Suicide And Life Insurance Claim Denial

Suicide by someone in Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Keller, Roanoke, Aledo, Burleson, Granbury, or anywhere else in Texas. Does that negate an insurance policy?
The first thing anybody should know about life insurance and suicide is that if life insurance benefits are denied because the cause of death was a suicide, the intended beneficiary should seek the advice of an experienced Insurance Law Attorney.
The Texas Insurance Code, Section 1101.055(b), says in part:
“A life insurance policy may provide for a settlement that will be less than the amount required under Subsection (a) if the death of the insured is:
(1) by the insured’s own hand regardless of whether the insured is sane or insane; …”
As stated in the 1982 Houston Court of Appeals [14th Dist] case, Parchman v. United Liberty Life Insurance Company, “Life insurance policies typically exclude suicide as an assumed risk.” In the Parchman case, the policy excluded suicide as an assumed risk for two years from the policy date and provided a reduced benefit of the return of all premiums paid if death resulted from suicide within that period.
In the 1986 Amarillo Court of Appeals case, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company v. Dettle, another example is provided for the law saying a life insurance policy can deny or limit benefits when the cause of death is suicide. In Dettle, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company denied benefits and the court upheld their decision. The policy at issue said: “If the insured within two years from the date of 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.”
When a denial of benefits is challenged by an intended beneficiary and a lawsuit is filed, the result could be that a jury ultimately decides whether or not the death actually resulted from a suicide or some other reason. If this happens then the jury, in reaching its decision is given a definition of suicide by the Judge of the court. In the Dettle case, the court ruled that the court’s definition of “suicide” should include an “intentional” component.
The rational of this ruling in Dettle was that in the case the Judge commented that if the court charge in the policy language (If the Insured … shall die by his own hand or act whether sane or insane”) and if the policy language were interpreted literally, the insurance company 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.
From a legal standpoint, there is a presumption against a person having taken their own life. This legal presumption may be rebutted, and if rebutted, then a jury gets to decide. Because suicide is a defense for the insurance company, the insurance company has the burden of proof in these types of cases. This was the ruling in the Beaumont Court of Appeals in 1988, in the case, Massachusetts Indemnity & Life Insurance Company v. Morrison.
In the Morrison case, Morrison died in a one-car collision with a tree. There was evidence that Morrison was depressed, had health 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 terstimony 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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