Mar 6, 2024

Life Insurance: What to Do When Filing a Claim (Besides Filing a Claim)

seniors looking at bills

When a loved one dies, the intricacies of their life insurance policy are probably the last thing on your mind. In addition to the devastating emotional impact, you’re likely having to make stressful decisions about paying for funeral costs, medical bills, and replacing the income of the person who passed. Though getting prompt payment of life insurance benefits is tremendously important for you, it is much less important for the insurance company, and they may offer any number of reasons to delay paying your claim. Here are a few things you can do to make sure the claims process stays on track:

  1. Make a file. There is a substantial amount of paperwork involved with filing a claim, so it’s a good idea to keep it organized in one place. Include all of the documents related to the claim including the insurance policy, application for insurance (if you have it), death certificate, and any correspondence you receive from the insurance company.  Make copies of any documents you send to the insurance company, such as claim forms or medical authorizations.
  1. Keep a log. Maintain a record of any time you contact the insurance company by telephone. Write down the date and time of your call, the phone number you dialed, and the names and titles of any representatives you speak with.  If you are transferred to someone else, ask the representative which department you are being transferred to.
  1. Take notes.  It’s easy to miss a lot of valuable information when speaking to the insurance company over the phone. Keep a pen and paper handy to take down any important information. If you end up speaking to multiple representatives, it is also helpful to reference what another representative told you.  Saying, “I called last Thursday and the Claims Manager, John, told me X” carries quite a bit of weight with the insurance company, and can keep them from giving you the runaround.
  1. Read carefully. If the insurance company sends you a letter, read it right away. Then read it again.  Then read it one more time.  This isn’t just because the letters insurance companies send are lengthy and full of technical jargon (though the often are).  Insurance companies can bury vital information, such as response deadlines, in such a way that you may have missed them during your first read-through.
  1. Do your homework. Did the insurance company use a term you don’t understand? Google it.  Did they say they requested medical records? Contact the medical provider to verify they got the request. Did the insurance company request something from you that seems unrelated to the claim?  Look up your state statutes to see what information the insurance company can legally request.  Knowledge is power, and the more information you arm yourself with, the harder it will be for the insurance company to take advantage of you.

If the insurance company continues to delay your claim despite these efforts or denies it unfairly, speak with an attorney.  Having organized records for your attorney helps them understand the situation better, and can be key evidence if your case goes to trial. Insurance companies play the delay and denial games they do because they know they can often get away with it. The more you are aware of these tactics, the better prepared you will be to face them.