Life insurance companies often delay payment on claims for death benefits if the policyholder’s cause of death is listed as “pending” on the death certificate. Is this legal?
The answer depends on how long the life insurance policy was in effect, what state law applies, and how long the delay is. Find out from leading life insurance lawyer Chad G. Boonswang how life insurance companies use death certificates, when life insurance companies delay a payout due to pending cause of death, and when beneficiaries might be entitled to interest on a delayed life insurance claim.
If your life insurance claim is delayed due to a pending cause of death or for any other reason, call the experienced life insurance lawyers at Boonswang Law for help getting your payout. We take cases on a contingency basis, meaning, we do not get paid unless and until you do. Call today for your free, no-obligation case consultation.
How Death Certificates Interact with Life Insurance Claims
Life insurance companies confirm a policyholder’s death with a certified copy of a death certificate identifying the policyholder as deceased and providing other details such as when they died, where they died, and what caused their death.
A coroner or medical examiner lists the cause of death as “pending” if they have yet to ascertain the cause of death. Another reason for the cause of death to be recorded as pending is if law enforcement is investigating the death and that investigation is incomplete.
Can You Collect Life Insurance Without a Death Certificate?
No. Life insurance companies require legal proof the policyholder died to avoid fraudulent payouts, or paying death benefits when the policyholder faked their own death. In fact, when a policyholder dies overseas, a foreign death certificate may delay payment on a life insurance claim because it lacks the information given on U.S. death certificates and the life insurance company deems it insufficient proof of death.
Delays in Life Insurance Claims Payments Due to Pending Cause of Death
Life insurance companies may only delay payments on claims for death benefits if the delay is reasonable. What is “reasonable” depends upon the situation and the governing law. These are the situations where a pending cause of death may cause a delay in payment of claims.
The Policyholder Died within the Contestability Period
If the policyholder died within the first two years of life insurance coverage, the incontestability clause allows a life insurance company to look into the policyholder’s submissions on their initial application and medical questionnaire. If there were any omissions or misstatements, the life insurance company will rescind the policy due to the policyholder’s alleged misrepresentation and deny beneficiaries’ claims.
A Life Insurance Policy Exclusion May Apply
If the policyholder’s cause of death may have been excluded from life insurance coverage, the life insurance company may delay payments on claims for death benefits until the cause of death gets determined.
A life insurance company denies claims for death benefits after delaying payment if the policyholder died due to any of these common policy exclusions:
- Self-inflicted wounds
- Drug overdose
- Alcohol poisoning
- Complications from smoking, if smoking habit not disclosed
- Acts of war or terrorism
Police are Investigating the Policyholder’s Death
If the policyholder’s cause of death is under investigation by law enforcement, the life insurance company may delay payment until the cause of death is determined and the beneficiaries are cleared of wrongdoing.
How a Life Insurance Lawyer Helps Your Claim
A life insurance lawyer helps beneficiaries get paid by investigating their claim, corresponding with the life insurance company, and suing the life insurance company if they won’t pay.
If your claim is delayed due to a pending cause of death or for any other reason, call us for help. If the delay is unreasonable, you may be entitled to interest on the amount of the death benefit. We’re happy to discuss your claim.