PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. (WPLG/CNN) - The family of the first known South Florida first responder to die from COVID-19 was crushed by his loss. Now, they feel like they’ve been dealt another blow, after the AIG insurance company twice denied their claim for an accidental death in the line of duty.
Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Shannon Bennett died in early April. His brother, Darren Bennett, says the family is still grappling with his death.
“Essentially, while my family is trying to grapple with getting our bearings back, this type of letter comes in, and of course, it floors us,” Darren Bennett said.
He says the family was stunned to receive a letter in response to their insurance claim over Shannon Bennett’s death, saying AIG had reviewed it and determined that COVID-19 did not fall under the category of an injury or accident.
Further, the company noted the death “was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, specifically excluded under this policy.” While Florida statutes do classify certain health conditions as “accidental and caused by employment,” AIG says that doesn’t technically include COVID-19.
The sheriff’s office submitted an appeal to the company on the family’s behalf, but just a couple weeks later, the insurance claim was denied a second time.
Darren Bennett says there is no price tag that can be put on his brother’s life, so this isn’t about the money anymore. He just wants others to know what’s going on.
“For us, it’s about awareness,” he said. “We want to make sure that any other agency that is partnering with AIG would potentially completely dismantle their relationship.”
Sheriff Gregory Tony released a statement, saying they are committed to helping the Bennett family.
“We pay thousands of dollars each year for this insurance, and I’m extremely disappointed that AIG is denying this claim. We will exhaust all appeals. I have directed my command staff to review our contract with AIG. We hope as we have further dialogue with AIG, they recognize the global impact in [the] message that they are sending to our first responders,” read the statement in part.
AIG declined to comment on the case.