What is insurance

 

Insurance is a special type of contract between an insurance company and its client in which the insurance company agrees that on the happening of certain events the insurance company will either make payment to its client or meet certain costs.  
 
For example, in a car insurance policy, the insurance company agrees that if the car is damaged, the insurance company will pay the cost of repairing it. Under an income protection policy, the insurance company agrees that if its client is unable to work, the insurance company will pay its client an agreed amount. 
 
The reason we call an insurance policy a special type of contract is because there are certain characteristics that relate to an insurance policy that do not relate to most other contracts. In particular, an insurance policy is a contract of “utmost good faith”. This means that the insurance company and the insured person have certain very important obligations that do not exist in normal contracts. These include the duty of disclosure and the duty not to make any false statements in relation to a claim. This duty of good faith is why insurance companies can refuse to pay your claim if you have not told the insurance company all material information when you applied for or renewed the insurance. Some of the obligations that exist in an insurance contract can be very onerous on the insured person, and so over the years, the government has regulated the insurance industry. This is considered under the regulation tab.
 
The special nature of the insurance contract also places very important obligations on the insurance company. The insurance company has to act in good faith, and a failure to do so can expose the insurance company to special types of damages. In addition, because many insurance policies are contracts to provide comfort in stressful times, a failure by an insurance company to honour its obligations can result in general damages being awarded by the Courts. 
 
Because an insurance policy is a type of contract, it is important to remember that the duties of the insurance company and the insured person are largely contained within that contract, often called a policy. So before jumping to conclusions about what the insurance company should or should not do, or what your obligations might or might not be, it is important to first read your insurance contract or policy. Ask the insurance company for a copy of the policy if one has not been provided to you, and read the policy carefully. Avoid generalisations. Whilst many insurance policies are similar, none are exactly the same, and slightly different words in an insurance policy may have different meanings. Many people express opinions about insurance policies or what should or should not be covered without actually reading the policy, and that must be avoided.
 
As well as the insurance contract itself, the law (called common law by lawyers) imposes all kinds of special obligations on insurers and insureds, and so when considering an insurance contract, it is important to do so in the context of the common law obligations that are imposed upon insurance companies. 
What is insurance Insurable Interest Utmost Good Faith Duty of Disclosure Reasonable Care Regulation Insurance Claims Register Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Applying for Insurance Making a Claim Expiry & Renewal