Life Insurance Lawyer Oregon

Whether you reside in: Medford; Bend; Beaverton; Hillsboro; Gresham; Eugene; Salem or Portland; our life insurance attorneys who live and work here in Oregon are here to help resolve your delayed or denied life insurance claim.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Our Oregon life insurance attorneys are now handling numerous COVID-19 Coronavirus denied life insurance claims.

Life insurance and murder: what to expect

Losing a loved one is hard enough but when someone you love is murdered, it can be completely devastating. Oftentimes, there are more questions than answers. Why did this happen? Who did it? Did my loved one suffer? All of these thoughts rush through one’s head constantly. Meanwhile, there can be a whirlwind of police officers and other officials poking around in your private life. The whole situation can be simply overwhelming.

Unfortunately, things can get even worse when the person who was killed was the main breadwinner in the family. Spouses and children can be left without any financial security whatsoever. While that situation can be alleviated if the deceased passed away with a life insurance policy in place, beneficiaries may be sorely disappointed when it comes to filing a claim for those benefits.

As attorneys who specialize in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims, we have come across this situation all too often. Even when it is patently obvious that the beneficiary had nothing to do with the insured’s death, the life insurance company will use the murder as an excuse not to pay out on a valid life insurance claim.

They do this, of course, because the longer they hang on to the beneficiary’s money, the more money they can make from it. For example, let’s say a person had a $1,000,000 policy on his life and died of natural causes on April 30. Normally, the insurer would have to pay out that $1,000,000 within 30 to 60 days after submission of the beneficiary’s claim.

If the same person was murdered on April 30, however, the insurance company typically would not pay out until the crime was solved and the beneficiary was cleared of any wrongdoing. That could take a year or more. Meanwhile, the life insurance company would continue to collect interest and/or investment dollars on that $1,000,000 for that much longer.

Such was the case for one family who lost their son to murder. This article takes a look at their situation and discusses what might be done to speed up payment from the life insurance company despite the murder.

A tragic end for a beloved son

The case involved a couple in their 60s named June and Norman. The pair had been married for over 40 years and had one son named Jonah. Through the years, Jonah had had his ups and downs. In his early teens, Jonah started to act out in serious ways. He was known to do drink alcohol, do drugs, and skip classes frequently.

June and Norman tried to tame their son’s behavior to no avail. Fearing that the writing was on the wall with respect to Jonah’s future, the couple decided to take out a life insurance policy on their son’s life. The policy would provide a $150,000 payout in the event of Jonah’s death, which would pay for his funeral and make up for some of the rehab expenses they had incurred.

In 2010, Jonah was in his late thirties, out of rehab, and living in his parents’ basement. While the arrangement wasn’t ideal, he figured it was better than the heroin dens he had been living in over the past few years. Jonah had a bright outlook and expressed several times that he thought he was going to succeed.

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. Shortly after Jonah got out of rehab, one of the old drug dealers to whom he owed thousands of dollars got wind that he was living at his parents place. Just two weeks after starting his new life, Jonah was found stabbed to death in his bed. His parents, who were on visiting relatives in another state at the time the death occurred, were devastated.

An unenthusiastic police investigation

The local police were not surprised by Jonah’s demise. They had arrested him many times over the years and were skeptical he would ever live a clean life. And, while everyone suspected Jonah was killed as revenge by a drug dealer, the killer left absolutely no forensic evidence at the scene. After discovering the lack of evidence, the police were unenthusiastic about tracking down the murderer of a guy they considered to be a street thug.

June and Norman were saddened, though not surprised, by their son’s death. Nonetheless, they filed a claim with the life insurer because they didn’t have nearly the money they needed to pay for a funeral and pay off all those rehab bills. As part of their claim, they submitted all existing police and autopsy reports. While the reports noted that Jonah was stabbed to death, the police report also stated that there were no known suspects.

A few weeks after submitting the claim, June and Normal received a letter stating that the insurance company could not pay their claim because they were still considered suspects in their son’s murder. Since murderers cannot collect life insurance payouts on their victims, the insurer claimed they would not be paid until another suspect had been identified and convicted.

June and Norman contacted an attorney specializing in wrongful denial of life insurance claims. The attorney reviewed the entire situation and immediately contacted the police. He demanded that the officers verify the couple’s alibi for the night of Jonah’s murder as it was rock solid and there were pictures, receipts, and other evidence to prove they were out of state on the night in question.

With some prodding, the police cleared the couple from any wrongdoing in relatively short order. An amended police report was sent to the insurer and the couple’s attorney then fought for the insurance company to release the payout on Jonah’s policy. Within weeks, the insurance company caved and paid the policy in full.

Unfortunately, life insurers often use the circumstances of a policyholder’s death to delay valid claims. If this has happened to you, please call our firm without delay. We deal with these situations all the time and we’re here to help.

