State Probes Into Wrongful Life Insurance Practices May Lead To Your Lost Policy

The nation’s largest life insurance companies are feeling the heat as some states investigate wrongful insurance practices, particularly with respect to locating beneficiaries after an insured has died. In fact, it is estimated that tens of thousands of life insurance beneficiaries have been deprived of approximately $1 billion (or more) in unclaimed proceeds. Many of the life insurance companies currently under fire continue to claim that it is the sole responsibility of the beneficiary to notify the company of an insured’s death.

Life insurance beneficiaries often do not know a policy exists, however, and may not be in the best position to find out. Sometimes beneficiaries know about a loved one’s policy but do not know which life insurance company to contact and are unable to locate the policy documents.  Even worse, life insurance companies may mislead a beneficiary who does not have a copy of the policy and deter the filing of a claim.  When thousands of policies go unclaimed every year, insurance companies just sit on the money.

But a life insurance company does not know when an insured has died, right? Wrong. State probes revealed that these companies have routinely checked the Social Security Administration’s ‘Death Master File’ for decades to discontinue annuity payments.  Until recently, life insurance companies never used the same source to notify beneficiaries of unclaimed policies.

In the past several months, multi-state settlement agreements have been reached with leading life insurance companies, including Prudential, John Hancock, and Metropolitan Life. The States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, New York, California, and Florida are among the leaders of these probes. As a condition of the agreements, participating life insurance companies will be required to improve their practices and make better attempts to locate the beneficiaries of unclaimed policies. The problem with locating past unpaid beneficiaries, though, remains.

The issue that state regulators are not addressing is the inability to locate older records of unpaid policies. Life insurance companies are only required to keep records of “terminated” policies for a certain period of years. Consider that when an insured dies and a life insurance company no longer receives premium payments, the policy will be treated as “terminated.”  Years later, because these policies are not properly held as unclaimed property, the records are destroyed, leaving the beneficiary responsible for proving the life insurance company’s liability. Of course, if the beneficiary had such proof, the claim would not have been delayed.

If you believe that an insurance company owes you money, speak to a life insurance attorney about your options right away. The experienced life insurance lawyers at Lee DiGeorge Law help locate unclaimed policies. We will assist you in filing your life insurance claim, demanding that the company pay you immediately and with all applicable interest accrued as a result of the delay. Our life insurance lawyers work aggressively to collect wrongfully delayed and denied life insurance claims.  Call (800)403-5710 for a free claim evaluation today.

Common Reasons For Delaying and Denying Life Insurance Claims

Approximately 5,000 life insurance claims are denied in the United States every year, and even more policies go unclaimed.  People are usually surprised to discover that life insurance companies can delay or deny claims for many different reasons.  In fact, most people believe that when an insured passes away, the beneficiary receives a payout immediately.  Unfortunately, this is too often not the case.  Like most businesses, life insurance companies are motivated by profit, having a strong financial incentive to collect premiums but later deny as many life insurance claims as possible.

DELAYED LIFE INSURANCE CLAIMS

If a life insurance company has failed to promptly issue payment of your life insurance proceeds, you may have a claim for breach of contract and bad faith insurance practices.  Life insurance companies must investigate your claim within a reasonable period of time, usually within sixty (60) days of the claim being filed or in accordance with the life insurance policy terms.  An insurance company may attempt to discourage you from hiring a life insurance lawyer by wrongfully delaying your life insurance claim, offering a reduced settlement amount, or making other efforts to avoid paying the full claim amount.

Some common tactics that life insurance companies will use to wrongfully delay your claim include but are not limited to the following:

Insured’s Death Occurring Within Contestable Period
Hospital Records/Medical Documentation Not Yet Received
Hospital or Medical Provider Refuses to Release Records
Failure to Provide Income Tax Returns
Failure to Provide Non-existent Medical Documentation
Independent Investigation Based on Suspicious Cause of Death
Independent Medical Review to Dispute Evidence
Beneficiary Dispute Based On Divorce
Beneficiary Dispute Based On Suspicious Cause of Death

You should never accept a settlement offer without the advice of an experienced life insurance attorney because an offer to settle your claim for a reduced amount may indicate that the insurance company’s reason for delaying or denying your claim is illegitimate.

