Life Insurance Lawyer Nevada
Whether you reside in: Carson City; Sparks; Reno; Henderson or Las Vegas; our life insurance attorneys who live and work here in Nevada are here to help resolve your delayed or denied life insurance claim.
Submitting a life insurance claim without a death certificate
Life insurance is an important financial planning tool for many American families. At a base level, most people understand how life insurance works. Policyholders pay premiums to the life insurance company and, in return, the policyholder’s beneficiaries receive a predetermined death payout when that policyholder dies. Oftentimes, that payout is so important to surviving family members that life insurance is sometimes almost viewed as a charitable endeavor.
Make no mistake, however. Life insurance companies are very much profit driven entities. The simple truth is that they make the most money if they can create two key conditions: (1) sell a life insurance policy to a person who faithfully pays premiums during the life of the policy; and (2) after that person dies, deny any claims against the policy made by that person’s beneficiary.
As attorneys who specialize in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims, we see these tactics in action all the time. Life insurers employ throngs of lawyers whose sole job it is to look for reasons to deny claims any time a person dies. Still other lawyers are employed to draft insurance policy language ridden with loopholes that will allow for such denials.
To add insult to injury, the life insurance companies then make submitting a claim a cumbersome process. At the very least, the process typically involves submission of: (a) a claim form; (b) a death certificate; (c) an autopsy report or coroner’s report, if applicable; (d) police reports, if applicable; and (e) an obituary.
Sometimes, however, not all of this information is available to the beneficiary. This article explores circumstances where the beneficiary is unable to obtain the most critical part of the claim submission – the death certificate. Almost no life insurance policy will pay a benefit without it. Yet, as you’ll see below, there are a surprising number of circumstances where the document is simply unavailable.
When death certificates aren’t available
At first blush, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a death certificate wouldn’t issue almost immediately after a person’s death. If a person has died, there shouldn’t be any delay, right? Not necessarily. In truth, there are a vast array of circumstances in which a death certificate does not immediately issue.
Take, for example, the case of an American citizen who dies while traveling in a third world country. That country may not have the administrative, legal, or political ability to produce a document verifying a person’s death. Other countries may have religious customs that require bodies to be embalmed immediately – a practice that makes an autopsy and determination of the cause of death nearly impossible. Thus, even if a death certificate does issue, it won’t list the official cause of death and the insurer may refuse a payout on that basis.
Another tragic (yet common) scenario where a death certificate may not issue is in the case of a mass disaster. The terror attacks of 9/11, the tsunamis in Japan and Thailand, and the disappearance of the Malaysian jetliner are all examples where death certificates can be near impossible to obtain. In each of those cases, deaths were innumerable and widespread. Thousands of bodies were lost in each catastrophe, never to be recovered. Entire government systems were overtaxed or shut down completely.
Even in those cases that occurred in foreign lands, there were Americans with life insurance policies who undeniably lost their lives. Their families were left with the overwhelming shock and grief of losing a loved one in such a violent and unexpected manner. Yet, when it came time to submit claims to life insurance companies relating to those losses, many of the policy beneficiaries were met with the same response: “We’re sorry. We can’t process your claim without a death certificate.”
Time to call an attorney
The receipt of a claim denial letter under these circumstances can be devastating. This is especially true if the deceased was the primary wage earner in the family and the surviving loved ones were dependent on the proceeds of life insurance simply to pay normal living expenses. In those instances, families may not be able to survive the period of time that it takes for insurance companies to agree to presume death (typically a period of five to seven years after the policyholder goes missing).
To make matters worse, survivors who are having a particularly difficult time with their grief and anguish may not have the will to fight the insurance company’s claim denial letter. That feeling of defeat is certainly understandable. The good news is that there are people who will fight tooth and nail to see that you get the life insurance benefits that were intended for you.
In our line of work, we have faced these difficult circumstances with clients more times than we’d like to admit. We know the insurance companies are simply taking advantage of tragic circumstances so they can line their pockets. Importantly, we don’t stand for it. Neither should you.
For example, one of the things we can help you with is obtaining a declaration from a court that your loved one is actually deceased. Known as a death in absentia declaration (“presumption of death”), U.S. courts can take the facts and circumstances of a policyholder’s disappearance and legally deem them to be dead. This is actually a fairly common occurrence any time a mass tragedy occurs. In the case of an airline disaster, for example, we would seek to raise the presumption of death by showing the court a copy of your loved one’s itinerary, the airline’s flight manifesto, or text messages sent from the plane after boarding. Courts typically show a great sense of justice in these circumstances.
Insurance companies, however, won’t tell you about this process. They’ll let you believe you are simply out of luck. If you’re facing a situation where you can’t obtain a death certificate (or any other documentation necessary to submit a life insurance claim), call us today. We’re here to help.
- Number one is a misrepresentation on the application. This typically involves failing to disclose a medical condition. However, we can get over this hurdle the majority of the time.
- A lapse of a life insurance policy is probably second most common. What happens is that the insured gets sick and misses a payment or two. These are tough, but often we can get these claims paid.
- Probably third is the type of death exclusion. This could be a suicide or it could be a self-inflicted injury. Murder is another exclusion. Health again can fall under this exclusion. We often win suicide exclusions as we cite case law that the death was actually accidental.
- A very common exclusion is the alcohol exclusion. The insured may have been killed in a car crash, but the autopsy revealed alcohol in the person’s system. We have many legal briefs to combat this exclusion.
- Heroin and opiates or illegal drug exclusion is one of the biggest now. With the opioid crisis, there are tens of thousands of deaths.
- Prescription drug overdose exclusion may involve an overdose of medicine or taken medicines that are contraindicated.
- An ex-spouse being cut off from life insurance benefits is a big one. We actually have a half dozen ways to get over this hurdle.
- Having a spouse not listed as a beneficiary is another reason for denial
- Having a child not listed as a beneficiary is one too.
- Having only a primary beneficiary who is deceased is another.
- On an AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) life insurance policy, a fall not being considered an accident is extremely common.
- The insured’s age not being correct on the initial application is a reason for denial.
- Having the wrong social security number listed is common.
- An autoerotic asphyxiation exclusion is an easy one for us to beat.
- An omission on the application is a big reason for denying a life insurance claim, but we have legal briefs to this effect.
- Not providing the required documents to the insurance company after death is a reason.
- Information which is argued to not be correct is one.
- When there is a dispute between two or more beneficiaries, an interpleader may occur, and we always get these resolved quickly.
- A beneficiary not named is a reason for not paying it out.
- A life insurance policy may be transferred from one company to another by the employer which causes major problems.