Does an Insurance Policy Have To Pay Accidental Death Benefits If You Were Drunk and Speeding?

An insurance policy with an accidental death benefit may have to pay a death benefit to a motorcyclist who dies in an accident even if the motorcyclist was drunk and speeding.

What Did The Motorcyclist Do Wrong? Everything!

Anthony McClelland was killed when he went off the road and crashed his motorcycle after failing to navigate a curve.

He was:

  • Not wearing a helmet
  • Speeding at over 90 mph
  • Possibly racing with another motorcycle and a car, and
  • Riding his motorcycle while drunk

The toxicology report stated that he had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.203%. The report listed blunt force trauma as the immediate cause of death and acute ethanol intoxication as a significant condition.

Can You Get Money For Injuries If You Were Riding a Motorcycle While Drunk?

This case involved a motorcyclist who was riding his motorcycle while drunk and unfortunately killed. He did not file a lawsuit for personal injury but had a death benefit from a disability insurance policy at work. (Keep reading below to see what the court ruled about his death benefit)

But you can also file a lawsuit for personal injury and you can get money for your injuries even if you were drunk while riding a motorcycle. (Watch this video)

The Motorcyclist Had Insurance With a $250,000 Accidental Death Benefit

Anthony McClelland had an employee benefits insurance policy at work as defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) which provided a $250,000 accidental death benefit.

The Insurance Company Denied The Claim Because He Was Drunk

The Life Insurance Company of North America denied payment of the death benefit claiming that the death was not a result of an accident because he was drunk.

The Court Ruled That The Insurance Company Has To Pay The Claim

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the death was an accident and that the insurance company has to pay the death benefit.

Evidence was submitted that, according to friends he had seen that day, McClelland was in a good mood and had plans for other activities later that day. This evidence indicated that McClelland did not intend or anticipate his death on the day of his motorcycle accident and his death was, therefore, an accident.

The U.S. District Court agreed and stated that the evidence indicated that McClelland intended to reach his next destination and that he did not intend or expect to die.

The Motorcyclist Was An Experienced Drinker!

Interestingly, the court also stated, “The statistics offered by Plaintiff demonstrate that a person in this situation is overwhelmingly likely to safely reach his destination, particularly when he is an experienced drinker”. (Apparently, McClelland was an experienced drinker!)

The court further found that although he engaged in behavior that greatly raised his risk of serious injury or death, there is no evidence that a reasonable, similarly situated person would think that death or serious injury was highly likely.

The court concluded that if the insurance company wants to exclude drunk driving crashes from coverage for accidental death, it can easily write an exclusion in the insurance policy. The insurance policy which insured Anthony McClelland did not have such an exclusion for accidental death benefits.

If you had a family member who was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was drunk and/or speeding, call us for a free consultation at 1-800-487-8911

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Motorcycle Attorney Phil Franckel talks about how motorcycle accidents are different

Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles and content on this website, one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.

Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

Robert Plevy, Esq. is a motorcycle accident lawyer and one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Robert began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.

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