Many attorneys cannot envision themselves becoming totally
and completely unable to practice
law as a result of an accident or illness. “If my cognitive ability remains
intact and I can communicate, I can
practice law”. This perception is
partially driven by the nature of the
practice of law itself, and it has
some validity. Unlike an MD or DDS,
manual dexterity is not central to
the practice of law. As a result, the
idea of purchasing disability income
insurance does not take on the same
urgency or due diligence that it does
for Physicians or Dentists.
Risk of Partial Disability
However, the risk of partial disability
for an attorney is significant; it is not
always preceded by a period of total
disability, and it can last for many
years and possibly for the rest of
his/her career. The financial impact
of a partial disability can be considerable. You may know of an attorney
who at one time was at the “top of
their game”, suffered an accident or
illness and returned to practice, but
was never the same. The residual
effects of the accident or illness
caused a loss of productivity even
though similar effort and hours were
generated. The problem is that there
are too many hours and not enough
billable hours. As time passes, it usually gets worse with age.
How do I know this? I have been
protecting professionals’ income
for over 42 years. My firm has over
6,000 individual disability income
policies protecting executives and
professionals, with just one of several insurance companies. Through
this firm, more than $700,000 in
monthly disability income benefits
are being paid with this one carrier
The fact that not all disability policies are created the same, makes
protecting your income difficult.
There are differences in definitions
and benefit features that can impact
the outcome of a claim in ways that
are not usually foreseen. These differences, as they relate to partial
disability, are particularly important
For Attorneys, Here are a Few
Policy Features You Should
Avoid, if Possible:
– First –
A period of total disability should
not be required to precede a period
of partial disability in order to collect benefits.
– Second –
The definition of disability should
cover one’s “own occupation” for
both total and partial disability, with
no limitations for working at another unrelated occupation.
– Third –
Benefit periods should not be limited (often limited to 2 years, if covered at all) for claims related to
mental or nervous conditions for
both total and partial disabilities.
– Fourth –
Look for a policy where coverage for
a partial disability is based on establishing loss of earned income, as
solely related to a covered accident
or sickness; the threshold of loss
should be 15% or greater. Many
policies add an additional requirement that is problematic for an attorney: in addition to the proof of
loss of earned income (usually a loss
threshold of 20%) the claimant must
prove loss of time or loss of duties.
When to Review Your Disability
Have you had the opportunity to review your disability income coverage? The optimum time to do so is
before you have a change in health
or become disabled.
These comments are not comprehensive
and are intended to offer general guidelines. They do not extend or modify the
terms and conditions of any disability
income policy. In all cases the terms and
conditions of the individual policy takes
precedence. Complete proposals should
be reviewed prior to purchasing any disability income protection.
The idea of becoming totally disabled is not something that most
attorneys view as very likely.
They recognize that it could happen, but they believe that the odds
are in their favor.
JOHN M. DRISCOLL, PRESIDENT
JOHN DRISCOLL & COMPANY, INC.
5080 N. 40th Street, Suite 400, Phoenix, AZ 85018
(602) 957-7155, John_Driscoll@JDriscollCo.com
Practicing Law While
Registered Representative of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). Securities products offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. General Agent of The Guardian Life Insurance
Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian.
The Guardian Network® is a network of preferred providers authorized to offer products of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY and its
subsidiaries. John Driscoll & Company, Inc. is an independent agency and not an affiliate or subsidiary of Guardian.