Life insurance companies frequently refuse to pay death benefits under life insurance policies if the cause of death was medical malpractice.
ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, governs most life insurance claims. It allows life insurance policy beneficiaries bring a suit against insurance companies if the companies refused to pay death benefits. Life insurance companies deny death benefits claims for many reasons. The law allows the insurance companies dispute the nature of deaths, including those involving medical errors.
The case of Barnes is an example of a beneficiary's successful fight for death benefits after his wife died due to medical malpractice. In February, Trudy Barnes, a 31-year-old housewife, had elective surgery for scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. During the surgery, a doctor committed malpractice, and she died as the result.
Clint, her spouse, had purchased an American International Group, Inc (AIG) accidental death insurance policy for his wife in 2004. The coverage came through a group plan from his employer, L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., a company that maintains Air Force planes. It was Trudy's only life insurance policy. Upon his wife's death, Clint filed a life insurance policy claim with AIG. AIG refused to pay. AIG stated that the reason for denial was that it was an accident-only policy and did not cover sickness or disease. Barnes sued AIG for breach of contract in July. The court found that the cause of death was an unintentional, unexpected, unusual and unforeseen event -- an accident. The judge set aside AIG's determination to the contrary as arbitrary and capricious. AIG paid Barnes the $148,000 death benefit, along with unspecified interest and attorney fees of $50,533.
The death of a loved one brings grief, sorrow, and losses, including medical and funeral expenses. If your loved one died due to a medical mistake and the insurance company refused to pay you the death benefits under the decedent's life insurance policy, our life insurance lawyers can help. We are a team of experienced life insurance lawyers who have dedicated our time and energy to fighting big insurance companies for wrongfully denying life insurance claims.