As a Louisiana disability lawyer, I have been asked to explain the difference between short-term disability benefits and long-term disability benefits on more than one occasion. This is my attempt to explain the differences and similarities as briefly as possible.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability insurance is designed to pay you benefits quicker and for a shorter period of time. The elimination period (the period of time you must be disabled before benefits start) in a short-term disability policy is often from 0-14 days. This means that a short head cold would probably not qualify you for short-term disability. The benefit period usually ranges from 60-180 days (or 2-6 months). This means that you will be paid, if you are disabled, for that period of time.

The universe of ailments and injuries that can qualify you for short-term disability are greater than those for long-term disability because of this. For example, while a broken arm may not last long enough for you to claim a long-term disability, it could qualify you for a short-term disability benefit. For this reason, a short-term disability policy may be referred to as a sick-leave policy.

Short-term disability policies do have terms, conditions, and exclusions that you must be aware of. The number of policies and differences makes it impossible to point them all out here. For this reason, you need to read the policy.

Long-Term Disability

Long-term disability insurance policies, on the other hand, are designed to replace a portion of your income over a longer period of time. For this reason, their elimination period (long-term disability waiting period) is usually longer – often 90-180 days (but policy specific). This means that you will not get paid for the first 3-6 months of your disability. Long-term disability policies can pay you a benefit for a very long time, as long as you are disabled – usually up to a certain age, like 65.

The policy terms, conditions, and exclusions of long-term disability policies are often more onerous (bad for you) than short-term disability policy conditions. Also, because the benefit period is substantially longer, insurance companies carefully review and manage their long-term disability claims.

Going from Short-Term Disability to Long-Term Disability

I should also point out that just because the insurance company approved your short-term disability benefits does not mean they will approve your long-term disability claim. Long-term disability claim denials are common for those coming from short-term disability.

From a legal perspective, I do not see many short-term disability disputes but they do exist. Long-term disability insurance disputes are more common. However, the legal principles applying to reviewing decisions of the insurance company under both short and long-term disability insurance are the same – if the benefits were provided by your employer. There may be a difference if you get one benefit through your job but paid for the other separately.

I hope this brief explanation cleared up some confusion. If you want to discuss your short-term or long-term disability case, call me at 985-240-9773 or use our contact form.

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Accident, injury, and disability attorney serving Luling, Metairie, New Orleans, and South Louisiana