Long term disability lawyers often use legal terms which are confusing for non-lawyers to understand. At times, it may even sound like a different language. The long term disability litigation process can be incredibly frustrating if you lack basic understanding of the relevant legal terminology. Below are the top 13 legal terms you need to know before starting your long term disability lawsuit.
The term “administrative record” refers to a file containing everything that the insurance company considered in connection with your long term disability claim. The administrative record will typically contain a copy of your disability plan, your medical records, reports from the insurance company’s doctors, and claim forms. The administrative record may also include internal correspondence between insurance company employees and copies of other communications. The insurance company will compile the administrative record and send it to your attorney.
The term “credibility” refers to whether you appear trustworthy, honest, and believable. Credibility is key in long term disability lawsuits. If you are credible, the judge will be more likely to see things from your perspective and rule in your favor. On the other hand, if you are not credible, the judge will be far less likely to be on your side. The importance of credibility cannot be stressed enough – it can easily make or break your long term disability lawsuit.
The term “plaintiff” refers to the party who is bringing the lawsuit. In long term disability litigation, the plaintiff is generally a disabled individual who was wrongfully denied disability benefits. If the disabled individual has passed away, other individuals (usually the surviving spouse) may bring the long term disability lawsuit on the disabled individual’s behalf.
The term “defendant” refers to the party being sued. In long term disability litigation, the defendant is usually the insurance company. In some cases, you may sue more than one insurance company, which will result in multiple defendants.
The term “complaint” refers to the legal document that your attorney will file to initiate your lawsuit. The complaint will provide the court and the defendant with the preliminary details necessary to begin your lawsuit. These details include your allegations of wrongdoing by the insurance company.
The term “service” refers to the method by which your attorney notifies the insurance company of your lawsuit and other filings in your case. Service needs to be performed in accordance with very strict rules. The rules for service will vary depending on the circumstances and the court in which you filed your lawsuit. If service is not done correctly, your case may be in jeopardy. Worst case scenario, your case may be dismissed.
The term “answer” refers to the legal document that the insurance company will file in response to your complaint. The answer will respond to each of the allegations set forth in your complaint. The answer may also include counterclaims or defenses that the insurance company has against your case.
The term “discovery” refers to a process in which the parties will exchange information about your long term disability case. Typically, your attorney will serve the insurance company with a series of written questions (known as “interrogatories”) and requests for written document (known as “document demands”). Then, the insurance company will either respond by: (1) producing the requested information/documents; or (2) refusing to produce the requested information/documents. If the insurance company refuses to produce something, the insurance company must explain its grounds for refusal (known as an “objection”). Discovery may also include depositions.
The term “motion” refers to when either party asks the court to do something. The party making the motion is called the “movant.” The movant will generally provide legal rationale explaining why the court should grant his or her motion. The party responding to the motion is called the “respondent.” The respondent will generally provide legal rationale explaining why the court should not grant the movant’s motion.
The term “order” refers to when the court directs either or both parties to act or refrain from acting in a certain manner. Orders are usually issued in response to the parties’ motions. However, in some circumstances, the court may issue an order without a motion. An order is binding, but either party may have the opportunity to appeal it.
The term “mediation” refers to process in which the parties attempt to settle the long term disability lawsuit without intervention from the court. The parties will usually pick a neutral mediator who will help the parties communicate their positions and negotiate a settlement. The settlement discussions that take place during mediations are generally private and confidential.
Settlement and Release
The terms “settlement” and “release’ are closely related. The term “settlement” refers to when the plaintiff agrees not to pursue the case for a certain sum of money. To accept the settlement, the insurance company will usually require the plaintiff to sign a “release.” The term “release” refers to an agreement in which the plaintiff contractually drops or “releases” other claims that the plaintiff may have against the insurance company.
The term “final judgment” refers to the court’s final decision in your long term disability lawsuit. The judge will usually provide detailed legal rationale to support the court’s decision. If you are not satisfied with the final judgment, you may have the opportunity to appeal it. Likewise, if the insurance company is not satisfied with the final judgment, the insurance company may file an appeal. Thus, the final judgment will not necessarily be the “final” determination in your case.