I received a very anxious and tearful call from a Mass Mutual claimant describing a rather sad situation in which an ERISA lawsuit was filed in court by the claimant herself without an attorney. This is called filing “pro se”, or, on behalf of oneself.
Needless to say the claimant described a very tenuous situation in which she “felt as though she was being run over and harassed by the court.” Filing an ERISA lawsuit pro se is not something I would ever recommend to anyone at any time.
ERISA disability lawsuits are complicated and require specific knowledge about the law. The defense usually files a motion for summary judgment right away, and a very clever defense attorney can file motion after motion which of course requires answering. Lay persons have no chance of success when filing pro se ERISA lawsuits.
Although I do not always support attorneys, especially those who refuse low benefit ERISA cases, it is important for claimants to find an experienced ERISA attorney who will take the case and manage it appropriately. Attorneys should always be allowed to do what they do best – litigation! While attorneys are not always good in managing appeals, a good ERISA attorney can make the difference between winning and losing benefits in actual litigation.
I don’t know what it is lately, but I’m finding claimants and insureds who take the risk of managing their own claims, appeals and lawsuits based solely on knowledge obtained from the Internet. (We all know we should believe every word on the Internet, right?)
Disability claims management is an area in which each individual claim situation is unique and is not like any other. To presume another person’s claim situation you read about on the Internet is “exactly what you should do” is very unwise indeed.
In addition, court cases used as precedents are powerful arguments before a judge, but Quacky vs. U-nummies and Blue Jays vs. The Softford isn’t going to get a claim paid during an appeal or outside of the court room. Besides, lay persons have no experience in making assessments as to which court cases should be used and those which are not relevent at all.
For some reason that escapes my understanding claimants often act on inaccurate information and get themselves into real trouble with their disability insurers. Some clients choose not to listen to those who know (even me, sometimes.)
Bottom line, managing a disability claim requires specific knowledge of the claims process applying the same or similar strategies used by the disability insurer. Some claims may not be successful in the long run when insureds and claimants act and react to claim situations without knowing what the right thing to do really is.
Perhaps it’s the economy, or the fact that insureds just do not have the money to pay legal fees. Whatever the reason is, claimants managing their own ERISA lawsuits is a recipe for disaster.
In any case, attempting an ERISA lawsuit in court on behalf of oneself is never a good choice. DCS does not recommend it, and we strongly urge clients to continue to search for good ERISA attorneys who are willing to take the case.
Lawsuits are what attorneys do best. When the disability insurer refuses to over turn a claim on appeal, it’s time to look for good ERISA legal assistance, not attempt to enter a lawsuit yourself. You may believe yourself to be very smart, but remember even some attorneys aren’t qualified to defend ERISA cases since ERISA is a very complicated area of law.
Please. Try to locate an experienced ERISA attorney who is willing to take your case rather than launch a lawsuit pro se. ERISA lawsuits are not something a claimant can or should attempt on his/her own - the Internet is not an accurate source of information to be relied upon in any case.