Oregon denied life insurance claims are nothing new. Existing for many years, life insurance policies have been used to safeguard families and friends alike in case emergencies or accidents come unexpectedly. Unfortunately, denials of life insurance claims, as well as delays, are commonplace.
Our life insurance lawyers who live and work in Oregon can help, whether you are in: Porland; Salem; Eugene; Gresham; Hillsboro; Beaverton; Bend; Medford; or anywhere in the state of Oregon, we will get you the benefits to which you are entitled.
Oregon Life Insurance Law
Policies through work are governed under ERISA. The primary regulating force here in Oregon is Title 56 of the Oregon Revised Statutes, and oversight is provided by the Oregon Insurance Division.
Most Common Reasons for a Denied Life Insurance Claim in Oregon
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Heroin and opiates or illegal drug exclusion is one of the biggest now. With the opioid crisis, there are tens of thousands of deaths.
  6. Prescription drug overdose exclusion may involve an overdose of medicine or taken medicines that are contraindicated.
  7. 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.
  8. Having a spouse not listed as a beneficiary is another reason for denial
  9. Having a child not listed as a beneficiary is one too.
  10. Having only a primary beneficiary who is deceased is another.
  11. On an AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) life insurance policy, a fall not being considered an accident is extremely common.
  12. The insured’s age not being correct on the initial application is a reason for denial.
  13. Having the wrong social security number listed is common.
  14. An autoerotic asphyxiation exclusion is an easy one for us to beat.
  15. An omission on the application is a big reason for denying a life insurance claim, but we have legal briefs to this effect.
  16. Not providing the required documents to the insurance company after death is a reason.
  17. Information which is argued to not be correct is one.
  18. When there is a dispute between two or more beneficiaries, an interpleader may occur, and we always get these resolved quickly.
  19. A beneficiary not named is a reason for not paying it out.
  20. A life insurance policy may be transferred from one company to another by the employer which causes major problems.
Does assisted suicide impact life insurance coverage?
State laws may protect beneficiaries more than you think
If you have ever lost a loved one to a terminal illness, you know how horrifying the end of life can be. It is terrible to witness the unending pain, loss of physical or mental faculties, and overall suffering. Nonetheless, the idea of assisted suicide is still a controversial topic in the United States.
Put simply, assisted suicide is a process by which a licensed physician administers drugs to a terminally ill patient in an intentional effort to terminate life. While some people have religious or moral objections to the practice, many people believe it is a compassionate and caring way to help a loved one end their suffering.
Regardless of which way you lean on the issue, the simple fact is that assisted suicide is technically still suicide – and it may impact a person’s life insurance coverage. This article explores the issue in depth.
Life insurance and suicide
In most life insurance policies, there is an exclusion that relieves the insurance company from paying out death benefits if a policyholder commits suicide. There are a variety of ways the exclusion may operate but, generally speaking, the suicide exclusion comes in two forms: (1) an outright exclusion for the life of the policy; or (2) a limited exclusion that is in effect for the first two years of policy coverage (known as the “period of contestability.”
The reason insurers include suicide exclusions is simple: they don’t want people using life insurance policies as a way to get their loved ones out of a financial quagmire. If a person could obtain a $500,000 life insurance policy one day, then kill themselves and have their family receive that payout the next, more people might choose this option than we like to think about. By making the insured wait at least two years, the insurance company is betting that someone who was suicidal at the time they obtained the policy will have reconsidered by the time the policy exclusion is lifted.
Unfortunately, insurance companies have also misused the suicide exclusion over the years. As lawyers who specialize in the denial of life insurance claims, we’ve seen it time and time again. Insurance companies aren’t bound by the official cause of death issued by a coroner any time a person dies. They can declare a death a suicide (thereby excluding policy coverage) even where the coroner has ruled the death an accident.
It’s not surprising then that when assisted suicide first started to become legal in some states, life insurance companies would immediately deny any claims where the underlying death came by way of assisted suicide.
Should assisted suicide be treated the same as other suicides? A case study
As more and more states began legalizing assisted suicide, industry watchers began noticing a trend. Life insurance companies were consistently denying coverage to the beneficiaries of those who died by way of assisted suicide. This was true even though the policyholder was sure to die within a matter of weeks or months in any event. This is how the situation played out for one Oregon family:
Joe was a career math professor. He and his wife Angel obtained life insurance policies in January 2013. Each policy contained a suicide exclusion that was in effect for two years from policy issuance. The death benefit to the surviving spouse was $400,000.
In May 2013, the unthinkable happened. Joe was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as soft tissue sarcoma. The disease would cause large tumors to grow in Joe’s abdomen with incredible speed. Unfortunately, there was no medical treatment for soft tissue sarcoma at the time. The only recourse was for doctors to perform surgeries to remove Joe’s tumors and any surrounding tissues that were impacted by the disease. Joe had seven major surgeries in the span of a year. Doctors had to remove one of his kidneys and large portion of his small intestine.
Eventually, Joe’s body simply couldn’t take any more surgeries. The only thing he and Angel could do was sit back and watch the remaining tumors ravage his body. As the masses grew and spread, Joe was in an unthinkable amount of pain. While he still had his mental acuities, however, he talked to Angel about the possibility of assisted suicide. His best prognosis was to live another three months, and those months were going to be agonizing.
Because the couple lived in Oregon, assisted suicide was a legal option and they decided to pursue it. Joe’s treating physicians agreed with the decision and in October 2014, they helped Joe put an end to his life.
Shortly thereafter, Angel made a claim for the $400,000 death benefit with the couple’s life insurance company. After investigating the circumstances of Joe’s death, the company denied the claim. The stated reason for the denial? Suicide.
The claim denial was improper in Oregon
Fortunately, once she received the denial letter, Angel contacted an attorney specializing in the denial of life insurance claims. The attorney informed Angel that in the State of Oregon, such a denial was patently improper. In fact, not only was Oregon one of the first states to legalize assisted suicide, the legislature had also passed a law prohibiting life insurers from treating physician-assisted suicide like any other suicide.
Today, five states – Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, and Colorado – have legalized assisted suicide. Nonetheless, life insurance companies operating within those states still routinely deny claims made by beneficiaries of someone who engaged in physician assisted suicide. Even though the insurance companies are skating on thin ice in making such denials, they’re hoping that bereaved beneficiaries won’t have the will to contest them.
That’s where we come in. Our firm practices solely in the area of life insurance claim denials. We know all the guiles insurance companies use to deny perfectly valid claims. Our job is to contest those claims and to get beneficiaries the death benefits their loved ones intended for them.
If you’re facing a wrongful denial of a life insurance claim, call us today. We’re here to help.