Life Insurance Lawyer Minnesota
Minnesota Denied Life Insurance Claims Recently Settled
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Can starting a fight nullify your life insurance?
Your life insurance company may argue that it does
Let’s face it, we live in a contentious society. It seems like everywhere you look, people are taking the opportunity to fight with one another. Whether it is over politics, sports, or something as inane as traffic, it appears that Americans are resorting to violence more frequently than ever.
Of course, there are numerous consequences to such violence. A person can obviously be hurt physically and/or emotionally. If the police get involved, one or both parties to a fight can get hauled off to jail. Marriages, friendships, and family relationships can be tarnished indefinitely. Indeed, it is hard to come up with anything good that comes from fighting.
There is another consequence of violence that hotheads may want to consider, however. Specifically, if a person with a life insurance policy dies as the result of an argument that he initiated, his beneficiaries may not get the policy benefit he intended for them.
That was the situation faced by the family of a St. Louis man named Henry who died as the result of an argument he started outside his place of business. This article explores the facts of his case and the way his life insurance company tried to deprive his family of his policy payout.
An escalating feud between neighbors
Henry owned a successful autobody shop in an industrial area of St. Louis. As with most autobody shops, Henry’s was surrounded with broken down cars, crates full of car parts, and miscellaneous tools. In a somewhat surprising move, two years before the incident in question, a real estate office set up shop in an abandoned building directly adjacent to Henry’s business.
From day one, Henry and the owner of the real estate brokerage (a man named Mike) did not get along. Even though Henry had done business in the neighborhood for years, Mike expected Henry to “tidy up” the yard surrounding the autobody shop because, according to Mike, it was off-putting to his real estate clients. Henry balked at the notion and basically ignored Mike’s demands.
One summer, Henry and his wife took a rare and long-overdue vacation. At some point during the ten days that they were out of town, Mike and some colleagues entered the grounds of the autobody shop and moved around many of the tools and crates on the premises. They did so with the intent of making the property less unsightly. Mike later testified that he believed Henry would be grateful once he saw how much nicer the property could look from the street.
When Henry returned, however, he was not pleased. To the contrary, he was incensed. Instead of calling the police to report the trespassing, however, Henry (a man who stood 6’ 5” tall and weighed 290 pounds) stormed over to Mike’s real estate office. Witnesses testified that as Henry approached, he was yelling expletives and making threats about “kicking Mike’s ass.”
Mike had a much slighter build than Henry and had stated frequently that he was afraid of the larger man. Not surprisingly then, Mike grabbed a nearby shop broom as Henry approached. People who witnessed the altercation said that when Henry got about three feet away from Mike, he raised his right arm and clenched his fist as if he were going to hit Mike. Mike closed his eyes and swung the handle of the broom in Henry’s direction with all his might. The handle struck Henry’s nose in an upward motion. Henry dropped to the ground, lifeless. Within hours of being taken to the hospital, Henry died.
A surprise life insurance claim denial
Several years before his death, Henry had taken out a $300,000 life insurance policy and named his wife, Marta, as the beneficiary. The couple had hoped the money would help Marta stay afloat if anything ever happened to Henry. Thus, within weeks of Henry’s death, Marta filed a claim for policy benefits.
After reviewing the police reports and witness statements concerning Henry’s death, however, the life insurance company flat-out denied Marta’s claim. In its denial letter, the insurer pointed to policy language requiring the company to pay out a death benefit only if Henry’s death came “through accidental means and resulting directly, independently, and exclusively of all other causes.” According to the insurance company, Henry had initiated the fight with Mike, the fight was likely to cause injuries, and it was foreseeable that those injuries might cause death. Thus, the company claimed, the death was not an accident and it was not obligated to pay.
Fortunately, Marta’s friend referred her to a lawyer specializing in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims. The lawyer reviewed the facts of the incident, along with the insurance company’s claim denial letter and immediately knew the denial was bogus. In fact, the attorney was aware of several prior court cases where deaths caused by fighting were deemed to be “accidental.” In each of those cases, the court eventually ordered the insurance company to pay the claim.
Henry’s case was no different. Though the lawyer had to sue the insurance company on Marta’s behalf, the court ultimately decided that Henry’s death was accidental. He ordered the insurance company to pay the full $300,000 death benefit, with interest.
Unfortunately, this case is not unusual. As attorneys who specialize exclusively in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims, we see similar situations day in and day out. Life insurance companies make the most money if they can avoid making death payouts. Thus, they often concoct bogus claim denial reasoning just to see if they can intimidate policy beneficiaries into giving up on their legitimate claims.
If you have recently received a life insurance claim denial that you believe is in error, call us. We’re happy to review the facts of your case (at no charge) and give you our honest opinion about your chances of contesting the claim denial. Don’t wait. Call us today.