Widow of man who took own life gets €500 insurance settlement

Firm refused to pay mortgage protection policy worth €220,000 because it lapsed four days before man’s suicide


Lynda Sweeney’s husband Aidan took his own life on August 3rd, 2009. The couple’s insurance company was notified of his death just over a week after he died but it refused to pay out on a mortgage protection policy worth €220,000 because, it said, it had lapsed on July 29th, four days before he died.

The company cancelled the policy after two successive payments had not been made because of insufficient funds being the couple’s account.

Ms Sweeney insisted she was unaware there was a problem and had never received any letters warning that the policy was due to lapse.

The insurance company claimed it had sent three letters to the couple and further letters to their building society informing them the policy was due to lapse. Like Ms Sweeney, the building society said it had received no such correspondence. Registered post was not used so there was no proof the letters had been sent

Ms Sweeney, through MABS, complained to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) and asked for the policy to be reinstated. The only thing the company would accept was that the timing was “unfortunate”. The FSO sided with the insurer and said it was her responsibility to ensure premiums were paid. It said postal correspondence was “beyond the control” of the sender.

It did accept that there should have been more communication with the broker with whom Ms Sweeney and her husband took out the policy. It awarded €500 to the widow, who was left with three young children and a mortgage she could not afford.

The money was described as compensation for inconvenience caused and the FSO categorised the case as “Partly substantiated”.

“There was no way they could prove they sent us letters and the building society got no letters either so we could not have known there was a problem,” Ms Sweeney said last night. “On top of the grief of losing my husband they way I did and having to bring up my three children on my own, I had this stress to deal with. I thought the Ombudsman was supposed to help the likes of me.

“I know Aidan would never have left us in that position if he had known. He loved his children and he would not have left us in that position.”

She described the award of €500 as an insult and said she had been “fobbed off” by the FSO. “They did not treat me like a person, I was treated like a number, a file to be disposed of.”