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Insurable Interest Explained

Insurable Interest Explained

The Insurance Act 1938 doesn’t define the insurable interest but it has been defined by Mac Gillivray as follows:

“Where the assured is so situated that the happening of the event on which the Insurance money is to become payable would as a proximity cause, involve the assured in the loss or diminution of any right recognised by law or in any legal liability there is an insurable interest in the happening of that event to the extent of the possible loss or liability.”

The object of Insurance should be lawful for this purpose; the person proposing for Insurance must have interest in the continued life of the insured & would suffer pecuniary loss if the insured dies. If there is no insurable interest, the contract becomes wagering (gambling) contract. All wagering contracts are illegal and therefore null and void.

Insurable interest in Own Life Policy

So long as the Insurance is on one’s own life, the “Insurance Interest” presents no difficulty. A person has insurable interest in his own life to an unlimited extent. The absence of a limit in this case is reasonable. When a person insures his life he obtains protection against loss to his estate; for in the event of his untimely death the estate would not benefit by the future accumulation he hopes to make during the normal span of life. It is not easy to compute with any degree of certainty what the future earnings of a person would be.

Hence no limit may be fixed in respect of life Insurance he may effect. Where, however, insurer rejects a proposal for an amount of assurance, which is disproportionate to the means of the proposer, it is not normally for lack of Insurable interest but on considerations of “moral hazard”. Indeed it may also be presumed in a case where a person proposes for a policy for a large amount, which he may not be able to maintain having regard to his income, that it will be financed by some other person and that there is no insurable interest

Insurance on the Life of Spouse

As a wife is normally supported by her husband, she can validly affect insurance on her life for adequate amount. The service and help rendered by the wife used to be thought of as the basis of insurable interest which supports any policy which a man takes on the life of his wife. In Griffiths v. Elemming the Court of Appeal in England stated that it was difficult to uphold such interest on the basis of pecuniary interest but thought that such interest could be presumed on broader grounds.

Insurable Interest on the Insurance taken on the Life of Parent and Child

Following the practice in U.K. in India also a parent is not considered to have insurable interest in the life of the child. The same is the case with a child in respect of his parent’s life. Whether this position requires to be reviewed now appears to be engaging the attention of people here.

Insurance
[Post Image Courtesy of DDPavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

A Hindu is under a legal obligation to maintain his parents. Even as per traditional law Sec.20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act has given statutory form to the legal obligation. The parents have, therefore, a right to maintenance subject to their being aged or infirm. An order for maintenance of parents may also be passed under Sec. 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It may be stated, therefore, that a parent has pecuniary interest in the life of the child, and an assurance effected on that basis cannot be hit by Sec.30 of the Contract Act as a wagering contract. However, it may be noted that the pecuniary interest is not a present interest unless the parent is unable to maintain himself or herself at the time when the Insurance is effected. It may therefore, be argued that a parent cannot have insurable interest in the life of the child until the right to maintenance arises; but when a person is not able to maintain oneself how can he be expected to have the means to insure the life of his children?

As a matter of fact in India, even today a child is a potential breadwinner for the parents in their old age. The present affluent circumstances of a parent do not alter that situation. Under the traditional law a right to maintenance could be claimed only against the sons; the statute has now extended the obligation to the daughters as well. Having regard to the social and economic set up of the people in the country a review of the question seems to be appropriate.

Insurable Interest on the life of Other Relations

In the case of other relations, insurable interest cannot be presumed from the mere existence of their relationship. Moral obligations or duties are not sufficient to sustain an insurable interest.

In every other case, the insurable interest must be a pecuniary interest and must be founded on a right or obligation capable of being enforced by Courts of law. The following are illustrations of such cases of insurable interest:

(a) Employer – Employee: An employer has insurable interest in the life of his employee, and the employee in the life of the employer; An employer can create insurable interest in the lives of his employees by undertaking to provide monetary benefit to the family or estate of the employees in the event of death. Group Insurances effected by companies on the lives of their employees are on the basis of such insurable interest.

(b) Creditor – debtor: A creditor has insurable interest in the life of his debtor upto the amount of the debt; This is not a satisfactory basis; for in the event of death of the debtor after the debt has been repaid, the creditor would still be entitled to the policy moneys and thus can be in a position to gain by the death of the debtor once the loan is repaid. The better arrangement would be for the debtor to take out a policy for the required amount and mortgage the policy to the creditor. The creditor then cannot take benefits under the policy in excess of his dues.

(c) Partner: A partner has insurable interest in the life of his co-partner to the extent of the capital to be brought in by the latter.

(d) Surety and principal debtor-Co-surety: A surety has insurable interest in the life of his co-surety to the extent of the proportion of his debt and also in the life of his principal debtor.

Effect on Contract when Insurable interest is not present:

Where, therefore, the proposal is on the life of another, unless the proposer has insurable interest in the life to be assured, the contract shall be void. Lack of insurable interest is a defence, which the insurer may plead in resisting a claim. There may be also cases where Insurance on one’s own life is surreptitiously financed and held by another for his benefit, which if detected by the insurer, may be declared void. As a life Insurance contract is not one of indemnity, the existence of insurable interest and the amount thereof will have to be considered at the time of effecting the contract since lack of such interest would render the contract void. If insurable interest existed at the inception of the policy, the contract would be enforceable though such interest might cease later.

Insurance Law And Practice - ICSI

About Author Mohamed Abu 'l-Gharaniq

when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries.

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