Drug use may look like suicide
The truth about life insurance companies is that they do not like to pay out on life insurance claims after one of their policyholders passes away. From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense. If a life insurance company can collect premiums from a policyholder year after year, then avoid paying a claim against that policy when the person dies, all the money they've collected in premiums is pure profit. We resolve life insurance delays and life insurance beneficiary disputes as well.
Thus, if you take basic human compassion out of the equation, you understand why life insurance companies sometimes stretch the bounds of decency in an effort to avoid making policy payouts. Unfortunately, these decisions have devastating real world impacts on beneficiaries. Indeed, most people obtain life insurance for the sole purpose of making sure their beneficiaries are financially secure after they pass away. When an insurance company destroys that security, it also destroys lives.
Fortunately, with all of our modern technology, social media interactions, and electronic communications, lawyers who specialize in overturning wrongful life insurance claim denials are often armed with the evidence they need to prove an insurer’s claim denial decision was legally unsupportable. This article explorers a case where an attorney was called upon to disprove an allegation from a life insurance company that its policyholder had committed suicide – a situation that would have relieved the insurer of its obligation to pay.
A death due to drugs
The case at hand involved a very wealthy family from the midwestern United States. Unlike most people, who simply take out life insurance policies on the parents within a nuclear family, this family had life insurance policies on both parents as well as each of their five children.
One of those children was a 15 year-old boy named Jason. Jason was a bit of a wild child. From the time he was a toddler, he always seemed to be getting into some sort of trouble. Despite how smart he was, his grades in school were never that good and he found himself assigned to detention more often than not.
As is frequently the case with kids like this, Jason fell into using drugs and alcohol at a very young age. Through the years, his parents had caught him drinking, smoking pot, and even experimenting with psychedelics. Although they had paid for extensive counseling services, nothing seemed to slow Jason down. The one positive thing you could say about Jason was that despite his troubles, he was always an extremely happy guy.
Unfortunately, one night Jason's mother and father came home late from a holiday party to find their son dead on the floor of his bedroom. Next to him, they found a bottle of paint thinner that had been in the garage and an old rag that appeared to be soaked in that noxious liquid. They called the paramedics who quickly confirmed that their son was indeed deceased.
The claim denial
Although Jason's parents were devastated by his death, they managed to make a claim against his life insurance policy within a few weeks following the incident. One month later, they received a notice of claim denial. The insurance company claimed that the circumstances of Jason's death indicated that he committed suicide. Because Jason's life insurance policy contained a suicide exclusion, the insurer further claimed it was not obligated to make any payment to Jason’s parents.
The family was disturbed by this news. Even though Jason had done something stupid to hasten his own death, there was no indication that he was suicidal. In fact, after the police and coroner had investigated the incident, their official conclusion was that Jason died from an accidental overdose.
The family had several lawyers at its disposal, and they quickly received a referral to an attorney specializing in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims. After an initial consultation, the lawyer told Jason's parents he wanted to do a quick investigation of his own before contesting the claim denial.
As part of that, he asked Jason’s parents for permission to look at the boy’s cell phone records, as well as his social media accounts. It was a smart strategy. Here are some of the statements he found:
- “Dude, I’m totally gonna try huffing tonight. Gonna be so fun!”
- “Found some paint thinner in the garage. Google says the high will be A-MAZ-ING!”
- “Can’t wait for the winter break parties! They will be epic.”
- “I’m totally going to ask Holly to prom. I think she’s the one for me.”
- “After I graduate, I’m totally going to Europe for a year … or two. Come with?”
No intent to die
The lawyer new that in order for a suicide to legally occur, the victim had to intend to end his own life. After looking at Jason’s texts and social media posts, it was clear that he did not intend to die -- instead, he simply intended to try a new drug.
The attorney took all of this evidence to the insurance company's internal appeals board. In a day-long hearing, he presented all of the above evidence to refute the idea that Jason had committed suicide. Absent the requisite intent, he argued, the insurance company simply could not invoke the suicide exclusion.
Faced with what it knew was an almost certain losing battle in court, the appeals board overturned the claim denial decision. Within a few days of the hearing, the company paid Jason’s parents the full policy benefit.It is important for our readers to understand that you do not have to be as wealthy as Jason's parents to hire an attorney specializing in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims. In fact, our firm offers a free consultation. If we decide to take your case, you will not pay our firm a dime unless and until we receive monetary recovery from the insurance company on your behalf. A specialized lawyer can make the difference between receiving a policy payout and not. Call us today. We're here to help.