Principal Financial Group Disability Attorneys

Disability Wiki.

Claims - Ring Binder on Office Desktop with Office Supplies. Business Concept on Blurred Background. Toned Illustration.-1Principal Financial Group (also known as Principal Life Insurance Company) is one of the U.S.’s biggest insurers and a Fortune 500 company that administers millions of long term disability claims each year.  Many of these claims end up being denied or terminated – often unfairly.  Riemer Hess has helped countless clients secure their long term disability benefits provided by Principal.  We understand what tactics Principal uses when assessing these claims and how you can protect your benefits.

Below we’ll discuss these tactics and strategies you can use when filing, appealing, or litigating a long term disability claim with Principal.


What common tactics does Principal use to deny disability claims?

    • Wrongly characterizing your disability as a preexisting condition: Principal may misinterpret your medical history when reviewing your disability claim, alleging that your condition is a preexisting condition, even if you have not been diagnosed until after your policy is in effect.  Principal may also allege non-disclosure of preexisting conditions during the application process, even if you genuinely weren’t aware of your condition or it wasn’t diagnosed at the time.
    • Demanding objective medical evidence to support medical conditions for which no objective testing is available: Principal may demand objective medical evidence for medical conditions that do not have readily available objective testing methods.  Conditions such as fibromyalgia, tinnitus, or migraines do not have definitive objective tests like X-rays or blood tests to confirm their presence or severity.  Principal may use the lack of objective medical evidence – even though there are no options available to you – to deny your claim.
    • Misstating the duties of a claimant’s occupation: Principal may inaccurately describe your occupation to minimize the level of physical or mental demands associated with it.  For example, they may simplify the duties or responsibilities of your job to make it appear less physically or mentally demanding than it actually is, and deny your benefits by alleging you are capable of performing these functions.
    • Vaguely denying the claimant without specifying what information it needs/wants from the claimant: Principal may vaguely deny your claim without specifying the necessary information or documentation they require from you.  The denial letter may contain only a generic explanation for dismissing your claim, like “not meeting the policy criteria” or “failing to provide necessary documentation,” without clarifying the specific policy provisions or documents they are referring to.
    • Questioning a claimant’s motivation for filing a long term disability claim, without reason: Principal may unfairly cast doubt on your credibility by suggesting you are exaggerating your medical condition or disability in an attempt to retire early and receive benefits you are not entitled to, even if there is no basis for that reasoning.
    • Neglecting to consider all relevant medical evidence: Insurers have a tendency to selectively review medical records, honing in on specific portions that support a denial while ignoring other, equally relevant information that corroborates your disability.  Principal may selectively rely on their own medical professionals whose opinions align with their denial strategy, while disregarding the opinions of your treating physicians, without any sound rationale for doing so.


What should I do if Principal denies my disability claim?

Facing a denied long term disability claim from Principal can be deeply disheartening.  However, it’s crucial to understand that even after a denial, there are still viable options to pursue the benefits you rightfully deserve.  Before filing an appeal for a denied disability claim, there are several important steps you should take to maximize your chances of success:

    • Review the Denial Letter: Your denial letter from Principal is key to understanding how to prepare your appeal.  Pay close attention to the specific reasons provided for the denial and any relevant policy provisions cited.
    • Understand Your Policy: Thoroughly review your long term disability insurance policy.  Understand the terms, conditions, and exclusions.  This can be challenging if you are not familiar with the policy language.  Consulting with an experienced ERISA attorney can provide you with an understanding of your coverage and the definition of disability you must meet to qualify for benefits.
    • Request Principal’s Claim File: You have the right to request your claim file from Principal.  This file includes all documents and communications related to your claim.  Review your claim file to understand the basis for the denial and identify any inconsistencies or errors.
    • Collect Additional Evidence: If there are gaps in your initial application or if the denial was based on a lack of information, gather additional evidence that strengthens your case.  This can include updated medical records, expert opinions, or vocational assessments.  If you only send an appeal letter with no additional information or evidence, your claim may be denied a second – and potentially final – time.
    • Adhere to Deadlines: Be aware of any time limitations for filing an appeal.  Missing these deadlines could jeopardize your case, so ensure that you submit your appeal within the specified timeframe.
    • Consult with an Attorney: It is essential to speak with an attorney experienced in long term disability claims, especially if your claim is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).  An attorney can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the appeal process, helping you to present a strong case that maximizes your likelihood of a successful outcome.


Have courts criticized Principal’s disability claim handling practices?

Principal has been criticized by courts for their handling of long term disability claims.  Notable examples of ERISA cases where Principal faced reprimand by the courts include:

