In accident insurance, beneficiary bears burden to prove cause of death as covered peril

The insurance policy expressly provided that to be compensable, the injury or death should be caused by violent accidental external and visible means. In attempting to prove the cause of her husband’s death, all that petitioner could submit were a letter sent to her by her husband’s co-worker, stating that Gabriel died when he tried to haul water out of a tank while its submerged motor was still functioning, and petitioners sinumpaang salaysay which merely confirmed the receipt and stated contents of the letter. Said the appellate court in this regard: x x x. It must be noted that the only evidence presented by her to prove the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death were her purported affidavit and the letter allegedly written by the deceased co-worker in Iraq. The said affidavit however suffers from procedural infirmity as it was not even testified to or identified by the affiant (plaintiff-appellant) herself. This self-serving affidavit therefore is a mere hearsay under the rules, x x x. In like manner, the letter allegedly written by the deceased’s co-worker which was never identified to in court by the supposed author, suffers from the same defect as the affidavit of the plaintiff-appellant. Not one of the other documents submitted, to wit, the POEA decision, dated 06 June 1984, the death certificate issued by the Ministry of Health of Iraq and the NBI autopsy report, could give any probative value to petitioners claim. The POEA decision did not make any categorical holding on the specific cause of Gabriels death. Neither did the death certificate issued by the health authorities in Iraq nor the NBI autopsy report provide any clue on the cause of death. All that appeared to be clear was the fact of Gabriels demise on 22 May 1982 in Iraq. Evidence, in fine, is utterly wanting to establish that the insured suffered from an accidental death, the risk covered by the policy. In an accident insurance, the insureds beneficiary has the burden of proof in demonstrating that the cause of death is due to the covered peril. Once that fact is established, the burden then shifts to the insurer to show any excepted peril that may have been stipulated by the parties. An accident insurance is not thus to be likened to an ordinary life insurance where the insureds death, regardless of the cause thereof, would normally be compensable. The latter is akin in property insurance to an all risk coverage where the insured, on the aspect of burden of proof, has merely to show the condition of the property insured when the policy attaches and the fact of loss or damage during the period of the policy and where, thereafter, the burden would be on the insurer to show any excluded peril. When, however, the insured risk is specified, like in the case before us, it lies with the claimant of the insurance proceeds to initially prove that the loss is caused by the covered peril. [G.R. No. 103883. November 14, 1996]