Life Insurance Claims
Following the tragic death of a family member, it may be unclear whether the death was accidental or resulted from suicide. Life insurance policies typically exclude coverage under the "suicide exclusion" if the insured, "while sane or insane," dies by suicide within two years of the issuance of the policy.
A death by self-inflicted gunshot may appear to be suicide. Such a death may in fact be an accidental side effect of an antidepressant, or SSRI, such as Zoloft, Paxil, or Prozac. Such side effects can trigger akathisia, a severe form of drug-induced agitation that has long been linked to suicide and violence.
A life insurance company's denial of a claim based on the "suicide exclusion" may be subject to challenge. Under Oregon law, the life insurance company has the burden of proof to establish the application of the "suicide exclusion." Also under Oregon law, there is a presumption against suicide. Historically, many Oregon cases involving alleged suicides have proceeded to a jury trial, and have resulted in jury verdicts for the insured. Expert testimony may include a suicidologist or psychiatrist.
Larsen v. Genworth Life and Annuity Ins. Co., United States District Court, District of Oregon Case No. 08-CV-948-ST (2008). One of the first cases in Oregon to challenge the suicide exclusion based on unexpected reaction to antidepressants.