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Hiring an ERISA attorney at the earliest possible stage of the proceedings.

It is important to hire an attorney that is experienced in ERISA law at the earliest possible stage of your case. In disability claims, life insurance claims or accidental death claims major insurance companies and employers may tell you that you don't need to hire an attorney because they will obtain your records, review the evidence and rule on it and that you don't need to pay an attorney. However, what they may not tell you can ruin your chances of a recovery when the insurance company or employer denies your claim. Once your claim has been denied and you have gone through all of your rights of appeal, your only chance of getting your claim paid is a Federal Court Lawsuit. You do not have the right to a jury trial (or a trial by a Judge in most cases) in an ERISA case and in the majority of cases you do not even have the right to testify in court. You very often can not introduce any evidence into court that was not submitted to the insurance company or to the claim's examiner when they handled your claim. If the insurance company or employer did not obtain your medical records that show your injuries, your disability, your surgery, or things like the pain management treatment that you have received, it may be too late to introduce any of this evidence in court, if your claim is denied.

Phil Tatlow of Bollwerk & Tatlow explains why it is important to hire an ERISA attorney early in the proceedings. "An attorney that is knowledgeable in Federal, ERISA law is crucial to consult with on a complex, disability, life or accidental death claim. Many attorneys that do personal injury or worker's compensation cases simply don't understand the complex, federal statutes and laws that apply to these cases. I have been handling these cases for over 15 years and I like to obtain all of my client's medical records and a complete history of his/her conditions for his/her entire lifetime. Many times the client finds me when a prior client or attorney refers them to me. I tell the client or attorney that there are strict guidelines in ERISA to be met and that we have to submit all the evidence during the administrative procedure and appeals process to build the record before we get to court. Otherwise, the Federal Judges will not allow us to present any new evidence that was not presented to the Appeals Committee as part of the appeal."
Phil Tatlow continued, "I have reviewed several cases where the insurance company tells the client that the company will obtain all of the client's medical records and doesn't obtain any useful records.  In these cases, when the clients are on the final appeals of the denial of the claims, the insurance company has denied the claims due to a lack of evidence to prove the claims. If the clients had hired an experienced ERISA attorney early in the proceedings the outcome would have been much different. Submission of medical opinions and vocational opinions and evidence of my client's disability or evidence of the cause of death in life and accidental death cases must be done before the claim is denied, or it is inadmissible in Court."

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