Is Cash King For You?

With financial earnings in the dumps and prospects for an early recovery dim, insurance companies with disability income and other long-term payouts on their books are on the prowl for claimants who need cash NOW!

Disability insurers know that many of their beneficiaries are having trouble making mortgage payments, meeting college tuitions or just plain paying their bills in this severe economic turndown.

With long term disability beneficiaries in a stressed and highly vulnerable mode, having lost a good part of their incomes and retirement packages in the stock market meltdown, what better time to dangle a relatively large lump sum of cash in front of the insured?

Policy and settlement buyouts are complex issues and broad experience in successfully negotiating such deals is critical. Insurers like nothing better than dealing with a novice in buyout negotiations, especially if the novice needs the money and allows personal involvement determine the outcome.

How tempting for a beneficiary to grab a lump sum now and not worry about the long term consequences.

Issues which must be carefully considered for the beneficiary are:

* Understanding the true value of the claim.
* Family circumstances and needs.
* Are there other investments or incomes (i.e., annuities? pensions? SSDI?) which will replace the settled-away insurance benefits for the family?
* In view of the nature of the disability, what is the likelihood of the beneficiary living to the end of the benefit term? These benefits usually end at death.
* In view of the nature of the disability, what is the likelihood of the beneficiary recovering the ability to resume work before the end of the benefit period? Ability to resume occupation as described in the policy would terminate DI benefit payments.

To try to answer some of these thorny questions, a knowledgeable, experienced, not-personally-involved, adviser in the beneficiary’s corner is a must.


Accidentally On Purpose


We recently handled an insurance case which required us to do heavy research on the meaning of the word “accident”.

There are tons of insurance cases out there that hinge on the meaning of “accident” in all types of insurance policies issued by all kinds of insurance companies and in all jurisdictions.

What struck us was the fact that all of the insurance policies involved, which generally try to define every meaningful word in them to the nth degree, never try to define the word “accident” in their policy language. Is this an “accidental” oversight or is this failure to define deliberate so that insurance companies would have an open door to contest any claim based on an accidental happening?

This failure to define is not an insurance industry oversight. Insurance companies wouldn’t leave such a gaping hole in their policy language unless the hole was one which was advantageous to the insurers.

The companies use the nebulous word “accident” to enable themselves to mount and maintain a legal defense in a court of law. This immediately puts the claimant on the defensive. It means that the claimant is looking at much heavier legal fees and costs (if the claimant can even afford them) and a much longer period of time before any benefits are forthcoming.

Add to this the claimant “Docility Factor” (see post April 29, 2009, below) and it is easy to see that failing to define “accident” in policy language leaves a gaping hole which becomes a graveyard for many a claim.

Undefined “accident” is no accident.