Insurance companies must generally notify an insured when a policy is at risk of lapsing due to nonpayment. Such notification may be required by statute, as a term in the insurance contract, or by customary practice. Policies commonly provide for a grace period of thirty-one (31) days, which allows an insured to avoid cancellation of insurance coverage if premiums are paid within the specified time-frame. This is especially important with respect to life insurance policies because coverage is based on the applicant’s health at the time the policy becomes active. In other words, if a life insurance contract lapses after the grace-period expires, reinstatement is subject to the same medical underwriting requirements as an application for a new policy.
Consider the following example: Larger-Than-Life Insurance Company (LTL) issues a life insurance policy to Youthful Yolanda, who faithfully pays her premiums for 15 years by monthly automatic withdrawals from her bank account. Last month, though, Yolanda’s premium payment was returned due to insufficient funds in her account, triggering a 31-day grace period. Despite LTL’s customary practice of notifying insureds when automatic premium withdrawals are returned, it fails to notify Yolanda that her policy will soon lapse. Unfortunately, Yolanda did not realize the payment was returned, resulting in the cancellation of her life insurance policy. Since Yolanda is not so youthful anymore, and her health has changed over the past 15 years, she is no longer eligible for a new life insurance policy. Even though LTL is entitled to keep all of her previous payments, Yolanda no longer has coverage and LTL refuses to reinstate her lapsed policy.
This is a fairly common story, with variations. Sometimes insurance companies mail the appropriate notification too late, or to an incorrect mailing address because it has failed to process an address-change request. Just this month, the Life & Property Insurance Law Offices of Heather D. Lee, Esquire successfully fought for reinstatement of a life insurance policy that lapsed when a major insurance company mailed notification of an overdue premium payment after the grace period had already expired. Even a timely mailing may not contain the proper information to provide sufficient notice, such as the amount due or the date a policy will terminate.
If your life insurance policy has lapsed for nonpayment, or if you are a beneficiary whose claim has been denied because a policy lapsed prior to the insured’s death, you should speak to an experienced life insurance lawyer about your rights. Heather D. Lee, Esquire offers free consultations on all life and property insurance cases.