The challenges of disability claims for workplace stress

The challenges of disability claims for workplace stress

By Nainesh Kotak

Employees across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress. In a recent survey, almost one quarter (24 per cent) of respondents said their work-related stress has escalated. A significant portion of employees cited burnout symptoms, such as sleep problems, constant worrying and lack of concentration.

Another study shows that the main trigger points for workplace stress were heavy workloads and tight deadlines (41 per cent), followed by a poor work-life balance (22 per cent), and unrealistic management expectations (17 per cent).

And as employers call for a return to in-person work, we may see a rise in disability claims for people anxious about returning to toxic workplaces.

Stressed out

Employees who are unable to work due to stress can apply for short- or long-term disability benefits through their insurance company. As part of the application process, they will need their doctor to complete a form known as the attending physician’s statement. This provides the insurance company with specific medical information about a claimant’s condition as well as the expected time to recover.

But what happens when a doctor doesn’t support a patient’s disability claim or their need to be off work? In my experience, this situation often comes down to a lack of communication or some type of disconnect between the patient and the doctor.

During medical visits, a doctor will make notes about the patient’s symptoms, both physical and any psychological issues they may be experiencing. But doctors are not mind readers; they depend on patients to communicate their symptoms and to describe how they may be interfering with their ability to function.

It’s important to make your family doctor aware of the stress at work. Unfortunately, many people tend to be closed-mouthed about their anxiety and mental health issues and will only share the information with their doctor once reach a breaking point.

With no history of any issues, the doctor is left with little information from which to form a medical opinion, and likely will not support the patient’s request. Essentially, the physician’s notes on a patient’s file form the evidence required to support the claim. If the notes are lacking because the patient never made visits, calls or complaints about their symptoms, it will be difficult for their doctor to support their disability claim.

Share all symptoms with your doctor

When you’re dealing with a chronic or recurring medical issue, it can be helpful to keep detailed notes about your symptoms and how you feel on a day-to-day basis. That will make it easier to share the information with your doctor during medical appointments.

You should also ensure your doctor understands the nature of your job and any adverse impacts it may have on your mental health. If you have a high-pressure job and are using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress, that’s important information to share with your doctor. If they don’t understand the duties of the job or how it affects you, they may be less inclined to give an opinion and support the claim that you are unable to perform the duties of your job.

Communication barriers

People sometimes simply have difficulty expressing the mental health issues they’re experiencing due to stigma or a hesitancy to show weakness. Some patients may also experience a language barrier, in which case it may be helpful to bring along someone who can speak to the doctor on their behalf.

While it’s preferable to see the same doctor each time to report symptoms, it can be challenging to find a family doctor in some areas of the province, so a walk-in clinic is the only choice. It’s a good idea to ask to see the same doctor each time so that there’s a continuity in reporting symptoms.

Even if the patient has done everything right by doing the prescribed treatment, including medication or therapy, sometimes doctors are simply too busy to fill out the necessary forms. In that case, it may be time to switch doctors. Another option is to see to a psychologist or request a psychiatric evaluation since a specialist may be better trained to detect psychological issues.

Skip the internal appeal process

If your claim is denied, the insurance company will invite you to appeal through their internal process, but it’s not a path we recommend. Disability insurers rarely change their mind. Your best option is to consult with a lawyer who practises in disability law and can move the case forward toward resolution.


We understand that being denied short-term disability or long-term disability benefits can be devastating. Your time to fight your disability insurance company is limited. Please do not delay in calling a short- and long-term disability claim lawyer at Kotak Personal Injury Law. We have successfully sued numerous disability insurance companies including Manulife, Sunlife, Desjardins, Cigna, Great-West Life, Equitable Life, Empire Life, London Life, Blue Cross, AIG, SSQ, RBC, Industrial Alliance, Canada Life, Fenchurch, OTIP, Teachers Life and more.

Call your trusted long-term disability lawyers at 1-888-GOKOTAK (Toll Free for all of Canada), or (416) 816-1500 (Local Number for Ontario Residents), (403) 319-0071, (587) 414-1010 (Local Numbers for Alberta Residents). Our consultation is free, and we don’t get paid until you do. We represent disabled people throughout Ontario and Alberta, including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Georgetown, Orangeville, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, St.Catharines, Niagara Falls, Stoney Creek, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge, London, Windsor, Markham, Pickering, Oshawa, Peterborough, Keswick, Kingston, Ottawa, Banff, Brooks, Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Jasper, Lake Louise, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Saint Albert and other locations.