drunk drivingDeborah Firman filed suit against Becon Construction and Life Insurance Company, a Cigna company, for more than $200,000 it's refusing to pay for the death of Gilberto Espinoza, who died on Sept. 20, 2008, in a single-vehicle drunken driving accident in Trimble County, Ky. Cigna refused to pay the claim, calling Espinoza's injuries "intentionally self-inflicted."

According to the lawsuit filed by Firman, Cigna told Firman that since her husband "would have been aware of the risks involved in operating his vehicle while under the influence, his death was a foreseeable result of his actions and thus not an accident."

The insurance policies on which Firman is listed as beneficiary include a $10,000 life insurance and $200,000 accident insurance policy through Cigna's subsidiary Becon. Firman insists the policies do not contain an exclusion for injuries or death caused by use of drugs and alcohol. She sent Cigna proof that the investigating officer and medical examiner concluded there was no evidence that Espinoza had intentionally tried to kill himself.

But Cigna isn't buying that line. In the lawsuit filed, Firman said Cigna took a moral stance saying that drunk driving is "conduct that must be deterred." Her attorney says the incident is a tragic accident and that since the policy doesn't exclude accidental death as a result of intoxication, Cigna should pay. Firman says in her lawsuit that this move by Cigna is an attempt to "reduce claims paid and increase net income."

Should life insurance companies pay on deaths caused by drunk driving? Legally they may be forced to do so by the courts if there isn't a clause stating that drunk driving is an exclusion. But as drunk driving laws get stricter, should the rules be changed for life insurance payouts? What do you think?



Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.

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