ALBANY, N.Y. – Many insurance companies have said they will not attempt to invoke an "act of war" clause to deny life, health and property insurance benefits as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
And the state may try to stop any that do.
"I think it's pretty common in the industry to have an 'act-of-war' exclusion, but every company will have different policy language," said Sandy Demskie of State Farm insurance, which has decided not to attempt to use the exemption. "So it will vary company to company."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the state Legislature the World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan. The terrorist attacks by jetliner also struck the Pentagon, where 188 people died.
"Can you imagine being a CEO of a major insurance company and saying you aren't paying?" asked Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Alexander Grannis, a Manhattan Democrat. "That would be an act of disloyalty in this climate."
"Virtually every company I've spoken with, and I've spoken with many ... are certainly not going to enforce these exclusions," said Thomas Workman, president of the Life Insurance Council of New York.
Workman said most companies he's contacted don't have the act-of-war clause and those that do won't invoke it for the terrorist attack. He said he doubts the terrorist attack would qualify for an exemption, even though President Bush has repeatedly called it an act of war.
Silver said protecting victims' families from "act-of-war" clauses is among a handful of major issues the Legislature will soon consider to aid people affected by the attack and to rebuild lower Manhattan.
Grannis said use of such clauses to void policies has been one of many insurance concerns in the wake of the disaster.
"But from most of the reports I have seen, I have not gotten any indication they would do that," Grannis said of insurance companies.
Grannis, however, also noted that the review process by companies for claims from death or auto and other property loss is just beginning.
"This will have to play out over the weeks ahead," he said. "It's so early and the possible financial implication is staggering."
A spokesman for the Republican-controlled Senate said the industry appears to be deciding to avoid the war clause, without the state's prompting.
A state Insurance Department spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.