3OYS: Phoenix man says wife's $200K life insurance policy claim denied

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- If you have life insurance, you might want to review your policy. As 3 On Your Side reports, you should be aware of exactly what it covers.

It almost seems routine these days: take a quick trip to the base of South Mountain, sprinkle down a little bird seed to attract wildlife, and then relax and take in nature.

It's something Barney Cardenas and his wife Maria did every single day for years.  "It's a beautiful place that we used to enjoy," Cardenas tells 3 On Your Side.

But these days it's not quite the same for Cardenas, because his wife of 26 years no longer accompanies him to this tranquil place. Maria passed away after a brief, three month battle with cancer. It's a death Cardenas still finds hard to accept. "My wife. She was a very strong woman," Cardenas said, as he began to cry.

To make matters worse, Cardenas says he's had an ongoing problem with a $200,000 life insurance policy he took out six years before Maria was diagnosed and died of cancer. "I feel I was let down by a big company," he said.

The company he's talking about is Hartford Insurance. According to Cardenas, Hartford Insurance offered him a $200,000 insurance policy through his credit union.

So, he purchased the policy for his wife Maria, and the premiums were automatically deducted from his credit union account. But Cardenas says Hartford is now refusing to pay the claim. "I was furious.  You know, I was mad," he said.

According to Hartford, Cardenas has been paying six years for an insurance policy. However, they say it was an Accidental Death and Dismemberment policy commonly referred to as an AD&D policy.  And because Maria's cancer was not an "accident," and she didn't lose a limb, the policy is null and void. "I told them, you're a bunch of crooks," a disgusted Cardenas remembers saying when the claim was denied.

Hartford says Cardenas should have known exactly what kind of policy he was buying because it had those three letters, AD&D. And those letters were printed on his paperwork.

But, they're three letters that Cardenas says he never saw or even knew what they stood for anyway.  Cardenas says it's a warning for everyone who has bought or is considering buying life insurance.

"I would tell them to check with the company first before they fill out any paperwork to get insurance," Cardenas says. 

He tells us that he still talks to his wife on his daily visits to South Mountain, knowing she's looking down on him. But, he's still struggling financially to pay off funeral expenses. It's something that insurance policy was supposed to have taken care of. "I'm paying it off a little at a time."

Hartford Insurance issued a statement to 3 On Your Side. While they refused to speak about Cardenas' case, they did say consumers should understand their insurance policy before purchasing it.  The email is below:
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The Hartford provides consumers with life insurance and accidental death & dismemberment insurance through employers, associations and affinity groups, such as credit unions.  Life insurance pays a beneficiary (a person chosen by the consumer who owns the policy) a benefit upon death of the policy holder. Each life insurance policy lists the terms of the coverage. Generally, the cause of death is not a factor, except in limited circumstances, such as suicide. Accidental death & dismemberment insurance, on the other hand, pays a benefit if the person covered by the policy dies as a direct result of an accident, not due to natural causes, such as a disease. Accidental death & dismemberment also pays partial benefits for the loss of vision or a bodily appendage, such as a finger or limb, in an accident.

Life and accidental death & dismemberment insurance are two very different products providing different but important coverage to consumers.  The Hartford takes great care in explaining and marketing these products to ensure consumers are properly informed about the coverage being provided. The Hartford carefully identifies accidental death & dismemberment insurance by the full name of the coverage or by its acronym (AD&D) in marketing materials, enrollment forms and cover letters with certificates of insurance. Some certificates of insurance include a 30-day right to examine the product and, if a consumer is not satisfied, he or she can void/cancel the coverage and receive a refund of the insurance premium. We recommend consumers carefully review all financial documents and seek professional financial advice so that they can make informed decisions.