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Should I Hire a Local Attorney for My Long-Term Disability Claim?The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) governs many private sector employee benefits, including long-term disability insurance. If there is a dispute with your long-term disability insurance company, then you will need to consult with an attorney with ERISA experience.

ERISA falls under federal law, so unlike personal injury attorneys, your ERISA attorney does not need to reside in your home state. However, there is a distinct benefit to hiring a local ERISA attorney. National ERISA law firms are often “settlement mills” that treat clients as lines on a spreadsheet, and they don’t give the clients the care that a local law firm would.

Why You Need an ERISA Experienced Disability Attorney

ERISA is a niche practice in which few attorneys are experienced. BenGlassLaw is one of the few firms in Virginia that handles these cases, and we even teach other law firms how to handle ERISA claims. We do this because many well-meaning attorneys try to manage ERISA claims, but because ERISA is a tough practice of law, they often need assistance from knowledgeable ERISA attorneys.

Many claimants try to handle their long-term disability appeals themselves, often with disastrous results. Insurance companies have many tricks that enable them to deny claims, including:

  • Misrepresenting the duties of your job to bring you below the legal threshold for receiving full benefits.
  • Have an “independent medical examiner” review your file and make a snap judgment, often ignoring your doctor’s opinion.
  • Spy on your activities and speak your neighbors to find evidence that you are physically active and use that “evidence” to prove that you are not disabled. (Even activities such as bringing in groceries can be enough evidence for the insurance company to deny your claim.)
  • Deny claims until you’ve exhausted your appeals, killing your chances of ever getting paid from your disability insurance policy.

If your ERISA benefits were denied, you should consult with an ERISA attorney before you appeal your denial. Most ERISA long-term disability insurance policies limit your appeals, and you don’t want to exhaust your appeals before getting an attorney involved with your claim.

Should I Hire an Attorney that Lives in My State?

Lawyers are licensed to practice in states where they passed the bar exam. You can’t hire a Pennsylvania attorney for your Virginia car accident, because that lawyer is not licensed to practice in Virginia where your accident happened.

However, ERISA long-term disability claims fall under federal law. ERISA attorneys can appear in federal court outside of the state where they practice if they apply for admission to appear before the district court.

If you find an experienced ERISA attorney in another state that you would like to work with, you can hire them if they agree to appear in your state’s district court. There are advantages to hiring a local attorney, but if you cannot find an attorney in your state with experience with ERISA claims, you should look for out-of-state attorneys who could help.

Generally, the biggest advantage you can give your case is hiring an experienced ERISA attorney, even if the attorney lives out-of-state.
Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized ERISA disability & life insurance attorney in Fairfax, VA.