A $150,000 New York Life Insurance claim was denied due to a suicide exclusion. Luckily, we got them to pay the full amount.
Beneficiaries of a life insurance policy typically assume that they can start collecting on the policy at any time once the insured dies. While this is often the case, there are certain circumstances that may exclude them from collecting anything under the policy. One such exclusion is the suicide clause.
Suicide is defined as the intentional killing of oneself. Life insurance policies variously refer to suicide simply as suicide, or as intentional self-destruction, or death by one's own hand. Although these phrases all describe the same incident, questions of interpretation can arise. A number of states have focused on the question of what intent is required in order for a death to be considered a suicide.
Suicide clauses appear almost universal in life insurance policies. They are difficult to spot, but they are hidden somewhere in the policy.
What Constitutes Suicide?
If a court finds that a decedent with an insurance policy has committed suicide, a suicide clause embedded in the life insurance policy will eliminate any recovery under the policy. Thus, knowing which situations are considered suicides will aid beneficiaries in determining whether they are barred from recovering under a life insurance policy. Such situations include those where a policyholder:
Dies committing a felonious activity: Felonious activity means engaging in any activity that constitutes a felony. Such activity may also include intentionally overdosing on illegal drugs or alcohol or shooting at armed police officers who had arrived to arrest the insured.
Dies intentionally performing acts with a high probability of death: Such as playing Russian Roulette, drugs, alochol, etc.
Causes his or her own death in an obvious manner: In these situations, a decedent is clearly responsible for taking his own life. Examples include a person shooting himself, driving off a cliff, jumping off a building, hanging himself, etc...
What does not constitute a suicide?
Deaths where the decedent asks to be killed by someone else: This would be a homicide, not a suicide, and we have many legal briefs on this.
Self-inflicted deaths at work: Such as a person jumping off a roof at work.
Driving an automobile on the highway at 100 miles per hour
Unintentional drug or alcohol overdoses
Persons insane: This varies significantly by state, and we have legal briefs for every state, and have handled cases in every state.
In any situation where it may be questionable whether an insured's death was the result of suicide, an insurance company is likely to claim that a suicide clause will bar your recovery as a beneficiary. Since determinations as to whether or not a decedent has committed suicide vary on case-by-case basis, having an attorney experienced with life insurance is essential. An attorney will be able to analyze the language of the policy to make sure that a suicide clause exists and will also strengthen the probability that you may recover under the life insurance policy in question.