John Jacob Astor, Isidor Straus, Benjamin Guggenheim: These men were just three of the millionaires lost on Titanic. Their estates were worth millions — Straus, $4.4 million; Guggenheim, $3.5 million; Astor, untold millions, considering he left trusts for his unborn son of $3 million and his widow of $5 million. Their wealth was enough that their families may not have worried about their life insurance policies paying out quickly, or at all.
In our last post, we mentioned that the life insurance claims were complicated for the victims of Titanic. One issue, of course, was that not all of the bodies were recovered. The bodies of Astor and Straus were among the 330 found over the next few weeks, but almost 100 of those were never identified. Guggenheim and Mrs. Straus were lost.
A bigger problem was matching the names of the missing passengers to the names of the policyholders. The New York Times reported that 119 life insurers and 48 accident insurers were involved, each with lists of policyholders with identical names. Handed lists of passengers whose bodies were never recovered, they had to match the passenger John Doe, for example, to the insured John Doe. Remember, this was a paper process.
Initial estimates two weeks after the disaster were that life insurance payouts totaled around $2.1 million, and accident insurance payouts came to a little more than $1.5 million. The industry estimated that life insurance losses would end up at $4 million, accident insurance losses at $2 million.
Life insurance companies needed proof that a passenger was an insured and that a passenger had died. The task took some time. According to Encyclopedia-Titanica.org, the very first life insurance claim settled around May 11, 1912.
The body of the insured, a jeweler, had not been recovered. The news article about the payout closes with a comment from the insurance company president: “There were no undertaker’s of doctor’s certificates of death and the company had to strain several points in allowing the claim.”
New York Times, “Titanic insurance claims quickly met,” April 28, 1912
www.Encyclopedia-Titanica.org, Victims of the Titanic Disaster, accessed April 14, 2012Share