    • Miles Principal Life Ins. Co., 720 F.3d 472, 487 (2d Cir. 2013): The court determined that Principal failed to properly consider the plaintiff’s subjective complaints of pain and symptoms.  The court emphasized that a claimant’s subjective complaints are crucial in determining disability and that Principal did not provide valid reasons for discounting these complaints.  Principal’s demands for objective evidence of tinnitus, despite the lack of objective tests for this condition, were found unreasonable by the court.  The court also criticized Principal for selectively considering evidence from the record, mischaracterizing certain aspects, and making assertions contradicted by the evidence.
    • Fischer v. Principal Life Ins. Co., No. 3:05-CV-308, 2006 WL 2346288, at *8 (E.D. Tenn. Aug. 11, 2006): The court criticized Principal for defining the plaintiff’s “regular occupation” as the limited job he inadequately performed from home after knee replacement surgery prior to his disability claim.  The court found this definition to be unreasonable and noted that the plaintiff’s “regular occupation” should have been based on his high-functioning job, which involved significant travel and public speaking.  The court also questioned the peer review reports submitted by Principal.  It found that these reviews, conducted by in-house physicians who had not examined the plaintiff, did not provide an adequate basis for denying his claim.  The court ultimately found that Principal’s determination that the plaintiff could perform his “regular occupation” was arbitrary and capricious, and that this decision did not align with the terms of the insurance policy, was not based on a reasoned explanation, and was not rational in light of the plan’s provisions.
    • Amadeo v Principal Mut. Life Ins. Co., 290 F3d 1152, 1162 (9th Cir 2002): Principal’s interpretation of the plaintiff’s insurance policy was deemed unreasonable by the court.  Principal insisted that if the plaintiff became disabled during a period of unemployment, then her “regular occupation” meant “unemployment.”  The court considered this interpretation arbitrary and inconsistent with a layperson’s understanding of the policy terms.  The court believed that a jury could conclude that this interpretation was adopted by Principal as a mere pretext to avoid paying the claim.  Additionally, the court found that Principal had failed to conduct an adequate investigation into whether the plaintiff was due benefits under their interpretation of the policy.  The court highlighted that other evidence, such as medical records and expert opinions, supported the plaintiff’s claimed date of disability, and that a jury could conclude that Principal’s decision was reached by ignoring contrary evidence and failing to investigate diligently.
    • Langdon v. Principal Life Ins. Co., No. 14-CV-6980, 2016 WL 4720025, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2016): The court found fault with Principal’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s claim based solely on the preexisting condition provision, especially given Principal’s ambiguous language in the insurance policy.  The court held that the provision was not clear and straightforward, which contributed to the dispute over the plaintiff’s eligibility for benefits.  It concluded that Principal’s determination that the plaintiff’s condition was preexisting was unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.  Additionally, the court noted that Principal’s denial lacked sufficient detail and specificity, violating ERISA requirements.  The court determined that Principal should have provided a clear and specific explanation for the denial, including all reasons for the decision.


What strategies work best against Principal?

At Riemer Hess, we understand the background of each claim is different and requires a personalized approach.  We pair our proven strategy with a customized plan that takes into account the unique facts of your claim.  Our experienced team of ERISA attorneys understands what Principal requires to approve your claim and how to avoid potential roadblocks to getting your benefits approved.  Furthermore, we strive to make the entire process as seamless and stress-free as possible.

Here's an example of how we helped a client successfully secure disability benefits from Principal:

Our client “Kelly” had enjoyed a successful career as a professional executive, managing a large team and overseeing complex projects.  However, her life took a challenging turn when she was diagnosed with a debilitating form of arthritis.  The resulting joint pain made it increasingly difficult for her to perform her duties.  Faced with this life-altering condition, Kelly filed a long term disability claim with Principal, her insurance provider.  To her shock and dismay, Principal denied her claim, ignoring the significant limits her arthritis imposed on her daily life.

Recognizing the need for professional guidance, Kelly hired Riemer Hess to navigate the complex appeals process on her behalf.  Riemer Hess quickly sprang into action to prepare Kelly’s appeal.

Our attorneys understood Principal’s initial denial revolved around their misjudgment of Kelly’s abilities and limitations.  They had incorrectly assessed her condition as allowing her to perform sedentary occupations without considering the pain, discomfort, and reduced functionality she experienced when sitting, typing, or using a computer for prolonged periods.  This flawed evaluation led to the incorrect conclusion that Kelly could continue working despite her medical condition.

For Kelly’s appeal, Riemer Hess ensured that her medical records included detailed reports from specialists, diagnostic tests, and expert opinions that highlighted the severe impact of her arthritis on her daily life, including the significant limitations it imposed on her ability to perform sedentary work tasks.

To further counter Principal’s erroneous assessment, Riemer Hess recommended a vocational assessment.  An expert in the field analyzed the challenges Kelly faced when engaging in sedentary work and the significant impact of her arthritis on her ability to carry out her professional executive duties effectively.

Riemer Hess also referred Kelly to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation.  This evaluation provided in-depth and objective evaluations of Kelly’s physical capabilities and limitations in the context of her professional role.  These assessments served as critical pieces of evidence supporting her claim.

With a comprehensive package that included extensive medical documentation, a Functional Capacity Evaluation report, and the vocational assessment, accompanied by a detailed letter refuting Principal’s justifications for denial, Riemer Hess submitted a compelling appeal to Principal on Kelly’s behalf.  The new evidence left no room for doubt, demonstrating the significant limitations Kelly faced in performing her executive duties.

Consequently, Principal reversed its decision and approved Kelly’s LTD claim.  This successful appeal not only provided Kelly with the financial support she needed during her health challenges but also exemplified the indispensable role of an experienced ERISA attorney in ensuring that insurance companies accurately assess claims and deliver deserved benefits to policyholders.


How can an attorney help with my Principal long term disability claim?

An experienced long term disability attorney can significantly increase your chances of success.  At Riemer Hess, we’ve helped countless clients secure their benefits from Principal.  We understand the intricacies of insurance policies, claims procedures, and the tactics insurers like Principal use to deny or terminate claims, often unfairly.  Riemer Hess can help you navigate the challenging process of securing the benefits you deserve.

Riemer Hess has the experience it takes to beat Principal.  If you are filing, appealing, or litigating a long term disability claim from Principal, call Riemer Hess today at 212-297-0700 or select the button below to schedule a consultation.

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