In the US, one of the earliest and most notable cases of life insurance claims after a person’s death by suicide occurred in 1871. Mary Terry filed a death benefit claim of $2000 with her husband George Terry’s insurance company, Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. Her husband died from self-administered poison. The insurance company denied the claim, prompting Mary Terry to file a lawsuit.
In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the country. Apart from the emotional and mental stress that usually comes with suicide, there are also financial aspects to address. In 2015, suicide and self-injury cost the country $69 billion, based on data culled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For those who were left behind, below are some points to consider before filing an insurance policy claim.
Importance of the Suicide Clause
According to Nerdwallet, if your loved one had free life insurance, which their employer paid, the policy typically covers the death. If your loved one purchased the policy through an employment program, you may file a claim, provided that the policy took effect more than two years ago.
Even if the policy explicitly states that the insurance company does not cover death by suicide, the insurer still owes family members the total amount of premium the policyholder paid before they passed away. Again, the insurance must have been bought two years prior to the death.
The suicide clause protects insurance companies from being compelled to pay beneficiaries the entire insurance amount in a planned death. It also prevents individuals from using life insurance as a way to leave money behind when they execute their exit plan. This applies to those who opt for physician-assisted suicide if this has been proven.
What to Do When Claims Are Denied
If your claim for a loved one’s insurance policy has been denied, consulting a life insurance lawyer in Los Angeles is your best course of action. Lawyers will review the policy, suicide clause, and incontestability clause to determine your eligibility. They will also work with the family in following up the claim with the insurance company.
If there is evidence that the insurance carrier wrongfully or unfairly denied the death benefit claim, you may choose to file a legal complaint against the company. If the insurance company persists in denying the claim, the burden of proof that the death was due to suicide lies in them, not you.
Going back to the Life Ins. Co v. Terry case, the defendant, Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, claimed that George Terry died by his own hand and that the company wasn’t liable for any claim. Mary Terry, on the other hand, argued that her husband acted that way due to his mental condition. Had the condition been proven, the company would have been forced to pay the death benefit, but in the end, the court did not hold the insurer liable.
Suicide makes the death of a loved one doubly devastating, and the financial impact adds to it, as well. But if your loved one was insured, there may be a chance for you to have financial relief after their demise.
If you need a life insurance lawyer in Los Angeles to help you with your claims, reach out to us today for a free consultation.
(This is an attorney advertisement by Joshua Haffner)