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Drunk Driver's Widow Cannot Recover Life Insurance

According to a recent decision in federal court, those who survive a drunk driver may be unable to recover on the driver's life insurance.

The case involved a driver who was killed while fleeing a police officer who tried to pull him over. Toxicology reports showed that the driver's blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit at the time he was killed.

The driver's wife made a claim on his life insurance policy, and the insurer refused to pay. According to the insurer, it was not required to pay because the policy excluded coverage if the insured was killed during the "commission of a felony," and the fact that the driver had two prior DUI convictions made his third offense a felony under Illinois law.

The widow argued that this exclusion should not apply because her husband had not been convicted of DUI, and therefore there was no third offense and no felony.

The court agreed with the insurer, and ruled against coverage. It held that, while the lack of a conviction would mean the driver would not be punished by the state, it did not mean that he was not committing a felony at the time of his death. Because the evidence showed the driver was drunk when he died and that he died as the result of a collision he caused when he drove drunk, the driver was committing a felony when he died and the exclusion from coverage applied.

The court also noted that accepting the widow's interpretation of the policy would make the felony exclusion meaningless because the state does not prosecute a dead man for a crime, and so her interpretation would mean that there would be coverage for anyone who is killed while committing a felony.

Combining drinking and driving is to be avoided for so many reasons. The possibility that a drunk driver's death will deprive his family of the security that life insurance otherwise offers is just another reason to add to the list.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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