Principles of Insurance
Insurance policies are contracts that provide people with financial security and protection from future uncertainty. In order for the relationship between the insurer and the insured to work, however, there are certain important principles that must be upheld. Read on to learn about the principles of insurance contracts.
The principle of indemnity ensures that an insurance contract protects you from and compensates you for any damage, loss, or injury. The purpose of an insurance contract is to make you "whole" in the event of a loss, not to allow you to make a profit. Thus, the amount of your compensation for a loss is directly related to the amount of loss that you actually suffered.
Contribution is a similar principle to indemnity, and it applies to situations where you have more than one insurance policy for the same asset or entity. For example, imagine that you own a truck that is insured by both Company A and Company B. If another driver hits your truck and it will cost you $5,000 to fix it, you can submit your claim to Company A, Company B, or to both companies. If Company A compensates you fully, then it can claim a proportionate contribution from Company B. However, if both companies compensate you fully, you can't keep the full amount and turn a profit, because this would amount to an unfair windfall.
The insurable interest principle requires that the owner of a particular insurance policy have an ownership interest in the particular subject matter of the insurance policy. For example, the owner of a hot dog cart has an insurable interest in the cart because he owns it and is earning money from it. However, if he sells the hot dog cart, this means he will no longer have an insurable interest in it. Creditors also have an insurable interest in debt. The absence of an insurable interest can make the insurance policy in question null and void.
Subrogation means that one party stands in for another. In the insurance context, subrogation will arise if you are injured by a negligent third party, and your insurance company reimburses you for your damages. Under the principle of subrogation, your insurance company can stand in your shoes and recover the pay-out from the negligent party. The goal of this principle is to encourage responsibility and accountability by holding negligent parties responsible for injuries they cause.
As the owner of an insurance policy, you have an obligation to take necessary steps to minimize the loss of your insured property. The law doesn't allow you to be negligent or irresponsible just because you know you're insured. For example, if a fire breaks out in your kitchen, you have an obligation to take reasonable steps to put it out, like using a fire extinguisher or calling the fire department. You can't just stand back and allow the fire to burn down your house because you know that insurance will pay for it.
The principle of proximate cause, or nearest cause, comes into play when more than one event or bad actor causes an accident or injury. An example would be if two separate landowners carelessly burn piles of leaves, and the fires eventually join together and burn down your house. The insurance principle of proximate cause dictates that nearest or closest cause should be taken into consideration to decide the liability.
Utmost Good Faith
Insurance contracts also require that both parties act with the utmost good faith. This means that both parties must accurately and fully disclose all material information. This not only ensures fairness, but also helps insurance companies accurately price premiums for insurance applicants. Insurance policies can be declared null and void if an applicant made a misrepresentation of material fact that was relied on by the insurance company.
Get Legal Help with Insurance Contracts
The principles of insurance in this article ensure fairness in insurance contracts. If you believe that there has been misconduct or unfairness in the execution of an insurance contract, you may want to seek legal advice. Connect with an experienced insurance law lawyer in your area.