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Does Life Insurance Cover Acts of War or Terrorism?

The answer is, maybe.

Most life insurance policies contain a “war exclusion” clause, which specifically excludes coverage for acts of war like:

  • Terrorism
  • Revolution
  • Military coup
  • Insurrection
  • Invasion

Three army vehicles driving down a dirt road.Have you lost a loved one due to a purported act of war or terrorism, and your life insurance claim was denied?  Don’t take no for an answer. Read on to find out why the war exclusion exists and what you can do when your claim is denied under that exclusion.

Why Can Acts of War be Excluded from Life Insurance Coverage?

Public policy dictates that since insurance companies could not remain solvent if they were obligated to pay for the massive destruction caused by acts of war, those acts can be excluded from life insurance coverage. If insurance companies were required to cover those losses, the payouts would be immense, causing life insurance premiums to rise exponentially and be unaffordable for most.

Originally war exclusion appeared only in the policies of those contractually assuming liability, rather than private people and organizations, under the now-outdated theory that only soldiers and military contractors could suffer a coverable injury through an act of war.

This changed during the fallout from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which resulted in many civilian deaths and injuries and many life insurance claims. Consequently, insurance companies added more detailed and far reaching “war and terrorism” clauses that also excluded coverage of civilians.

A Congressional Report from June 14, 2001 sets forth the history of and public policy underlying this evolution, yet concludes “that ‘war risk’ exclusion clauses will not likely be invoked against losses arising out of the events of September 11, in general, and the destruction of the World Trade Center, in particular.”

What is a War Act Exclusion?

Here is a sample War Exclusion provision from an actual life insurance policy:


Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary within this insurance or any endorsement thereto it is agreed that this insurance excludes loss, damage, cost or expense of whatsoever nature directly or indirectly caused by, resulting from or in connection with any of the following regardless of any other cause or event contributing concurrently or in any other sequence to the loss; 

  1. war, invasion, acts of foreign enemies, hostilities or warlike operations (whether war be declared or not), civil war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection, civil commotion assuming the proportions of or amounting to an uprising, military or usurped power; or 
  2. any act of terrorism. 

For the purpose of this endorsement an act of terrorism means an act, including but not limited to the use of force or violence and/or the threat thereof, of any person or group(s) of persons, whether acting alone or on behalf of or in connection with any organisation(s) or government(s), committed for political, religious, ideological or similar purposes including the intention to influence any government and/or to put the public, or any section of the public, in fear. 

This endorsement also excludes loss, damage, cost or expense of whatsoever nature directly or indirectly caused by, resulting from or in connection with any action taken in controlling, preventing, suppressing or in any way relating to 1 and/or 2 above. 

If the Underwriters allege that by reason of this exclusion, any loss, damage, cost or expense is not covered by this insurance the burden of proving the contrary shall be upon the Assured. 

In the event any portion of this endorsement is found to be invalid or unenforceable, the remainder shall remain in full force and effect. 

Here is another sample:

You are not insured for: war, civil war, revolution, rebellion, insurrection, or civil strife arising therefrom or any hostile act by or against a belligerent power, capture, seizure, arrest, restraint or detainment (piracy excepted), and the consequences thereof or any attempt thereat, derelict mines, torpedoes, bombs or other derelict weapons of war.

What if I Need Insurance Coverage against War-Like Acts?

Three men in tactical vests holding weapons.A company doing business in an environment where there is a risk of sustaining loss or death due to a war-like act can purchase War Risk Insurance. It is most commonly purchased by companies in the aviation and shipping industries.

War Risk Insurance has two components: War Risk Liability, which covers the people and items inside the airplane or ship, and; War Risk Hull, which covers the airplane or ship itself.

If your loved one worked in these industries or in related industries and died due to a war-like act or in a war zone, you should inquire whether he or she was covered under the employer’s War Risk Liability policy. Contact the Boonswang Law Firm at 1-855-865-4335 if you need help with this.

How Do I Know if War Exclusion Was Correctly Applied to Deny My Claim?

Herein lies the rub. Insurance companies do not want to pay your claim if your loved one died under circumstances where the war act exclusion provision may apply, so your claim will likely be denied outright and you will need to appeal that denial.

You will need to look at what the war exclusion clause expressly states. Take a look at the two very different war exclusion provisions above. The shorter of the two expressly excludes loss due to things like forgotten land mines or abandoned weapons or war.  The longer of the two does not.

So, if an insured steps on a WWII land mine and is killed… he is probably covered by the first policy and maybe not covered by the second.

There are always arguments to be made for coverage when war exclusion clauses are vague – and most are. A life insurance beneficiary attorney will look at the war act provision and ask, What are “acts of war” – must war be declared? Did the insured die from an act of war or from something else while located in a war zone? Did the insured die from a purported act of terrorism, but it occurred on domestic soil and was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen?  Did the insured die in a war zone, but from friendly fire? Did the insured died during training exercises, not while the enemy was engaged?

A War- or Terrorism-Related Death May Still Be Covered By Life Insurance

A smiling lawyer shaking hands with a woman over paperwork.Not every any act that is war-related or terrorism-related is excluded from life insurance coverage. Today, violent conflict can be found all over the globe, from formally-declared war to insurrection and terrorist acts.  If your loved one died in or around any of that conflict, you and your attorney must explore the nuances of the applicable war exclusion provision against the facts and determine whether there are arguments for coverage. Chances are good that there are.

Contact national life insurance beneficiary attorney Chad G. Boonswang Esq. today to schedule your free consultation. Let us help you get paid!

Written By: Chad Boonswang
Chad G. Boonswang, Esquire is a litigation lawyer based in Philadelphia, PA. Selected as an ASLA 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top 100 Litigation Lawyer, Mr. Boonswang plays to win. As a lawyer, athlete, and scholar, he has always put in the energy, time, and commitment to be the best. After working for several prominent law firms in Philadelphia, including Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, he founded his own practice in 2002.  Since then Chad has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of his clients from life insurance claims and catastrophic injury cases.  Year after year, he has earned a 10.00 Superb rating on Avvo.

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