Hartford is the fourth largest disability insurance company in the U.S., growing even larger after its acquisition of Aetna in 2017. Like all disability insurers, Hartford is motivated to deny benefits to its claimants to increase their profit margins. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 554 U.S. 105, 115 (2008). When filing a long term disability claim with Hartford, you are likely to face scrutiny from their representatives who will look for any justification to reject your claim.
Riemer Hess regularly wins fights against Hartford on behalf of our clients. We understand how Hartford operates when evaluating disability claims and how to build a strategy to secure your benefits. Below we will discuss the common tactics Hartford uses to deny disability claims and what strategies work best against Hartford.
What common tactics does Hartford use to deny disability claims?
Hartford has an arsenal of tactics it uses to deny disability claims, often unfairly. In our experience, these tactics commonly include:
- Dragging out the claims process: ERISA, the federal regulations that Hartford must follow when administering your claim, lays out specific deadlines the insurance companies must meet when reviewing your claim. Hartford often blows past these deadlines and comes up with excuses for delaying a decision on your claim – which may end up being a denial.
- Ignoring any “self-reported” symptoms: Certain medical symptoms, such as fatigue and pain, are considered “self-reported” and therefore subjective, since there are limited ways to document them with objective testing. Hartford will often dismiss these symptoms out of hand, claiming that you are exaggerating or falsifying them, even if your doctor verifies their credibility.
- Ambushing claimants with last-minute medical consultant reports: Hartford often will have one of their medical consultants review your file right before the deadline to make a determination. These medical consultants are on Hartford’s payroll and therefore biased to find you not disabled. They will also only review your paper file, not examine you in-person, when making their conclusions on your condition. Hartford then uses these consultant reports as reasoning to deny or terminate your claim. When done so close to the deadline, Hartford gives you no time to respond or refute these consultants’ opinions.
- Claiming you do not meet Hartford’s definition of disability: Your Hartford disability insurance policy contains the criteria you must satisfy to be awarded benefits. This includes the “definition of disability,” i.e., what Hartford considers to be “disabled.” Most often this definition entails that you must not be able to perform the substantial and material duties of your occupation due to your medical condition. Hartford may wrongly deny your claim by stating that while you are ill or injured, your symptoms do not restrict you from working. Oftentimes Hartford makes this judgment based on ignoring your medical evidence or misunderstanding—perhaps intentionally—the demands of your occupation.
- Issuing a vague denial: Hartford may vaguely deny your claim without providing specific rationale for doing so, or without specifying what information is needed from you to approve your claim.
What should I do if Hartford denies my disability claim?
Hartford has a significantly high rate of disability claim denials. In the event of a denial, it’s crucial to be aware of your legal rights and the procedure for appealing Hartford’s decision. A denial or termination of your Hartford long term disability claim can be emotionally devastating, but it’s important to understand that you do have options to reinstate your benefits.
Should Hartford deny or terminate your disability claim, here are a few immediate steps you can take:
- Read your denial letter carefully. If Hartford denies or terminates your claim, it will provide you with its determination in writing. This letter will contain their reasoning for denying your benefits. Some common excuses Hartford gives for denying claims include that you do not have sufficient medical evidence of your disability, you are not in compliance with your policy, or its own medical consultants/examiners have determined you are not disabled. As incorrect as those reasons may be, they will be an important part of crafting your appeal letter. The denial letter’s reasoning will tell you what additional evidence to procure for the appeal and what arguments you need to refute.
- Obtain your claim file. ERISA gives you the right to demand Hartford give you their claim file. The claim file contains every piece of documentation reviewed by Hartford to make their determination. This includes your submitted medical records, claim paperwork, Hartford’s own internal notes, and any reports from their own medical or vocational consultants. Having this claim file will give you further insight into why Hartford denied your claim.
- Speak with a trusted ERISA attorney. Attorneys who specialize in long term disability claims have a thorough understanding of the laws that apply to these claims. They can explain your rights and responsibilities and help you navigate the appeals process. Keep in mind that succeeding with Hartford’s internal appeal process is your best chance to avoid costly and drawn-out litigation.
Have courts criticized Hartford's disability claims handling practices?
U.S. courts have heavily criticized Hartford for its practices that deny claimants their rightful benefits. Here are a few examples:
- McQuillin v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 36 F.4th 416 (2d Cir. 2022): The Court ruled that Hartford failed to provide a timely benefit determination on review, therefore violating ERISA’s regulations.
- Hughes v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 368 F. Supp. 3d 386 (D. Conn. 2019): The Court criticized Hartford for “sand-bagging” claimants with last-minute medical reports they could not respond to, therefore denying claimants their right to a “full and fair review,” as provided by ERISA.
- Green v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104630, *18, (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2010): The Court determined that Hartford failed to credit the plaintiff’s credible complaints of pain/fatigue.
What strategies work best against Hartford?
At Riemer Hess, our experienced team of ERISA attorneys takes a proven approach to overcome roadblocks set up by Hartford to get your long term disability claim approved. We understand that each client is different, and we adapt our strategies to your preferences accordingly. Our primary objective is to ensure that you receive all benefits you are entitled to. Furthermore, we strive to make the entire process as seamless and stress-free as possible.
To get ahead of Hartford, Riemer Hess uses our extensive history with them to predict what tactics they will use to deny your claim. We then set out to proactively combat those tactics. Of course, there is no one set approach. We always consider that each claim has unique circumstances to take into account when crafting our personalized strategy.
For example, our client Vicky worked in the medical field for many years. She survived breast cancer and continued to work after her remission. However, she began suffering from severe side effects of the cancer treatment, including neuropathy and chronic pain. The medication she was prescribed to combat these symptoms caused additional cognitive side effects. Vicky also suffered a shoulder injury that left her unable to type after surgery, leading her to file for short term disability.
Vicky’s short term disability through Hartford was approved for the shoulder injury. While her shoulder was expected to heal, Vicky knew her other cancer-related and medication side effect symptoms were too severe for her to return to work. Once she had exhausted her short term disability leave, she prepared to file for long term disability. She filed the initial application with Hartford on her own before consulting with Riemer Hess.
Riemer Hess knew Hartford would likely deny Vicky’s long term disability claim on the basis that her shoulder was no longer an issue. Riemer Hess immediately contacted Hartford to let them know more evidence would be forthcoming, and referred Vicky to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation. This would provide Hartford objective evidence of all her physical limitations, not just related to her shoulder. Once the FCE was completed, Riemer Hess coordinated with Vicky’s treating doctors to write a statement supporting the results. Riemer Hess also requested and obtained all of her medical records. For any doctors whose notes did not relay the full scope of Vicky’s condition, Riemer Hess was able to obtain supplemental statements from those providers supporting Vicky’s disability claim.
Riemer Hess submitted all of this evidence to Hartford in support of Vicky’s claim. Hartford approved Vicky’s long term disability claim. Relieved and pleased with the result, Vicky retained Riemer Hess to monitor her benefits going forward.
How can an attorney help win my Hartford disability claim?
When filing, appealing, or litigating a long term disability claim with Hartford, it’s important to understand how to best put forth your claim. An experienced disability attorney can help maximize your chances of success. Riemer Hess has the experience it takes to beat Hartford. If you are filing, appealing, or litigating a long term disability claim from Hartford, call Riemer Hess today at 212-297-0700 or select the button below to schedule a consultation.