Mother says insurer failed to pay accidental death benefits

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 5, 2013

MARTINSBURG – A woman is suing Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company for allegedly failing to pay accidental death benefits for the death of her daughter.

On Jan. 19, 2012, Lori L. Heatwole was found death in her bed at her residence and an autopsy was performed by the West Virginia Office of the Medical Examiner, who concluded that she was ill at the time and died accidentally as a result of the over ingestion of a combination of prescription drugs, according to a complaint filed Jan. 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

The medical examiner determined the manner of death to be accidental.

Helen Heatwole, Lori Heatwole’s mother, submitted life insurance benefit claim documents to the defendant per its instructions, according to the suit, and in May, the defendant paid Helen Heatwole the sum of $151,612.06, representing the basic life insurance amount of $150,000, with interest.

Terry C. Alkire Sr., the attorney-in-fact of Helen Heatwole, claims Lori Heatwole’s coverage with the defendant also provided for an additional payment of $150,000 in the event of accidental death.

At the time of the initial payment, the defendant noted to Helen Heatwole that it was conducting a routine investigation in connection with the accidental death portion of the claim, according to the suit.

After hearing nothing from the defendant, Helen Heatwole contacted the defendant in November, which then advised that an investigation into accidental nature of the claim would be required and implied that no such investigation had yet to be initiated, she says.

Helen Heatwole claims she voluntarily provided the defendant with signed medical authorizations for use in the course of any investigation, but has received no further communication from the defendant.

The defendant’s failure to promptly proceed with any investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of the decedent and its failure to timely address the accidental death portion of Helen Heatwole’s claim is in direct contravention of the relevant statutory, common law and public policy of West Virginia and the United States, according to the suit.

Helen Heatwole claims the defendant violated the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act.

As a direct and proximate result of the defendant’s intentional, reckless, negligent, careless, unreasonable and unjustifiable conduct, Helen Heatwole has suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, annoyance, inconvenience, aggravation, worry and other damages, according to the suit.

Helen Heatwole is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Nelson M. Michael and David Collins.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Gina M. Groh.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 3:13-cv-8

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