The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that a drunk driver’s death was not "accidental" and therefore his surviving spouse could not collect accidental death benefits under an insurance policy.
The decedent’s blood alcohol level was fifty percent higher than the legal limit when he ran into the rear of a tractor trailer parked eight feet off a West Virginia road. It was, of course, 3:49 a.m.
His wife sought "accidental death benefits" from an insurance policy provided by the decedent’s employer. The policy provided coverage "if the insured dies ‘due to an accident.’ The Plan defined ‘accident’ as ‘an unexpected and sudden event which the insured does not foresee.’ The Plan also provided that "ReliaStar Life has final discretionary authority to determine all questions of eligibility and status and to interpret and construe the terms of this policy(ies) of insurance." ERISA governed this case.