition in case the insurance company wants to depose them. This may require working with the client's attorney to better understand the types of questions that they company may ask, so that the deposition goes smoothly.

If you are currently having an issue with an insurance company and would like to file a lawsuit against them, contact a dedicated Illinois insurance dispute attorney today. At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, we represent clients in many northwest suburban towns including Inverness, Palatine, and Schaumburg.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

How to Handle a Denied Insurance Claim in Illinois

Web Admin - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

illinois denied insurance attorneyPeople purchase insurance coverage to protect themselves when something goes wrong. Depending on the type of insurance, claims can be paid out for health issues, auto accidents, home repairs, or deaths in the family, among other things. These are already stressful events. A denied insurance claim merely serves to add more stress and difficulty to an already trying situation. The reasons for such a denial can be varied and depend on the type of insurance in question, but in these situations consumers have options available to them to contest the insurance denial.

Reasons for a Denial

The reasons for an insurance company to deny a claim on a policy vary greatly between different types of insurance. For instance, a company providing a life insurance policy may reject a policy claim based on a belief that the person’s death was actually a suicide, or a company providing health insurance could reject a claim made for a specific treatment by arguing that the treatment was not actually medically necessary. However, there are also some grounds for a denial that span across the insurance industry. One of the most common is a “material misrepresentation,” which means that the company believes that the policyholder lied or withheld important information during the application for a policy.

Exactly what qualifies as a material misrepresentation changes from industry to industry. Health or life insurance companies would argue that hiding a prior medical condition may be a material misrepresentation, while an auto insurance company would be more concerned with a past accident. Furthermore, any of these reasons could just be a pretext for a “bad faith” denial, which means that the insurance company privately believes that the policyholder has a valid claim, and simply does not want to part with its money.

Contesting a Denial

Policyholders facing a denied claim do have options available to them. The process will likely begin with the insurance company’s internal appeals process. This may involve letter writing, phone calls, or in-person interviews where the policyholder explains their position. It can be advantageous to consult a lawyer at this point for two reasons.

First, the insurance company may have lawyers involved at this stage, so it evens the playing field. Second, if the issue does proceed to a lawsuit, the lawyer will already know the case’s history and they may be able to prevent early missteps that would cause problems in litigation, which would be the next step if the internal appeals fail. The one exception to this is in the case of health insurance. Illinois recently passed a law allowing policyholders to apply for an independent external review in the case of a denied health insurance claim.

If you are dealing with a denied insurance claim, you do not need to do it alone. Reach out to a skilled Schaumburg insurance dispute attorney today. Our team represents clients across the northwest suburbs, including in towns such as Crystal Lake, Arlington Heights, and Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Appealing a Denial of Accidental Death Benefits

Web Admin - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

illinois denied insurance benefitsMany people carry life insurance or accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) policies. These policies, which people can acquire through their employer or on the open market, may pay benefits in cases of accidental death. Unfortunately, life insurance policies comprise an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a report by the U.S. Treasury, and insurance companies have strong incentives to pay out as little as they can in benefits.

Often, that means denying legitimate life insurance claims on the basis of a “policy exclusion.” Policy exclusions are exceptions that insurance companies place into contracts that exempt certain situations from qualifying for payment. Common policy exemptions include suicides and deaths occurring within one year of the policy’s start. Companies can use these sorts of exemptions as pretexts for denying the payment of benefits.

Contesting a Denial

Even after the insurance company denies the claim, beneficiaries do have tools to appeal the decision. However, depending on the law governing the insurance policy, the tools may be expansive, or more limited in nature. For instance, plans through a person’s employer are often covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA places strict limits on how appeals take place.

Beneficiaries must appeal the decision through a special ERISA administrator before they can move into the regular court system. Beneficiaries with denied claims would do well to seek out a lawyer before filing their ERISA appeal because the actions that take place at that appeal can have strong impacts on a court case. Courts handling ERISA litigation often use evidence from the appeal when making their decisions. That means that if something is left unmentioned at that stage, it can be very difficult to convince the court to consider it later.

Plans purchased by an individual, rather than provided by an employer, will likely be governed by state law instead of ERISA. While this law is usually less restrictive, individuals should still be cautious when dealing with insurance companies. In state law cases, the beneficiary will likely sue the insurance company in an attempt to prove that their cases does not actually fall into the policy exclusion that the company is claiming.

If you have been the victim of a wrongful denial of a life insurance claim, get a written statement of the reasons for the denial, and seek help from an Illinois insurance attorney. Our firm serves clients across the northwest suburban area, including Schaumburg, Palatine, and Crystal Lake.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Unpaid Life Insurance Benefits are a Billion Dollar Problem

Web Admin - Thursday, January 23, 2014

By Ken Apicella
(847) 934-6000

A recent probe of insurance companies conducted by New York State’s Department of Financial Services revealed that, nationwide, insurance companies failed to pay an estimated $1.1 billion in life insurance to beneficiaries. The issue stems, in part, from a lack of communication between policyholders and beneficiaries. If the policyholder never informed the beneficiary that they took out a life insurance policy, the beneficiary would not know to file a claim. This causes problems because insurance companies rely on beneficiaries to report when someone dies in order to claim their benefits.

At least, that used to be the case. Following this probe and similar investigations across the country, including in Illinois, insurers are starting to follow a different set of rules. For instance, in New York, Governor Cuomo signed a law that requires insurers to make routine searches of a death database in order to determine if any new deaths matched policyholders, so that they could start the process of finding that person’s beneficiary.

The Governor introduced this law in order to put to rest the apparently common practice of using such databases to track the deaths of people to whom the insurance company owes monthly checks, without using those same databases to track the deaths of policyholders.

The investigation also prompted more stringent enforcement of rules requiring insurers to turn unpaid benefits over to the state in some circumstances. Many states run unclaimed property departments. These departments hold on to the property, and then it becomes the beneficiary’s burden to track it down. Fortunately, with some careful planning, policyholders and beneficiaries can avoid problems like this.

The easiest way to make sure your loved ones do not have to spend time tracking down an insurance policy is with communication. If you take a life insurance policy out on yourself, tell the beneficiary. While some people can find it unpleasant to discuss or difficult to go into the details of how much they chose to purchase, you do not need to do that. It does not have to be a long, drawn-out conversation. Even just letting them know that you took out a policy, as well as which insurance company they should talk to if necessary, can be helpful.

If you have found yourself involved in an insurance dispute, contact a Palatine insurance attorney today. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team. We serve many northwest areas including Rolling Meadows, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Inverness, and other nearby communities.

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