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Doctrine of Subrogation in Fire Insurance

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 12/04/2024
  • 2 min read

Imagine a fire devastates your property. Thankfully, you have fire insurance. The insurance company compensates you for the losses, but the story does not end there. The concept of subrogation in fire and burglary insurance kicks in.

The doctrine of subrogation allows your insurance company to step into your shoes and pursue the party responsible for the fire, aiming to recover the money they paid you.

This guide explains the situation, introduces the concept of subrogation, and highlights its key benefits.

What is a Fire Insurance?

Fire insurance acts as a safety net in case of fire-related disasters. It is a contract between you and an insurance company. You pay a premium in exchange for their promise to compensate you for losses up to a pre-determined amount, called the sum insured. This helps you recover financially and rebuild after a fire.

Fire insurance policies typically follow a few key principles. One of them is the principle of Subrogation. This principle allows your fire insurance company to take over your right to claim compensation from the party responsible for the fire.

Let us now understand this principle in detail below.

Also Read: Principles of Fire Insurance Policy

What is the Doctrine of Subrogation and Contribution in Insurance Law?

Subrogation means one person or party taking the place of another. It helps define the insurance company's rights before and after paying claims. It also simplifies getting a settlement under the insurance policy.

When the insurance company sues a third party for damages, it acts on behalf of the policyholder. This means it has the same rights and legal standing as the policyholder when seeking compensation for losses. If the policyholder cannot sue the third party, the insurer cannot either.

So, basically, when there is a fire, and the insured has losses covered by their fire insurance, the insurance company pays for the damages, repairs, or replacements. But if the fire was someone else's fault, like a contractor or manufacturer, the insurance company can ask them to pay back the money it spent.

Furthermore, there are three main ways to handle insurance claims when there is a loss. In fire insurance, they are:

Insured Keeps Both: The insured keeps the insurance money and can also sue the responsible third party for full recovery.

Insured Recovers Own Loss: The insured gets compensation for their loss, and the insurance company cannot go after the responsible party.

Subrogation: This is the most important option. The insurance company pays for the fire damage and has the right to sue the responsible third party to recover its money.

The Doctrine of Subrogation comes from various legal sources, such as tort, contract, statute, and the type of insurance. The insurer can recover because it has compensated the insured for their loss. The insured needs to help the insurance company if it takes legal action against the responsible party.

How Does the Principle of Subrogation Work in Fire Insurance Claims?

Subrogation in a fire insurance policy works like this:

Settling the Claim: Let us say there is a fire in your home, and your belongings are damaged. Your fire insurance company pays you for the damage caused by faulty wiring.

Pursuing Recovery: After paying your claim, the insurance company goes after the responsible party, such as the electrician who incorrectly installed the wiring. They do this because your fire insurance policy gives them the right to do so.

Including Deductible: When claiming the damages from the responsible party, the insurance company includes the deductible amount. If they get that money back, you also get reimbursed for your deductible.

For instance, if faulty wiring causes a fire in your house, you claim from your fire insurance. Once you are paid, the insurance company goes after the electrician to get their money back.

Subrogation allows the insurance company to step into your shoes and chase the person responsible for the fire damage.

Importance of Doctrine of Subrogation in Fire Insurance

Subrogation is a vital legal concept in fire insurance that benefits insurance companies and policyholders.

Here is why the doctrine of subrogation in insurance matters:

Cost Recovery: After an insured person suffers a fire loss, their insurance company covers the damages with a claim payout. Subrogation allows the insurer to reclaim these costs from the party responsible for the fire.

Prevents Double Recovery: Subrogation prevents the insured from getting paid twice for the same loss. If they could claim from both the insurance company and the responsible party, it could lead to profiting from the loss, which goes against the idea of insurance as a safety net.

Controls Premiums: Insurance companies use subrogation to manage premium costs for policyholders. By recovering funds from those at fault, they can balance the expenses of claims payouts, which can affect overall premium rates.

Encourages Responsibility: Knowing they could face subrogation claims prompts individuals and entities to take precautions and avoid actions that might cause fires. It promotes responsible behaviour and fire prevention measures.

Efficient Resource Use: Subrogation helps insurers use their resources effectively. By getting back funds from responsible parties, they can replenish their funds and continue covering future losses for policyholders.

Legal Accountability: Subrogation may involve legal steps to establish liability and recover costs. This enforces accountability and encourages adherence to safety standards.

Fairness: Subrogation ensures that those responsible for fire-related losses bear their share of the financial burden. It promotes fairness in distributing the costs linked with the loss.

A Few Exceptions of the Principle of Subrogation in Insurance

Life and Accident Insurance: Subrogation does not apply to life and accident insurance because they are not contracts of reimbursement.

Pre-Agreed Arrangements: If there is an agreed-upon arrangement between the insured and the insurer, subrogation rules can be adjusted accordingly.

Salvage and Abandonment: Insurance payouts may not cover recoverable salvage. If the insured abandons the damaged property, the insurer takes ownership of the salvage.

Initiating a Lawsuit: Although the insurer can start legal proceedings on behalf of the insured, they're not the plaintiff. It is the insurer's responsibility to begin the lawsuit.

What is a Waiver in Subrogation

A waiver of subrogation occurs when an insured gives up the right for their insurance company to pursue compensation for losses from a negligent third party. Insurers usually charge an extra fee for this special policy addition. Many construction contracts and leases include this clause.

These provisions prevent one party's insurance company from suing the other party to recover money paid to resolve a claim. Basically, if subrogation is waived, the insurance company cannot act on behalf of the client after a claim is settled and sue the other party to get their money back. So, if subrogation is waived, the insurer faces more risk.

Conclusion

Even though the definition of the Doctrine of Subrogation in a fire insurance policy is clear to you now, it is crucial to note that this principle may not apply or be followed in every fire insurance claim.

Factors like the terms of the insurance policy, how the fire happened, and local laws can affect whether subrogation is possible.

Also, subrogation might not cover all the losses the insured experienced, as it mainly aims to get back what the insurance company paid out. That is why it is crucial for policyholders to understand their rights and duties regarding subrogation and to work with their insurance company if a subrogation claim is made.

If you are looking for SME business insurance with just the right coverage, Tata AIG could be your best bet. Call us today to learn more about our plans.

FAQS

How does Subrogation affect the Insured Victim?

Subrogation is a process where insurance companies sort out payments when one party causes harm to another. For the insured victim, it is a passive process. Their insurance company handles things, and their policy covers them as usual. Subrogation actually helps them because the at-fault party has to pay up, which helps keep the victim's insurance rates low.

How is the premium of a fire insurance policy calculated?

The cost of a fire insurance policy depends on a few things:

The value of the property you want to insure.

How risky the property is and where it's located.

What types of accidents or disasters the policy cover

Any extra coverage options you choose to add. —-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Disclaimer / TnC

Your policy is subjected to terms and conditions & inclusions and exclusions mentioned in your policy wording. Please go through the documents carefully.

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