Chapter 9




Chapter 9

Fundamental Doctrines

Affecting Insurance


Learning Objectives

In this chapter, we elaborate on the following:

The law of agency relative to principals and agents and its role in insurance.

The implications of binding authority for agents, their principals, and the insured.

How the agency relationship is influenced by the concepts of waiver and estoppel.

General requirements of contracts: Offer, acceptance, and consideration; competent parties; legal purpose; and legal form.

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, we elaborate on the following:

The concept and importance of utmost good faith in insurance contracts.

The feature of adhesion and why it plays a significant role in the event of contract disputes.

The importance of indemnity and how it is enforced.

The personal nature of insurance contracts.


Contract (or policy) : Document received when one transfer risks to the insurance company; is the only physical product received at the time of the transaction.

Relational contracts : Contracts whose provisions are dynamic with respect to the environment in which they are executed.

Incomplete contracts : Contracts that contain terms that are implicit rather than explicit.

Agency Law: Application to Insurance

The law of agency deals basically with the legal consequences of people acting on behalf of other people or organizations.

Agency involves three parties:

 Principal : Individual who creates an agency relationship with a second party by authorizing him or her to make contracts with third parties (policyholders) on the principal’s behalf.

Agent : Individual who is authorized to make contracts with a third party.

Apparent authority : The implied authority of the agent to fulfill the principal’s responsibilities.

Agency Law: Application to Insurance

One of the most important agency characteristics is binding authority.

Binding authority secures (binds) coverage for an insured without any additional input from the insurer.

The agreement that exists before a contract is issued is called a binder .

A conditional binder implies that coverage exists only if the underwriter ultimately accepts the application for insurance.

Agency Law: Application to Insurance

Waiver and Estoppel

Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right.

To waive a right, a person must know he or she has the right, and must give it up intentionally.

Estoppel occurs when the insurer or its agent has led the insured into believing that coverage exists and, as a consequence, the insurer cannot later claim that no coverage existed.

Agency Law: Application to Insurance

An agency relationship may be created by estoppel when the conduct of the principal implies that an agency exists.

If an agent who has been suspended sends business to the company that is accepted, the agency relationship will be ratified by such action and the company will be estopped from denying the contract’s existence.

Requirements of a Contract

For any agreement to be legally enforceable, it must meet the following minimum requirements:

Offer and acceptance : The process of two parties entering into a contract.

Consideration : The price each party demands for agreeing to carry out his or her part of the contract.

Competent parties : Individuals of undiminished mental capacity.

Requirements of a Contract

A contract must have a legal purpose

—that is, it must not be for the performance of an activity prohibited by law.

The contract must be in legal form or appropriate language.

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

Insurance contracts are:

Based on utmost good faith which is implemented by the doctrines of

 Representations: Statements concerning an insured’s exposures.

 Concealment: Intentionally withholding a material fact.


Insurance contracts are personal , meaning they insure against loss to a person, not to the person’s property.

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

Contracts of Adhesion

Adhesion : Situation in which insureds have no input in the design of a policy’s terms.

The current approach to the interpretation of contracts of adhesion is threefold:

 To favor the insured when terms of the contract drafted by the insurer are ambiguous.

 To read the contract as an insured would.

To determine the coverage on the basis of the reasonable expectations of the insured.

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

Contracts of indemnity

Indemnity means the insurer agrees to pay no more (and no less) than the actual loss suffered by the insured.

The doctrine of indemnity is implemented and supported by several legal principles and policy provisions, including the following:

 Insurable interest


Actual cash value provision

Other insurance provisions

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

 Insurable interest

Is financial interest in life or property that is subject to loss.

Many situations constitute an insurable interest, the most common is ownership of property.

 The time at which insurable interest must exist depends on the type of insurance.

 Life insurance requires an insurable interest only at the inception of the contract.

 In the case of property insurance, not only must an insurable interest exist at the time of the loss, but the amount the insured is able to collect is limited by the extent of such interest.

Most life insurance contracts are considered to be valued policies , or contracts that agree to pay a stated sum upon the occurrence of the event insured against, rather than to indemnify for loss sustained.

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

 Subrogation

Situation that gives the insurer whatever claim against third parties the insured may have as a result of the loss for which the insurer paid.

The right of subrogation is a common law right the insurer has without a contractual agreement.

 Actual cash value provision

 Actual cash value : The replacement cost at the time of the loss, less physical depreciation including obsolescence.

 Another definition of actual cash value is fair market value , which is the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller.

Property insurance is often written on a replacement cost basis, which means that there is no deduction for depreciation of the property.

Distinguishing Characteristics of

Insurance Contracts

 Other insurance provisions

The purpose of other insurance provisions in insurance contracts is to prevent insureds from making a profit by collecting from more than one insurance policy for the same loss.


Agents work on behalf of a principal in establishing a contract with a third party.

Principals impart binding authority to their agents to secure coverage with insureds.

Contracts feature an offer, acceptance, and consideration.

Insurance contracts are contracts of utmost good faith, contracts of adhesion, contracts of indemnity, and personal.