What are ‘exclusions’ and ‘limitations’ and how do they affect my life insurance coverage?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 2, 2012

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An “exclusion” is a statement in an insurance policy which describes a condition or type of loss that is not covered by the policy. In life insurance, a common exclusion is an exception for accidental deaths caused by “act of war” or “while in active military service”.

Since exclusions and limitations “take away” some of the coverage of the policy, the law requires that they be clearly written and very specific. In the event of a reasonable difference of opinion over how to interpret the meaning of an exclusion or limitation, a court generally will resolve the dispute in favor of the policyholder by adopting the narrowest or most restrictive interpretation.

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