By Matt Lalande in Long-Term Disability on February 16, 2021
Suffering from any type of cancer can take a devastating toll on your life, from shortening your life expectancy, causing intense physical pain to the increasing financial and emotional burden on you and your family. Cancer is always difficult for the affected person and his or her family members – but being diagnosed with a rare cancer always presents itself with additional challenges. Because of lower prevalence rates, there could be an incorrect or delay in diagnosis which can make it difficult to receive the proper care and treatment in a timely manner or at later stages. Sometimes there is not enough information or research on a particular rare form cancer, or other times you may need to travel to another city or even province to locate a facility that has the proper resources that you may need.
These complications can not only cause difficulty in receiving treatment, but can create complex issues when filing a claim for long-term disability benefits. Adjusters may not understand or may not make efforts to understand what you are going through or they might not understand the science and medicine behind the cancer you suffer from. An experienced disability lawyer can better help you understand what your options are and how to file a successful long-term disability claim or an appeal to a denied claim.
Cancer is an umbrella term for a series of diseases that begin when the body’s cells divide uncontrollably and spread to other tissues. Normally, the body regulates cell division and breakdown, and in this process, the old cells die and are replaced by new cells. This is a regular process wherein the body is continuously growing and developing whenever new cells are required.
Cancer interrupts this cell breakdown. When cancer develops, the dead cells are not replaced by new cells and continue to survive in the body. Additionally, new cells may begin to grow uncontrollably even when they are not needed, forming a collection of cell growth that in many cases manifests as a tumors. These tumors are either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are generally not life-threatening except for when they are located in the brain, and can be removed effectively.
Malignant tumors can be life-threatening and generally metastasize to other areas of the body, allowing the cancerous cells to break off and spread through the tissues or blood stream. When malignant tumors are removed, they can often grow back later on, while benign tumors generally do not return.
Did you know that there are 200 different types of diagnosable cancers? In Canada, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and bowel cancer make up over half of cancer cases that are diagnosed each year. Other cancers, which are a bit less rare, such as bladder, melanoma or prostate cancer also make up a significant portion of cancer diagnoses. Then there are other types of “rare cancers”. Typically in Canada, a cancer is considered rare if it starts in an unusual place in your body or is an or is an unusual type of cancer that is not diagnosed as some of the most frequently diagnosed cancers. According to Cancer Care Ontario, some Canadian statistics state that rare cancers are cancers which are generally considered cancers with a prevalence of less than 5% out a population.
Some examples of head and neck cancers are:
Other types of rare and aggressive cancers include thyroid cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, cancer of the lymphatic system, connective tissue cancer and gynecologic cancer.
In our experience, the impact of a rare cancer diagnosis upon a person’s ability to work is much like any other cancer diagnosis – with the main difference being that rare cancers are often diagnosed in later stages than other, which can post difficulty with treatment. But, with that said, due to advanced medical technology and improved prognosis, the number of rare cancer survivors who are both able and willing to return to work after treatment seems to be increasing. In fact, for many people with cancer, returning to work can promote some sense of normalcy and overall control of their lives during a very emotionally challenging time. There’s no doubt that someone’s employment status and returning to work can positively affect the quality of life.
However, statistics are also quite clear that the trajectory of employment opportunity for cancer survivors eventually lessons due to survivors needing to work fewer hours, taking prolonged periods off work work for treatment and many, unfortunately end up suffering cancer associated job loss.
When considering a person’s ability to return to work, the type of cancer that one suffers is also important due to the associated side effects and disability profiles. Rare cancers in particular may require more aggressive or extensive treatment and more time away from work than more commonly known cancers. According to the School of Public Health, patients who have rare cancers generally have less treatment options and poor 5 year prognosis. This creates a serious burden for those who are forced to sacrifice their working years to prioritize their health and wellbeing. Also, cancer survivors of head and neck and lung malignancies have been shown to have the greatest risk and not returning to work, due to facial deformities post-surgery and difficulty breathing. Breast cancer survivors often have apprehension about returning to work, related to the concerns of ongoing treatment, body deformities, self-esteem issues and lower-level of physical fitness. For cancer survivors undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy, there is often a greater difficulty returning to work.
