Employer-provided long-term disability insurance falls under ERISA, a niche area of law that few attorneys practice. Because there are few experienced ERISA attorneys in our area, there isn’t a "standard" fee for hiring an attorney for an ERISA appeal. There isn’t even a "standard appeal" – we have seen it all, from short letters to the insurance company that say “please review your decision,” to lengthy appeal packages with expensive depositions and tests that actually have little to do with the reason the claim was denied (but for which the client paid a steep cost). We have seen lawyers charge upwards of five figures for an ERISA appeal, whether the appeal is successful or not.
At BenGlassLaw, we charge nothing up front for most appeals. This means we will only take on your appeal if we strongly feel that we can help you with your claim. We have an established process for evaluating denial letters and strategizing for the appeal based on what we find when we review your claim file from the insurance company. We only recommend additional tests and other evidence that we think will address the reason(s) why your claim was denied in the first place. We don’t get paid unless and until we are able to recover benefits for you.
What Should You Expect from an ERISA Long-Term Disability Attorney?
ERISA long-term disability claims are tricky, and it is always best to consult with an attorney who has experience in ERISA claims (at BenGlassLaw, we’ll review your denial letter for free).
BenGlassLaw has spent years perfecting our ERISA practice. Our disability appeals team is one of the best in the country, and we’ve built systems that streamline the appeal process for our clients. Our process includes:
- Free Denial Letter Review (if your disability claim has been denied or terminated);
- One-on-One Consultation with Ben Glass (if you need guidance on filing a claim or have other questions outside the appeal process);
- Detailed Claim File Review to help guide the appeal. We don’t skim – we dig into every page so we understand how and why your claim was denied, and what we need to do together for a successful appeal;
- Personal Statement interview to help you fully tell your story;
- Independent Vocational Analysis for claims where the insurance company says the “found” jobs you can do;
- Guidance for your doctors on how to support your claim;
- A detailed appeal letter to the insurance company explaining why their decision was wrong, according to both your medical records and ERISA law;
Unfortunately, some ERISA attorneys don’t take the same care with their clients.
We were recently contacted by someone who had been working with another attorney on their ERISA appeal. During our first consultation, we discovered that the ERISA attorney they worked with before contacting BenGlassLaw charged HEFTY fees just for assembling this person’s appeal.
What made the situation even worse is that the attorney abandoned the client after the appeal failed. That attorney referred their client to BenGlassLaw when the claim went to litigation. We learned that if this attorney doesn’t win the appeal, he won’t take the claim to court.
If you hire an attorney who will not file suit in Federal Court if your appeal is denied, you are still leaving all the power in the hands of the insurance company. Think about it…they wrongly denied your claim once. What will stop them from making the same mistakes with your appeal? You need an attorney who will take your case all the way to a judge if necessary. It’s the only way to make sure the insurance company does not have the last word on your claim.
Red Flags to Look for When Evaluating an ERISA Attorney
After our experience working with this client, we realized we needed to notify the public and help claimants who are shopping for an ERISA attorney. Here are a few things you should look for before hiring an ERISA attorney:
- No Claim Evaluation Before Signing Fee Agreement
A denial letter review is the first step to evaluating your claim. ERISA attorneys should be able to review this letter from the insurance company and give you some options on how to move forward with your claim. Any attorney who needs to do “a little research” to evaluate your denial letter probably doesn’t have ERISA experience.
- Unwilling to Litigate Your Case After Failed Appeal
Whenever you interview an ERISA attorney, ask them what will happen if your appeal fails. Few ERISA appeals end up in court, but your attorney should be prepared to litigate if your appeal is denied. If the potential attorney for your claim won’t answer this question directly, you should consult with other attorneys.
- High Flat Fee as the Only Option for Writing Your ERISA Appeal
Attorneys can charge their clients on an hourly rate, flat fee, or contingency basis. All of these are perfectly acceptable ways to charge clients, but beware of attorneys who will only offer you a high “up-front fee, win or lose” option. If your attorney is open to charging a contingency fee (meaning, they only get paid if they win your case), then you can be sure they are taking your case because they believe they can win.
- Charging Clients for Time Spent “Researching ERISA”
ERISA is complicated, even for experienced attorneys. In fact, your ERISA attorney may also be teaching the judge about ERISA cases because of how unusual the law is. But…your ERISA attorney should already know about ERISA law (seems like a no-brainer, right?). If your potential attorney needs to research ERISA, then you should look for someone with more experience. Under no circumstances should you pay for any line item called “ERISA research.”