We are often asked by our disabled clients if they must stop all cease or limit their daily activities in order to prove they are unable to work in their occupation. The answer is no. Insurers do poke around, asking claimants on “Activities of Daily Living” forms questions such as how far they can travel, what computer devises they operate, whether they tend to their yard, or clean their home or exercise at a gym. Detailed prodding often seeks information about how the claimant spends their day from the moment they awaken to when they go to sleep at night.
We have handled appeals for clients who suffer from chronic pain but are able to mow their lawn, or clean their own home, or care for children. Hartford, Cigna, Unum and Prudential often deny claims of individuals whose lives outside of work appear to be too busy or too “normal” to justify a disability claim. However when rushing to deny a claim, the insurer does not ask how often the person is able to perform these activities, or under what conditions. We have successfully appealed cases where the insurers have challenged our client’s claim because they admit to using a computer or smart phone. The insurer simply concludes that the person surely can perform the duties and demands of their sedentary job which requires sitting at a computer during the normal work day. We have established the key difference between using a mobile device and computer periodically to check emails, or the news, and functioning in an executive capacity, performing cognitive demanding, time sensitive work duties on a daily basis. We advise our clients to be careful when completing insurer forms and to place their acitvities into the proper context.
A recent case by a Software engineer, disabled by cognitive and depression symptoms outlines the courts analysis on this issue. In Chapin v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., Prudential alleged that Mr. Chapin was not disabled due in part to his doctor’s noting that he continued to exercise, ski and hike. The court noted “Being able to ski, hike and work out in no way transfers into or supports performance as a software engineer.” Evidence supported that he was disabled from his cognitively demanding occupation despite his continued attempts to remain physically active.