Life Insurance Lawyer Wisconsin
Wisconsin Denied Life Insurance Claims Recently Settled
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- Denied life insurance claim Wisconsin $2,384,000.00
- Fidelity material misrepresentation won $304,000.00
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- Wisconsin ERISA and life insurance $285,000.00
- Pacific Life felony exclusion crime $177,000.00
- Bad faith life insurance claim Wisconsin $515,000.00
Does your dog put your life insurance at risk?
If you pay attention to any online forums discussing the merits of dogs like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, or German Shepherds, you know that people are very much of two minds when it comes to the virtue of so-called “aggressive” dogs. Pit Bulls, in particular, seem to garner a disproportionate amount of attention.
In fact, many homeowner’s associations and property management firms have an outright ban on Pit Bulls. Additionally, many insurance companies vary their coverage decisions based on whether a policy applicant owns one of these dogs. Oftentimes, for example, homeowner’s insurance providers will not provide policies for a homeowner who has a Pit Bull. Renter’s insurance companies often have similar bans relating to the breed. Fair or not, these dogs seem to be uniformly singled out as too dangerous to insure.
But did you know that your ownership of a Pit Bull might also impact the effectiveness of your life insurance policy? This article explores one case where a life insurance company tried to avoid a policy payout altogether based on the simple fact that the insured owned – but did not reveal to the insurer – one of these dogs.
It started with an insurance application
The case involved a successful real estate agent named Jennifer. Jennifer was in her 40s, unmarried, but in a long-term relationship with a guy named Tony. Jennifer worked for a popular real estate broker who offered, among other benefits, a group life insurance plan. As soon as she was eligible to participate, Jennifer applied for a policy under the plan.
As part of the application process, Jennifer had to fill out an application form. It asked about her health history, habits such as smoking and drinking, and family history of disease. The application also asked if Jennifer if she had any pets and, if so, what breed they were.
In response to that final question, Jennifer responded that she had one “mixed-breed” dog that weighed 65 pounds. Having had homeowner’s insurance applications denied in the past when she admitted her dog was predominantly a Pit Bull, Jennifer thought it would serve her interests to be a bit more vague about her dog’s breed. Moreover, Jennifer knew that her dog was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle dog she had ever owned. She never anticipated any problem involving her pet and thus considered her “little white lie” to be unimportant.
Jennifer was approved for a policy worth $500,000. She named Tony as her sole beneficiary. The policy included what is called a “period of contestability.” Generally speaking, that means that if Jennifer were to die within the first two years of the policy term, the insurance company could do an investigation into her background to make sure she had been completely truthful in the life insurance application process. If not, it might have a basis to deny coverage.
Insurance companies include periods of contestability for one simple reason – to give them a way to avoid paying claims if: (a) the policyholder dies within the first two years of the policy (at a time when the company has not yet received much by way of insurance premiums); and (b) the company discovers the insured was untruthful in their insurance application in any “material” way. Legally speaking, a misrepresentation in a life insurance application is “material” if the insurance company would have denied coverage (or charged a much higher premium) had it known the truth about the insured.
An unexpected death and denied claim
Just 14 months after receiving her life insurance policy, Jennifer was killed in an accident. Tony filed a claim for benefits under her life insurance policy. Predictably, the insurance company decided to undertake a full investigation before it would pay the claim. In particular, the company was looking for any reason that would allow it to avoid coverage since Jennifer’s policy was still in the “period of contestability.”
As part of its investigative process, the life insurance company did a thorough review of Jennifer’s social media history. Unsurprisingly, Jennifer’s Facebook page was filled with pictures of her and her dog named Blue – the Pit Bull mix. Even though Blue was not a purebred dog, her appearance was unmistakably that of a Pit Bull. The insurance company was thrilled with this discovery.
In fact, the insurance company immediately wrote to Tony and told him they were denying his claim on two bases: (1) Ownership of a Pit Bull was “inherently dangerous” and should have been revealed in Jennifer’s life insurance application; and, relatedly, (2) the failure to reveal Blue’s true breed in the application constituted a “material misrepresentation” in that the insurance company never would have issued the policy had it known the truth.
Tony was shocked by this outcome, especially when he learned that his neighbor, who also had a Pit Bull, had a life insurance policy in place with the same insurance company (and had revealed the breed of their dog to the insurer). Tony quickly got in touch with a lawyer specializing in the wrongful denial of life insurance claims.
Of particular interest to the lawyer during their initial consultation was the information about the experience Tony’s neighbor had with the same insurance company. That fact seemed to signal that the insurer was using Jennifer’s ownership of Blue as a simple ruse to avoid paying a valid claim. The lawyer verified the information with the neighbor then presented all relevant evidence to the insurer’s internal claim denial review board.
Faced with that damaging evidence, the insurance company knew it would not prevail if Tony filed suit. Thus, the insurer made the decision to pay Tony’s claim in full. The entire matter was settled in just under three weeks.
If you are facing a life insurance claim denial, please call our firm to discuss your circumstances. We will honestly assess your case and, if warranted, we are happy to battle the insurance company on your behalf. Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime unless and until you receive a monetary award from the insurer. Call us today. We’re here to help.