I took a call this morning that popped up a question for civilian contractors and workers in war zones that I had honestly not considered. The call was from a widow whose husband worked for a US company in Afghanistan and died while working there about six months ago as the result of an act of war. He had life insurance through his company carried by Met Life. Before leaving on his last trip to Afghanistan he went on line to his company website and added more life insurance with the same group.
A life insurance claim was filed this summer when he was killed. It’s possible because he had just added coverage his policy was subject to a new contestable period. Six months later, as in yesterday, Met Life declined the claim saying that the group coverage didn’t cover people working in war zones. The contestable period issue was not noted in the decline of benefits.The widow asked me how it could be that a company whose primary source of revenue is from their contracts in war zones, could or would offer a group policy that didn’t cover workers doing exactly what the company does and where it does it.
We talked about agent responsibility, and with group insurance the human resources department responsibility and the insurance company responsibility when it comes to exclusions. There is absolutely no question in this case that someone didn’t do their job to the extent that the insured should have been told and asked to sign something saying they understood that the life insurance would not pay in a war zone, or due to an act of war or terrorism, or that his adding coverage somehow put a new contestable period in place. If it was an independent agent, as in me, who had not made all of that, not just perfectly clear, but obnoxiously perfectly clear, my errors and omissions insurance would be paying that death benefit now. No reason to go to court. I would be guilty in that case and it would be settled for the full death benefit out of court.
In this case it was a group policy and this employee had the ability to make changes to his coverage on line. To the extent that there is likely an agent of record for the group, that agent and MetLife are really on the hook for not making it known that life insurance through this group wouldn’t cover death in Afghanistan. There should have been disclaimer after disclaimer to a ridiculous redundant extent making sure employees understood this, especially in light of the fact that the company’s primary work is in war zones. And somehow if that was missed and an employee could go on the company website and change or update their company insurance or benefits, there should have been disclaimer that blocked that life insurance change until the employee fully understood what they weren’t buying. And give me a break. It’s the company website. It knows who isn’t and isn’t working in war zones or is about to and if it didn’t a judge would certainly rule that it should have be programmed to raise a fuss if someone was buying life insurance on their way to Afghanistan.
I mentioned that I had never even considered this possibility. People come to me all the time who are on their way or are on the ground in a war zone needing coverage and I can get that taken care of, often the same day. But after hearing this story it occurs to me that there may be thousands of civilian workers in dangerous areas that just believe they are covered by their company benefits….because if it wasn’t the case they surely, logically, wouldn’t send you there without telling you.
Bottom line. The story is confounding and the outcome tragic at least for now. I have no doubt that someone will be made to pay the death benefit this widow is due. If you need accidental death or war zone life insurance, or have a question about whether your group covers you doing what they expect you to do, call or email me directly. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.