One major area of our expertise is to help people whose long-term disability claims have been denied. It’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations and how it could apply in your ERISA long-term disability case. A statute of limitations is a period of time within which you have to file a federal lawsuit. Now in most cases, the insurance policy, the long-term disability insurance policy will specify what your statute of limitations is.
If your policy does not specify a statute of limitations, then the federal courts typically look to the closest statute of limitations that your state has.
Often in these cases, the statute of limitations is three years. But it may be different in your case. The insurance company has the option to make it longer or shorter as a term of the insurance contract. Because you have a different policy, your statute of limitations may be different.
So, often what will happen is you will go through the insurance appeal process. Your claim is denied, you appeal the denial and then your final denial comes through. Then, you will get a letter saying all the reasons why they’ve denied your claim.
How to find your Statute of Limitations
At the very end of the final denial letter, the insurance company should tell you what that ERISA disability statute of limitations is. It should tell you how long it is and what you have to do prior to that statute of limitations. In fact, the last one that I saw actually had a physical date on it. That letter said, “Your statute of limitations is [this date].”
That’s good to have and it’s good to have the insurance company actually calculating what that date is for you. If the insurance company did the date calculation, then there’s no question that they try to raise an argument that you’ve not filed within the statute of limitations. You can point back and say, “But judge, they agreed that this was the statute of limitations and we’ve filed before that.” That may or may not work.
A statute of limitations is a limitation on when you can file your lawsuit. Now, you can file your lawsuit whenever you want to. The question is whether the court will dismiss it when the other side files in motion to dismiss, because you didn’t file within the appropriate time.
What Happens if You File Outside of the Statute?
If you file outside of that period, then your case will be dismissed. Now, do not get this mistaken for how long you have to file your appeal. After the first denial, you have 180 days to file your denial appeal letter to the insurance company. That’s a lot shorter than three years. So please don’t mistake what I’m talking about here. Those are two very different things.
Just to recap, your ERISA disability statute of limitations is the time within which you have to file an appeal after the final adverse decision is made from the insurance company. This is usually three years. It usually begins from the date of that final decision or three years from the date of when the proof of loss or continuing proof of loss was requested.
So make sure that you know what that ERISA disability statute of limitations is. It’s in your policy, and you can read it right there once you get your policy. Make sure you put a calendar deadline on it. If you do not file your federal court claim within that time period, the judge will dismiss it. You will never see another dime from that insurance company.
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Of course, if you have questions about your statute of limitations, when it starts, when it stops, that sort of thing, we’d be happy to walk you through that process over the telephone or video conferencing.
Just give us a call or send us an email and we’d be happy to help you in any way we can.