What Every Business Owner Needs To Know About Applying For Long-Term Disability Benefits

What Every Business Owner Needs To Know About Applying For Long-Term Disability Benefits

By Courtney Mulqueen, BA (Hons) LLB | Principal Lawyer and CEO, Mulqueen Disability Law

Markham business owners are the backbone of our local economy. We work tirelessly to build successful companies, providing jobs for our community. Even the most successful business owners can be hit with unexpected health challenges that can interfere in our ability to work and run our businesses.

Running a business is rewarding but the added risks and responsibilities can be difficult to manage if we become unwell. If disability strikes, we may need to take a step back to take care of ourselves. When we take time away for any reason, there is always the concern that our business and our income will suffer.

  • When is it time to step back from our business if we become disabled?

Some business owners choose to push through, continuing to work, risking further damage to their health and delaying their recovery. Others decide to stop working or cut back on their regular duties if their medical condition is impacting their ability to work. Knowing when to stop working can be critical to the bottom line but also to your long term health. When the cost of continuing to work outweighs the benefit of stopping work to recover, that’s when it makes sense to apply for disability benefits.

While it can be a difficult decision, it is important to remember that disability insurance is there to provide you with peace of mind that if disability strikes you have a financial safety net in place to avoid significant personal and business losses.

  • What types of disability benefits are available to business owners?

Applying for disability benefits can be a complicated process. As business owners, we have unique employment situations that may not fit neatly into the criteria for disability benefits. We often have different types of disability insurance that cover different types of losses. Some of us might not know what insurance coverage we have or what losses are covered.

Although we might have disability benefits through our company’s group disability benefit plan, most of us will have purchased individual or private disability insurance policies. We may also have other types of insurance for our business expenses and overhead or even disability creditor insurance which protects our lines of credit, mortgages, and credit cards. Finally, if we’ve been contributing to the program, we might also be eligible for Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits.

If you are unsure what insurance you have or what benefits you might be entitled to, you should reach out to your insurance company, insurance broker, bank, or Service Canada. They will be able to provide you details about your coverage and even provide you with the claims forms and guidance for making a disability claim.

  • Why is proving disability claims more complicated for business owners?

Filling out claims forms and compiling medical information can be very difficult if you are unwell. To make matters worse, depending on the benefit you are applying for, insurance companies might also require business owners to provide detailed financial information about our personal and business income, expenses, and work related duties. This can seem overwhelming but should not deter business owners from claiming disability benefits to which they are entitled.

A unique challenge is demonstrating that our disability has had a significant impact on our ability to work, as our business may be able to continue operating and generate revenue even if we are not able to perform certain tasks. The insurance company may determine that there is insufficient medical evidence to support that the business owner can not continue to operate their business or that there has been no loss of income.

  • What help is available to business owners?

It is important that business owners get the help they need to navigate their disability claims. Getting help early is key as it is important to submit the forms in time, to ensure that the insurance company does not deny the claim because it was submitted late.

Along with doctors who will complete the required claims forms and attach their records, an experienced disability lawyer can be consulted early on, even before you decide to stop working or if you are concerned your benefits will be denied or terminated. They should understand the unique challenges of entrepreneurs and can provide vital information and effective strategies to ensure that your disability claim is approved and paid until you are well enough to return to work.

They can help determine what information to provide in the initial claim; and how to successfully prove “invisible” disabilities such as mental illness, burnout, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, immunological conditions, brain injury, etc. Disability insurance lawyers can guide you and your treatment providers through the disability claims process and advocate on your behalf if the insurance company denies your claim to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to.

  • What other protective measures can business owners take?

Being proactive in protecting your business in the event that you become disabled may involve establishing a succession plan, delegating tasks to trusted employees, and ensuring that you have adequate insurance coverage to protect your business and your family.

While applying for disability benefits as a business owner may seem overwhelming, it is important to remember that you are not alone. With the right support and legal representation, you can get the help you need to manage your disability while protecting your business and your family for the long-term.

Bio: Courtney Mulqueen is the principal lawyer and owner of Mulqueen Disability Law, a boutique law firm specializing in litigating Long-Term Disability Insurance disputes, located in Markham, Ontario, across from the Markham Stouffville Hospital. With nearly 25 years dedicated to litigating disability insurance claims, Courtney draws on her early insider experience defending the disability insurance companies she now sues for her disabled clients. Courtney and her skilled legal team focus on proving disability claims for “invisible” disabilities like mental illness, chronic pain, post-COVID conditions, immunological conditions, and brain injury. Mulqueen Disability Law is proud to be trauma-informed certified and provide free consultations.