In March, 2002 Howard (not her real name pending a lawsuit against Unum, suffered an injury and wound up with bruised ribs and a sprained neck. "It was a freak accident," explains Howard. "I was at an ice hockey palace and a janitor with a broom and bucket literally ran into me and knocked me over." Howard was rendered unconscious for a short time, until her niece helped her up and paramedics took her to ER. Fortunately, her insurance policy covered accidents away from work as well.
The next day she began to have dizzy spells and severe headaches. "I went to my family doctor a few days later—by this time I was also having a lot of pain in my left shoulder," says Howard. "I had an MRI, several x-rays and all kinds of other tests; a physiologist and neurologist both diagnosed me with nerve damage and 'double crush syndrome', meaning that, in my case, nerves were irritated in the shoulder, causing a peripheral nerve entrapment or carpal tunnel. They told me that I needed surgery on my right hand to repair the carpal tunnel."
By this time, Howard had applied to Unum for short term disability and received her first check of $800, to be paid monthly for up to two years.
"The following month, my second check came in the mail but this time the amount was $130," says Howard. "I have no idea how they came up with this amount. The next two months I got nothing. I kept calling them and got a different adjustor or customer representative every time. I had to tell my story all over again, every single call. Every one of them told me they didn't have my doctor's letter or the forms he sent to them.
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In other words, I didn't have an injury severe enough to keep me from work. I was a bookkeeper and did general office work. But I couldn't perform my duties with this injury--I was a mess.
Although this has nothing to do with it, I had lost my son a year before that and I didn't have the energy to fight Unum at the time. I called sporadically for two years; at times I was hysterical, begging them. They didn't care--they were rude and obnoxious. Why should I have to go through this to get the money owed to me? Now I hear that there may not be a statute of limitations and I might be able to take legal action against Unum.
I don't know how they sleep at night."