How is “disability” defined?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 2, 2012

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Individual policies commonly use one of two definitions of “disability”.

One definition is that you are unable to perform your own occupation (“own-occ” policies) – the job you were doing before disability or illness. A variation on this theme is the modified “own occupation” policy that covers you for your own occupation so long as you are not gainfully employed elsewhere.

The second definition, much less attractive to the purchaser, defines disability in terms of your inability to perform any occupation for which you are suited by education and experience.

The distinctive between the major forms can be critically important. For example, if a surgeon loses a hand, s/he may not be able to do surgery. If s/he has an “own occupation” policy, s/he would be able to recover, even though she was able to work as a doctor in a non-surgical field. With the inability to perform any occupation, there would be no recovery, even if the surgeon could only be a tour guide.

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