In our practice, one of the early questions we ask of our personal injury clients is whether they are covered by an employee benefit plan at work, specifically one that includes disability insurance. It is surprising how many people do not even know if they have this coverage.
- If you have employment benefits, you should be provided with an information package explaining your benefits to you.
While employers are not legally obligated to provide such plans, many businesses do have them, and if they decide to have one, they are required to ensure that their employees have been given information about what the benefits are they have access to. Some might cover only medical and dental expenses, while others include significant disability coverage. The terms of the plans can vary widely. Whether you are injured in a car accident, or at work, or experience a disabling illness, you may have access to benefits for medical rehabilitation or even income loss. Always ask your employer whether they offer employment benefits, and if your employer hasn’t provided you with a pamphlet or a booklet explaining these benefits, ask for it.
- If you have a disability, applying too late could jeopardize your access to the benefits
These plans usually have requirements to apply within a short timeframe after the disability started, such as 30 or 60 days. There may be “waiting periods” after you apply as to when your benefit might start. Missing these timelines usually will not prevent you from ultimately pursuing a claim, but insurance companies often use these time limits as excuses to deny claims, and force people to hire a lawyer to sue these companies for the benefits. Any lengthy interruption in your income is going to have a very stressful impact on you and your family.
- Just because you get WSIB doesn’t mean you lose your entitlement to your employment benefits
Many of our workers’ compensation clients who have such plans believe they cannot apply for disability benefits if they make a WSIB claim. This may not be the case, as some plans cover work accidents but just deduct the amount of the workers’ compensation payments. You should review your plan booklet to make sure. Should WSIB cut off your benefits and force you to appeal, the disability insurance benefit might provide you with some income stability while waiting for the WSIB case to work its way through the system.
- Just because you’ve lost your job, doesn’t always mean you’ve lost your benefits
Another mistaken belief that many people have is that any disability benefit will stop if the employment ends. This is not the case. As long as you were covered at the date your disability started, regardless of what happens to your employment status, you will be eligible for the disability payments as long as the disability continues and meets the tests under the policy.
- Even if you are receiving income from WSIB or other sources, you should still apply for your employee disability benefit right away.
The insurer will often deduct your current income, and you might not receive a disability benefit from that insurer right now, but by applying right away, you can make it clear to the insurer that you are disabled. Should the other sources end at some point, you can pursue your disability insurance claim confident that you have met all necessary time limits.
The bottom line is: Anytime you start a new job, make sure you know what benefits are on offer to you from your employer, and make sure you know what steps you need to take to protect your entitlement to those benefits. If you’ve been disabled and you have short term or long term disability benefits through work, it is always a good idea to discuss your claim as soon as possible with a qualified lawyer.