Peel Institute of Applied Finance:
13898 Mississauga Rd
Caledon, Ontario L7C 1W4
Tel: (416) 518-2075 or (905) 838-5456
Fax: (905) 838-5455
Jim Bullock - Life Insurance broker / Expert Witness
I still arrange life insurance (and some Critical Illness and Disability) insurance for clients. But I also have a number of open cases at any point in time where I am helping lawyers involved with insurance related lawsuits. These cases involve suing agents and insurers over unpaid claims or involve helping lawyers who are defending insurers and/or agents.
I think most of us agents consider ourselves honest and competent and therefore not likely to be sued. As an up-close observer of many such situations, I am of the opinion that we are all at risk, for three key reasons:
- First, if something goes wrong the agent will be in the middle of the confrontation. Both the client and the insurance company will claim they relied upon the agent for all information and contact. If the insurance company has denied a claim or cancelled a policy it is almost a given that the agent will be blamed.
- Second, note the word “blamed” in the sentence above. An agent is sued because he is blamed for a problem. This does not mean he did anything wrong. I have been involved in situations where the agent was blamed and found blameless and other cases where the agent was considered 100% at fault.
- If a death claim is not paid the executor is almost obliged to sue. His job is to realize the estate assets. A life insurance death benefit is usually big enough to warrant a lawsuit and usually big enough for a good lawyer to take on a contingency basis. And the agent will usually be included in the action.
It is my observation that agents are prime targets for lawsuits because they can seldom defend themselves against the accusations. We have all seen the statue of the blindfolded lady outside the courthouse. In one hand she has a balance beam scale to weigh evidence. Agents don’t usually have the documentation to put on the scales to make their case. The court expects to see notes of each client meeting to document that the agent mentioned the availability of Critical Illness, or warned about the risk of low interest rates, or explained that universal life could implode , etc.
I suggest that as an agent you should keep all paperwork relating to a client until several years after he dies. I have seen lawsuits launched after a death and after the claim was settled where it was alleged that the wrong person was listed as beneficiary – and that the agent knew about it.
You never know when a scrap of paper can be important. I saw a multi-million case get dropped after the agent’s secretary produced a telephone message note from the client explaining why he was putting off the insurance medical for three months.