DENIED LIFE INSURANCE CLAIMS

To discourage beneficiaries from pursuing a wrongfully denied life insurance claim, life insurance companies will mail complex denial letters that may be designed to confuse you.  Life insurance companies know that you are likely unfamiliar with the life insurance contract itself, or with your rights as the beneficiary.

Some common tactics that insurance companies will use to wrongfully deny your claim include but are not limited to the following:

Policy Lapse Due to Nonpayment
Misrepresentations Regarding Age, Employment and/or Income
Failure to Disclose Immaterial Pre-Existing Medical Condition
Failure to Disclose Medical Appointments/Regular Check-Ups
Failure to Disclose Unknown/Unofficial Medical Diagnosis
Failure to Disclose Condition Requiring Future Treatment
Failure to Disclose Prior Alcohol, Drug, or Tobacco Use
Failure to Disclose Criminal History on Application for Insurance
Accidental Death Related to Independent Medical Condition
Accidental Death Actually Self-Inflicted
Accidental Death Caused by Alcohol/Drug Use or Crime
Accidental Death Not Occurring Within Specific Time/Date
Accidental Overdose Caused by Misuse of Medication
Policy Not Active Due to Death Occurring Prior to Effective Date
Policy Not Active Based on Period of Limited Activity Exclusion
Independent Investigation Based on Suspicious Cause of Death
Insufficient Evidence to Show Heart Attack
Independent Medical Examiner Disputes Evidence
Change In Health After Policy Lapse Due to Nonpayment
Change In Health Condition Prior to Effective Date of Insurance
Handwriting Expert Claims False Application Signature
Failure to Elect and/or Qualify for Employment Coverage
Failure to Convert Employment Coverage to Individual Policy
Insurance Company Not Responsible for Agency Errors
Insured Not Resident of United States on Date of Death
Failure to Properly Change Beneficiary
Policy Lapse Due to Depleted Cash Value

Many insurance companies have large legal departments prepared to defend denied life insurance claims, which can discourage a beneficiary from hiring a life insurance attorney, appealing a denied life insurance claim, or filing a law suit.

The life insurance lawyers at Lee DiGeorge Law are familiar with the various tactics used by life insurance companies to delay and deny life insurance claims, and we are experienced in pressuring insurance companies to quickly complete the claims process and pay all proceeds due under their life insurance policies.  If your life insurance claim is being wrongfully delayed or denied, we will contact the insurance company to demand immediate payment of your claim, including all interest accumulated during the duration of the delay.  Our life insurance lawyers are prepared to file a law suit on your behalf if the insurance company still refuses to resolve your claim, even after receiving our demand to pay you immediately. If your life insurance claim has been delayed or denied, you should ask a life insurance lawyer  about your case today.

Don Cornelius’ Ex-Wife May Collect $300,000 In Life Insurance Benefits Despite Suicide

The recent suicide of Don Cornelius and subsequent reports that his ex-wife, Viktoria Chapman Cornelius, is entitled to collect approximately $300,000 in life insurance benefits has caused a great deal of confusion.  Many of us wrongly assume that an act of suicide automatically precludes recovery against any life insurance policy.  In fact, no such “blanket” exclusion exists in life insurance law, and whether a beneficiary will collect life insurance proceeds following a suicide ultimately depends upon the terms of each policy.

On February 1, 2012, TMZ made a misleading report that Viktoria Chapman Cornelius has “score[d] huge life insurance payout” based on California law.  According to the TMZ Article, the ex-couple’s divorce decree provides that Viktoria was to remain beneficiary of two life insurance policies, and “[u]nder California law, if a policyholder commits suicide within [two] years of the time the policy is issued, the company can deny payment.”  TMZ prematurely concluded that because Don Cornelius took out the policy more than two years ago, Viktoria would undoubtedly collect the life insurance proceeds.  However, her right to the subject benefits cannot be confirmed without a thorough legal review of the life insurance contracts, and any reports based solely on “California law” are unfounded.

