If you have ever had to file an insurance claim, you know how difficult it can be to get the compensation you are owed for a covered loss. But as a family in South Africa recently experienced, insurance companies can heap injustice on top of heartbreak, forcing you to go to unthinkable lengths to get what you are owed.
Bereaved Relatives Bring Body of Loved One to Insurers as Proof of Death
When 46-year-old Sifiso Mhlongo died on November 7, 2019, in KwaZulu-Natal province, his nieces Ntombenhle Mhlongo and Thandaza Mtshali filed a life insurance claim for £1,700 (about $2,240) to cover his funeral costs. The women handed in all the necessary paperwork and followed all claim instructions, and were told by staff at Old Mutual, the oldest insurance company in South Africa, that they needed to wait 48 hours for an assessment to be made on the claim.
However, Mhlongo and Mtshali did not hear back from the insurers in 48 hours, so they returned to Old Mutual. On November 14, after waiting three hours, they were eventually told that they should come back the next day. After nine days of this stonewalling, the women decided to retrieve their uncle’s body from the morgue and take it to Old Mutual as proof that he had actually passed away. Mhlongo and Mtshali said they would not leave the branch until Old Mutual honored the policy, and the company paid out the full amount of the claim immediately.
The claim has caused unbelievable hardships for the family, including:
- Delayed funeral rites. The delay in the claim meant that important tribal rites could not be carried out according to Zulu tradition. According to a spokesman for the National Funeral Practitioners Association of South America, this could form the basis of further legal action against Old Mutual.
- Emotional suffering. Mhlongo and Mtshali were filmed taking the body of their uncle into the branch of Old Mutual, adding further trauma and distress to what should have been a private matter. Mhlongo later told reporters, “If we could afford lawyers, we would sue them, but we are poor people.”
- Increased costs. Funeral practitioner spokesman Muzi Hlengwa told reporters that moving the body after death created problems that would further complicate the burial ceremony. Rituals will need to be performed to retrieve the man’s soul from the Old Mutual building, adding additional burial costs.
Our hearts go out to this desperate and grieving family, and we hope their actions will force Old Mutual to change their ways. If you are experiencing similar unfair treatment from an insurer, the insurance bad faith attorneys at the Voss Law Firm can help you fight the battles you need to fight to get the compensation you deserve from your policy. Simply fill out the contact form on this page today or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.