Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. A person is generally considered to have epilepsy if they have more than one seizure that was not caused by a known and reversible medical condition.
Seizures and epilepsy are not the same thing. A seizure is a single event, while epilepsy is a disease involving recurring seizures. Seizures are a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain, and can vary in severity from hardly noticeable to totally disabling.
One out of 26 people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime, making it the fourth most common neurological condition. New cases of epilepsy are most common among children and people over 55. Strokes, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s Disease can all cause epilepsy, and epilepsy occurs more frequently in people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
Many seizures will end on their own without causing any permanent damage. However, people with seizures can injure themselves, develop other medical problems, or have life-threatening emergencies. The Epilepsy Foundation states that a physician and the state licensing agency must decide whether or not it is safe for a person with epilepsy to drive, and that precautions should be taken near water or busy streets.
How your epilepsy impacts your ability to work will depend on the frequency and severity of your seizures, as well as the type of work you perform. Medication can effectively eliminate seizures in some people who suffer from epilepsy. Some people with epilepsy may be able to work without significant problems, while others will have serious difficulties working. The after-effects of a seizure can also impact a person’s ability to work, as it is common to feel disoriented or be slow to respond after a seizure.
A person with epilepsy may be able to continue working by requesting reasonable accommodation, or by adjusting their job duties. Short-term disability leave may also be appropriate in some cases. For persistent epilepsy, a claim for long-term disability benefits should be filed.
Disability claims for epilepsy can be difficult due to the unpredictability of the disorder. If there are other medical issues that caused the epilepsy, they may also be considered to contribute to the person’s inability to work. Ultimately, the medical evidence will have to prove that the epilepsy is severe enough to prevent the person from working. In some cases, you may have to appeal the initial decision of the insurance company if your claim for benefits is denied.
Contact the experienced ERISA lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Visit our ERISA law page to learn more about disability claim denials and to download our free ERISA law guide.