Life Insurance And Suicide

Fort Worth life insurance attorneys and those in Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Springtown, Millsap, Brock, Aledo, and other places in Parker County would need to understand the suicide exclusion in life insurance policies.
It is typical for a life insurance policy to exclude suicide as an assumed risk. The Houston (14th District) Court of Appeals opinion in Parchman v. United Liberty Life Insurance Company, discussed a policy that excluded suicide as an assumed risk for two years from the date of the policy and provided a reduced benefit of the return of all premiums paid if death resulted from suicide within that period.
In another opinion, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company v. Dettle, issued by the Amarillo Court of Appeals, the policy provided: If the insured within two years from the date of the issue of this policy shall die by his own hand or act whether sane or insane, the liability of the Company shall be limited to an amount equal to the premiums actually paid, without interest.
In this same case, (Dettle) the court said when the suicide exclusion is litigated, the court’s definition of “suicide” should include an “intentional” component. They said if the policy language were interpreted literally, the insurer could avoid liability even in instances of pure accidents; for example, a pure accidental death at one’s own hand would be excluded by a literal interpretation of the policy language.
The Beaumont Court of Appeals, in the case, Massachusetts Indemnity & Life Insurance Company v. Morrison, stated that there is a legal presumption against suicide. The presumption may be rebutted, and then the question is for the jury. Because suicide is a defense, the insurance company has the burden of proof.
The Texas Insurance Code, Section 1101.055, provides for payment of less than the full amount of the face value of the life policy. It says, ” A life insurance policy may provide for a settlement that will be less than the amount required … if the death of the insured is: (1) by the insured’s own hand regardless of whether the insured is sane or insane.”
Most insurance policies will limit the suicide exclusion to with two years of the issuance of the policy. A careful reading of the policy is necessary to know and understand these limitations.
An experienced Insurance Law Attorney can read these policies and explain the language in an understandable way. Too many times the insurance company will use terms and phrases in a policy as reasons to deny coverage. However, the insurance company adjuster is too often mis-applying the language in the policy to the facts in the case. That is why a second look by an attorney is necessary to be sure someone is not being taken advantage of by the adjuster.
In Morrison, Morrison died in a one-car collision with a tree. There was evidence that Morrison was depressed, had heath problems, and had trouble at work. A suicide note was found. On the other hand, there was conflicting evidence on whether the note was in Morrison’s handwriting, and there was expert testimony that it would have been extremely difficult for Morrison to intentionally drive his car into the tree. The conflicting evidence allowed the jury to find Morrison’s death did not result from suicide.

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