Yes, but your claim will likely receive heightened scrutiny—particularly
if you worked normal hours seeing roughly the same number of dental
patients up until your office was closed due to coronavirus.
Many disability policies require you to prove that your disability
(or loss of income resulting from disability) was caused “solely” by an
and not by other secondary causes. Other policies require you to show a
“demonstrated relationship” between the disabling condition and your
inability to practice dentistry. And some newer disability policies even
exclude disabilities if they are “caused or contributed to” by
something other than your underlying medical condition. If your
disability policy contains such language, your insurer may deny or
reduce your benefits on the grounds that your loss of income/inability
to practice is due to causes other than your disabling condition.
Additionally, if you can’t work because you were forced to close your
office or give away your supplies, or your employer sent you home and
you can’t work for other dentists because of a non-compete agreement,
your insurer may also try to use that as a basis to deny your claim.
This is called the “legal disability” defense and is usually used in
situations where a dentist has legally lost the ability to practice—for
example, if the dentist lost his/her license. Courts have addressed this
differently in different jurisdictions, but generally the defense—where
recognized—allows the insurer to avoid payment if it can show that you
lost the legal ability to practice before you became disabled.
If your disability insurance company raises this legal defense, it
typically results in a “chicken v. egg” scenario where your medical
records and the timeline is parsed to determine what came first. And,
while it is certainly possible to prevail, these claims may require
court involvement to resolve—particularly if care is not taken at the
outset to ensure that the timeline and facts are properly submitted with
the original notice of claim.
Action Step: If you are considering
filing a disability claim during the national coronavirus epidemic,
recognize that your claim will be subjected to close scrutiny and make
sure that you carefully review and double-check your responses when
submitting your proof of loss to ensure that the timeline is accurate.
If you are concerned about your insurer asserting a “legal disability”
defense, speak with an experienced disability lawyer about your
Each dentist’s claim for disability benefits involves different
facts, disabling conditions, policy requirements, insurance companies,
etc. While our attorneys are making an effort to share general knowledge
with the dental community and answer dentists’ questions about the
impact of the coronavirus, this not a substitute for individualized
advice from an experienced disability insurance lawyer. If you would
like to speak with our attorneys and have them take an in-depth look at
your particular situation, please feel free to contact us directly.