Accidental Death Insurance Policies And Aviation Exclusions

A typical exclusion found in accidental death policies is an exclusion for death resulting from aviation actions.  This exclusion is discussed in a 1997 opinion from the Austin Court of Appeals.  The opinion is styled, Board of Trustees of Employer’s Retirement System of Texas v. Benge.
The facts of this case show that the insured flew his plane in an air show.  When he landed, his plane went into a “ground loop,” turning completely around before coming to a stop in the neighboring runway.  Another plane collided with the insured’s plane.  The insured suffered injuries resulting in his death.  The insured’s widow sought accidental death benefits.  The carrier denied recovery based upon the policy’s aviation exclusion.  After a contested case hearing, the Board denied the claim in a Final Order.  The insured’s widow sought judicial review.  The district court upheld the Board’s finding that the insured had been engaged in air flight or travel which was excluded, but remanded on other grounds.  The Board and the insurer appealed.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals found that although the plane had landed, the insured had not disembarked and, therefore, the insured was still engaged in travel or flight.  The policy excluded “travel or flight in any vehicle or devise for aerial navigation, including boarding or alighting therefrom.”  Even though the plane was standing still on the runway, the insured had not disembarked.  The exclusion defines travel or flight as including boarding and alighting from the plane.
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