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8. Would I need a lawyer or advocate to handle my claim?

That is a personal decision unique to each person seeking disability benefits.

The advantage of a lawyer/advocate at the outset of the claim process is that s/he can minimize your time interacting with the insurer and obtaining all the relevant information needed to assess your claim for benefits. If s/he is well versed in insurance law, the lawyer can help you better understand your rights under the policy.

An example would be the lawyer's familiarity with ERISA and expertise in knowing that you are timely submitting a complete packet of information in support of your claim.

The downside to a lawyer/advocate at the claim stage is that you will have to pay the lawyer/advocate.