The biggest question Marvel fans have about “Avengers: Endgame” is how Iron Man and company will reverse the deadly “snap” Thanos used at the end of the previous Avengers film, “Infinity War.” But at Reviews.com, the biggest question we have going into the “Endgame” premiere this weekend is: Would life insurance cover deaths caused by Thanos’ snap?
One thing’s for sure — since the snap wiped out half of the world population, even the best life insurance companies would go bankrupt if forced to pay out millions of claims at the same time. In the U.S. alone, Thanos’ snap would have turned 164 million Americans into dust, and their surviving family members would certainly file life insurance claims. The question is, would “Death by Alien with Infinity Gauntlet” even be covered by most life insurance policies?
John Holloway, a licensed insurance broker and co-founder of NoExam.com, says “deaths caused by Thanos’s snap would not be covered due to the common ‘acts of war’ clause that most insurance policies have.” That’s been the case since at least September 11, 2001, when the home, auto, and life insurance industries began adding clauses to their policies to exclude acts of war and terror. However, even though the title of the last Avengers movie was “Infinity War,” I’m not sure an insurance company could legally defend “the snap” as an act of war or terrorism — Thanos wasn’t fighting a nation-state (or even a functioning organization), and he wasn’t strictly a terrorist.
But another insurance expert, Stroock partner Stephen J. Newman, thinks “snap” survivors might have a decent case. “I am unaware of any policies that exclude coverage based on death due to murder by an intergalactic supervillain,” he says, but “proof of death may be difficult to establish, since there is no corpse, just dust.” It may also be hard to get a death certificate from whatever remains of the U.S. government.
“I am unaware of any policies that exclude coverage based on death due to murder by an intergalactic supervillain.”
Stephen J. Newman
Partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Newman makes another good point: “To the extent that the souls of the departed remain alive but trapped inside an infinity stone (and capable of ultimate rescue by Ant-Man or similar), the [insurance] company may take the position that death has not yet occurred. In such circumstances, the beneficiary may rely on legal principles dating back to the golden age of sea travel, when a sailor long missing may be presumed dead after a period of time, such that his heirs may inherit his possessions as well as receive any insurance or survivor benefits to which they are entitled. To the extent souls may be rescued within the first few years of their bodies being turned to dust, the issue may resolve itself before there is any need for any company to pay any claim.” Clearly, this expert knows the MCU.
Either way, it would probably be easier for the Avengers’ surviving family members — like Pepper Potts and Aunt May — to submit successful claims than it would for the general public. Surely the Avengers would have purchased some kind of (very expensive) war risk insurance, since their world-saving activities wouldn’t be covered by a standard life insurance policy.
Finally, Stephen J. Newman has a warning for the remaining Avengers going into “Endgame” this weekend: “If someone intentionally picked a fight with Thanos and died in that struggle (independent of the ‘snap’), coverage might be denied on the grounds that to do such a thing is essentially suicide, which is excluded under most policies.”