The potential disability of a professional, such as a doctor, accountant, lawyer or other professional can have devastating financial consequences for the disabled professional and his or her family members. A sudden inability to engage in your chosen profession after incurring the academic rigors and financial sacrifices associated with obtaining a professional license can mean emotional and physical hardships accentuated by the financial impact of permanent disability.
Disability issues involving professionals can be especially complex because a mental or physical disability might lead to negligence or misconduct that results in professional discipline and the loss of a professional license. When a professional has his or her license to practice revoked and suffers a disability, insurance carriers often attempt to deny long-term disability insurance benefits. The legal issues involved in seeking long-term disability insurance benefits are complicated, so anyone in this situation should seek immediate legal advice. Below I provide a general overview of how some courts around the country have handled claims by attorneys, physicians, chiropractors, psychiatrists, dentists, accountants, and other professionals. There are several trends depending on three basic scenarios.
Medical Disabilities Prior to the Unrelated Loss of a Professional License
The initial starting point for the analysis of the relationship between a physical or mental disability and the loss of a professional license (i.e., legal disability) is that private disability insurance policies do not generally cover legal disabilities. If a person suffers a physical or mental disability and the loss of a professional license, then the relative timing of the medical and legal disabilities often dictate the issue of insurance coverage. Courts often find insurance coverage when the physical or mental disability precedes loss of a professional license even if the negligent, unlawful or unethical conduct that led to professional discipline occurred prior to the medical disability. This generalization only applies if the medical disability is unrelated to the acts or omissions responsible for the adverse professional sanctions.
Professional Discipline Causing Medical Disability
Predictably, doctors, attorneys and other professionals who lose their professional license often suffer extreme stress, anxiety, and/or depression. When an individual is considered disabled because of a diagnosable psychological disorder like depression following suspension of a professional license, the mental condition generally will not provide a basis for receiving long-term disability insurance benefits.
Experienced Professionals Who Lose Their License Despite Functioning with a Disability for Years
It is not uncommon for professionals with serious mental disorders to function for years in a career while developing thriving professional practices. When a professional with a mental illness manages to effectively work as a professional for years before facing professional discipline, courts are divided on whether this situation justifies disability insurance benefits. Some courts take the position that the ability of a doctor or lawyer to successfully perform the functions of the profession for years demonstrates that the mental illness was not disabling. Other courts acknowledge that the professional successfully earned a living while suffering with a medical condition like mental illness. However, judges that take this view contend the medical condition eventually caused the professional to engage in the misconduct that resulted in professional discipline. In other words, the mental illness was eventually disabling even though there was a lapse in time between onset of the mental illness and the claimant becoming disabled.
These generalizations reflect general trends, but the law in this area is evolving and varies substantially between jurisdictions. If you are a professional who is considering filing or who has filed a long-term disability insurance claim while also experiencing a professional license revocation, you should talk to an experienced disability insurance claims attorney familiar with claims by professionals. This area of law is complicated and unsettled so none of the information in this blog post should be considered a substitute for legal advice from a licensed and experienced attorney.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].