• David Martin

The Edge Series: What Does "Recurring Disability" Mean?



The lawyers in our firm are focused on helping people with disability policies and ERISA claims. We want to give you the edge in understanding your policy. Today, we want to help you understand what the term "recurring disability" means in your disability policy.


A recurring disability is a period of disability that results from the same or a related cause of a prior disability.


Example #1: Recurring Disability

For example, if a box of copy paper falls on your foot resulting in a broken foot that disables you from work, that would be one period of disability. If you are somewhat better, return to work, but begin to experience pain and have to stop work again, that second disability claim is a recurring disability. The same accident is the ultimate cause of both disability periods.


To further explain, let's look at what is not a recurring disability.


Example #2: NOT Recurring Disability

If a box of copy paper falls on your foot resulting in a broken foot that disables you from work, that would be one period of disability. If after you return to work, you then injure your neck, which disables you. This neck injury likely does not stem from the same disability, so this would not be a recurring disability.


The benefit of the recurring disability provision is that you do not have to start all over with a new elimination period.

Without that provision, (for example, if the elimination period is 180 days) serving out that second 180-day elimination period could really hurt financially.


The danger that arises with the definition of recurring disability is that there are typically time limits as to how long you can make a work attempt between the first period of disability and the second period of disability.

The time limit is set as stated within the policy. Frequently, we see a six-month time limit.


For example, if you return to work (and the time limit is six months) and you must leave on disability again after that six-month time limit has expired, then you will miss out on the protection of the recurring disability provision.

It does not matter if you are out again for the same disability injury. Claimants will often make the mistake of pushing through, only to find out that their bodies can't take it. If they push through just a little too long, then they could end up without benefits while going through a new elimination period all over again. Even if you work one day over the six-month time limit, that can cost you several months of benefits.


Remember our ERISA attorneys and long-term disability lawyers are here to help if you run into problems. Contact us at the first sign of trouble with your disability claim.