Luckily those who have long-term disability either through private or group disability plans will be able to rely on monthly disability insurance benefits if he or she is unable to work. The problem however, is that although insurance companies often promote the fact that they will pay long-term disability benefits if an employee is unable to work, the reality is many will deny valid disability claims, lengthen the application process unnecessarily, delay payments, or, find a way to not pay disability benefits. This is a sad fact, but a true one.
When claimants are diagnosed with rare cancers, we have seen insurance adjusters simply not believe the claimant’s inability to work, nor do they want to educate themselves about chronic rare cancer illness claims. Despite the fact that you are suffering from cancer related symptoms and treatment side effects such as:
some disability carriers will actually wrongfully deny disability benefits for reasons such as lack of medical documentation, a misunderstanding of the cancer diagnosis, late application, pre-existing conditions, or even worse, believe that you can actually return to some sort of employment. In other cases it may be a decision made by your insurance carrier’s in-house medical doctor – which, many times, are not oncologists.
If your insurance carrier has denied or unreasonably cut your long-term disability benefits off, you still have options. You do not have to accept the denial and live with an added financial burden to your already painful situation. You have the right to hire a disability lawyer who has experience in litigating long-term disability claims. You have the right to file suit against your disability carrier for the wrongful denial of disability benefits. Your disability lawyer will assemble all relevant medical and clinical documentation required, hire the appropriate experts and if necessary, will try your case in court.
Matt Lalande is a long-term disability lawyer who litigated against Canadian disability carriers since 2003. Matt has tried many jury and non-jury cases and is a sought after disability lawyer in the province of Ontario. Matt has litigated cases against such disability carriers as:
If you suffer from a rare cancer and are unable to perform the substantial duties of your own job, you should be entitled to receive monthly long-term disability benefits. Most long-term disability policy state that after 24 months, you must be unable to perform the substantial duties of any occupation for which you are reasonably suited by education training and experience. In our experience, this is when most disability carriers deny their claimant’s benefits. As the claimant approaches the two-year mark, the insurance company gears up with rehab workers and in-house medical doctors. Together, the claimant, rehab specialist and in-house doctors often try and coerce claimants into trying to go back to work. Once the claimant agrees to try to go back to work, the disability carrier then works to cut off his or her monthly disability benefits. Often times at the two-year mark, insurance companies (and often against the claimant’s own doctor’s advice) will decide unilaterally that the claimant can go back to work at some type of employment.
If your insurance carrier has denied or unreasonably cut your long-term disability benefits off, you still have options. You do not have to accept the denial and live with the added financial burden to your already painful situation. Navigating through the appeal of a denied or cut off disability claim can be complicated and exhausting. When you are already undergoing the physically demanding and mentally draining process of cancer treatment, being denied your disability benefits will no doubt add to your family’s stress. Instead of burdening yourself even further, call our experienced disability lawyers today to start your case. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you meet the “total disability test” under your policy and that you get the justice you deserve. Our Hamilton disability lawyers have been representing clients across Ontario since 2003, and has successfully recovered millions of dollars in long-term disability benefit payments. When you are too sick to work and your insurance carrier is unreasonably cutting you off, you deserve to recover the money you are owed.
All consultations with us are free, with no up front fees and no obligation to work with us if you decide to file an appeal. We are here to provide you with the right information to make a decision that brings you some peace of mind during this difficult time.
Call us nationwide at 1-844-LALANDE (525-2633) or locally at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can request a call back by filling out our online form.
LALANDE PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS – HAMILTON OFFICE
1 King Street East, Suite 1705
Hamilton, On L8P 1A4
*The above information was approved by Matt Lalande or another lawyer at Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers. The information comes from legal experience, trial experience, extensive medical research and discussion with medical professionals, medical journal review and updates and/or consultations with fellow friends and colleagues in the legal and medical field.