Typically, life insurance policies do expressly deny coverage for death by suicide, and such policies contain an exclusionary clause and often a definition of suicide.  For example, life insurance contracts may include a provision similar to the following: “If the insured, whether sane or insane, dies by suicide within two years from the date of the policy, no benefits are payable.”  These exclusions are generally recognized as valid.

An issue surrounding death by suicide arises, with or without an exclusionary clause, under Accidental Death & Dismemberment policies.  The concept of denying AD&D coverage for suicide is easier to understand because an intentional taking of one’s life can hardly be considered an accident.  In most cases, though, the life insurance company has the burden to prove that an insured’s death was committed with the requisite suicidal intent, and a mere intent to inflict pain which results in death will not be sufficient.  Indeed, numerous life insurance cases have involved an insured’s death caused by “erotic asphyxiation,” or the act of intentionally choking oneself or otherwise restricting oxygen to the brain for sexual gratification.  Under these circumstances, a self-inflicted death will not be considered an intentional suicide for the purposes of life insurance coverage.

Thus, while Viktoria Chapman Cornelius may collect the full $300,000 in benefits, additional information about the specific terms of Don Cornelius’ life insurance contracts is required before a proper determination can be made.  The life insurance lawyers at Lee DiGeorge Law will continue to follow this story and others relevant to denied life insurance claims and developments in the area of life insurance law.

Don Cornelius was a pioneer whose enormous contribution to music, television, and popular culture will always be remembered and appreciated.  He is best known for his creation of “Soul Train” and its national exposure and tribute to decades of black artists and icons.  Don – wishing you eternal love, peace, and soul…

MEGA Life & Health Agrees to $2 Million Settlement For Abusive Insurance Practices

Following multiple and habitual violations of Rhode Island’s Small Employer Health Insurance Availability Act since 2004, MEGA Life & Health Insurance Company has reached a settlement with the State’s Health Insurance Commissioner for more than $2 million.  Pursuant to the settlement agreement, MEGA Life & Health must pay $2.3 million in restitution to approximately 5,500 self-employed Rhode Islanders due to charging excessive membership fees and premiums, wrongfully denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and failing to provide equal coverage among its eligible health insurance customers, among other violations.

WPRI Eyewitness News On MEGA Life & Health’s $2 Million Settlement

Rhode Island is not the only state that has accused MEGA Life & Health Insurance Company of violating state laws enacted to regulate the industry and to protect consumers against bad faith insurance practices.  In 2008, HealthMarkets, Inc. and its subsidiaries [MEGA Life & Health Insurance Company, Mid-West National Life Insurance Company of Tennessee, and Chesapeake Life Insurance Company] settled a multi-state bad faith suit in the amount of $20 million for wide-spread and abusive practices.  Many states and individual policyholders have also pursued independent actions against HealthMarkets and its affiliates.

If you have concerns about your insurance company’s compliance with state laws or the terms of a life, health, or other insurance policy, you should immediately contact an experienced life insurance attorney about your case. Lee DiGeorge Law offer free consultations on all life insurance cases.

Protecting Your Rights & Your Family

Lee DiGeorge Law is a civil law firm providing legal advice, counseling, and representation on a wide range of insurance contract disputes and consumer matters. We serve life insurance law clients in the States of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado. Our attorneys assist insured persons and their beneficiaries on life insurance disputes, homeowners and renters insurance disputes, and other civil and contract matters. The mission of Lee DiGeorge Law is to protect your rights and your family by ensuring that powerful insurance companies properly fulfill their legal and contractual obligations to you.

The Life Insurance Lawyers Blog keeps you informed on the laws, legal developments, and issues that affect you and your family. While the Life Insurance Law Bloggers are primarily focused on life insurance matters, it is our priority to provide helpful information regarding many areas of civil claims and consumer law.

The information on the Life Insurance Lawyers Blog is NOT and should NOT be construed as legal advice. The information contained on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between any person who reads such information and Lee DiGeorge Law and/or the Life Insurance Law Bloggers. To obtain legal advice specific to your case, please contact Lee DiGeorge Law or another law firm that you trust and provide the details of your claim to a life insurance attorney.

For more information on Lee DiGeorge Law, visit http://www.leedigeorgelaw.com or contact our life insurance attorneys at (800)403-5710 for a free consultation today!