Accidentally On Purpose


We recently handled an insurance case which required us to do heavy research on the meaning of the word “accident”.

There are tons of insurance cases out there that hinge on the meaning of “accident” in all types of insurance policies issued by all kinds of insurance companies and in all jurisdictions.

What struck us was the fact that all of the insurance policies involved, which generally try to define every meaningful word in them to the nth degree, never try to define the word “accident” in their policy language. Is this an “accidental” oversight or is this failure to define deliberate so that insurance companies would have an open door to contest any claim based on an accidental happening?

This failure to define is not an insurance industry oversight. Insurance companies wouldn’t leave such a gaping hole in their policy language unless the hole was one which was advantageous to the insurers.

The companies use the nebulous word “accident” to enable themselves to mount and maintain a legal defense in a court of law. This immediately puts the claimant on the defensive. It means that the claimant is looking at much heavier legal fees and costs (if the claimant can even afford them) and a much longer period of time before any benefits are forthcoming.

Add to this the claimant “Docility Factor” (see post April 29, 2009, below) and it is easy to see that failing to define “accident” in policy language leaves a gaping hole which becomes a graveyard for many a claim.

Undefined “accident” is no accident.



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