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Principle of Causa Proxima in Marine Insurance

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 16/01/2024
  • 2 min read

Marine insurance in India, also known as transit insurance, is a specialised sector within the insurance industry that helps provide coverage for transit-associated risks to property. This could be damage that was sustained during transit by sea, air, or land.

Marine insurance comprehensively addresses risks such as piracy, storms, collisions and even accidents during the transportation of goods. Some clauses within packages even help cover the insurance for the hull. It is a vital safety net in the world of trade and commerce.

The principle of causa proxima is one of the essential pillars that helps strengthen this safety net. In this article, we will delve deeper into the importance of the role that causa proxima plays in marine insurance while also navigating through its examples, advantages, and disadvantages.

Understanding the Causa Proxima Meaning

Derived from a Latin phrase the words ‘causa proxima’ translate to the immediate/proximate cause. In insurance terms, it is used to identify the most immediate/proximate cause of an event that leads to the damage/monetary loss of insured property.

The context of causa proxima in insurance plays a crucial role in determining the validity of an insurance claim. Since certain insurance policies only cover specific risks it becomes important to identify the proximate cause as it is the one that is responsible for the damage that is caused.

The essence of the principle of the proximate cause lies in its ability to differentiate the immediate or proximate cause in insurance from any remote or indirect causes present.

The Role of the Principle of Causa Proxima in Marine Insurance

When an event of claim occurs, the principle of proximate cause is pivotal. It aids insurers in identifying the immediate cause of the loss. This immediate cause, one that is not necessarily the first or last, plays a crucial role in determining the insurer’s liability.

During such events, only the proximate cause is taken into consideration, regardless of the presence of a remote cause that is insured. Hence, if the proximate cause is an insured risk, the insurer is liable to cover the cost. However, if the circumstances state otherwise, they have no obligation to provide any coverage

Here are some Proximate Cause Examples in Insurance

Example 1:

Suppose M/S KYP imports heavy machinery that is secured with marine insurance. This policy provides coverage against damages caused by external impact.

During transit, the cargo sustains damages due to a collision caused during a storm. The insured material was damaged.

In this scenario, the incident has two major factors. There was an external collision and it caused damage to the material.

The immediate cause, that is the external collision, is considered the closest cause of loss. Hence, consequently, M/S KYP is eligible for compensation for the loss that was incurred as a result of the coverage that was provided for the damage.

Example 2:

Let’s consider a case involving a shipment of a textile company that has been insured against the threats of damages from seawater and storms but does not include coverage against fire.

The transit vessel faces the unfortunate event of a thunderstorm, where one of the wooden containers catches fire as it’s struck. As the fire spreads, it results in significant damage to the shipment that is covered by insurance.

However, since the immediate cause in this case was a fire, as it was the flames that caused immediate damage, the insurer is not liable to cover the damage.

Example 3:

Let’s assume a trading company secures marine cargo insurance to protect its exported electronic equipment. This policy covers damages caused by water-related incidents.

During transit, a malfunction causes the seawater to seep in through the hull. This damages all the electronic equipment.

The immediate cause for the damage here is the seepage of the water, the malfunction of the hull is considered a remote factor.

Hence, the trading company is entitled to reimbursement for the damage incurred due to the damaged items being covered under the marine insurance policy.

The Advantages of Causa Proxima in Marine Insurance

Providing support with Risk Management

When the insurers assess the risks at hand, the principle of proximate cause is used to gauge the extent of the potential losses.

Through examinations of the proximate cause in past events and their respective consequences, insurers can accurately estimate the risk that is linked to specific threats.

This helps them provide a fair pricing structure to the policyholders.

Hindering Moral Hazard

The principle of causa proxima serves as a hindrance against moral hazard, that is the increase in the possibility of the policyholders taking risks or being negligent when they anticipate full compensation for the loss irrespective of their actions.

Through the evaluations of the claims that are grounded in the proximate cause, insurers discourage policyholders from participating in risky behaviour and advocate for responsible risk management practices.

Providing a Clear Understanding of Coverage

The principle of causa proxima helps ensure clarity in the interpretation of insurance policies while offering transparency in defining all covered events, threats, exclusions, and limitations.

This clarity ensures that the policyholders are provided with the ability to make informed decisions when making insurance decisions and have an understanding of the risks that are safeguarded by the policy at hand.

Providing Precise Coverage Assessment

Proximate cause in insurance provides insurers with the ability to precisely assess the relevance of coverage to a particular event.

Through the identification of the proximate cause, insurers can evaluate if the event at hand aligns well with the coverage or not.

This in turn provides a guarantee that the policyholders will receive fair compensation for their losses, consecutively reducing the likelihood of fraudulent claims.

Providing a Transparent Assessment

Causa proxima in marine insurance aids in the fair and transparent assessment of claims.

It focuses on the nearest or most proximate cause of the loss incurred.

This helps avoid conflict and conduct evaluations that are more grounded in the actual circumstances of the event.

Maintaining Uniform benchmarks

The implementation of the principle of proximate cause helps foster uniformity throughout the marine insurance industry.

This helps maintain good standards and principles which in turn make sure everyone adheres to this consistency of evaluations and settling claims.

This helps establish a sense of trust and confidence among policyholders.

This provides assurance to the policyholders that similar procedures and results are to be anticipated in the event of claims with multiple insurers.

The Disadvantages of Causa Proxima

Interpretation of Circumstances

Interpretation of proximate cause can be subjective as it relies on the relevant circumstances of each claim.

As a result, varied interpretations of individuals involved could cause a discrepancy and lead to different outcomes even in cases that showcase similar contributing factors.

This introduces an element of uncertainty in the application of this principle.

Navigating Complex Cases

Certain claims can be difficult to navigate through if the principles of causa proxima are adhered to strictly.

A rigid focus on immediate causes could cause neglect of broader responsibilities or systematic issues that may have contributed to the event.

Restrictive Considerations

While the proximate cause is effective in identifying the immediate cause, it may overlook certain important factors that are more complex and play a significant role in preventing the future occurrence of similar claims.

Such limited considerations hinder the broader understanding of circumstances surrounding an event.

Possibility of Pitfalls

The risk of focusing strictly on a proximate cause may lead to counterintuitive outcomes.

Suppose a remote cause is legally determined as a proximate, it may lead to unexpected decisions and impact the fairness of the situation.

Inconsistency in Applicability

While the principle of causa proxima aims for uniformity and consistency, its application can vary due to its subjective nature.

Varied interpretations of the principles may lead to inconsistent outcomes creating challenges for insurers and policyholders alike.

This undermines the reliability of the principle in diverse legal contexts.

To Conclude

The principle of causa proxima is a grounded guide in terms of the cargo insurance policy and plays a pivotal role in maintaining a uniform standard in the insurance industry.

Its significance is very evident in its multifaceted contributions to the various aspects of the marine insurance industry. However, its subjective nature could prove to hinder its reliability in certain legal contexts.

Tata AIG provides cost-effective marine insurance policies that can be tailored to your needs.


What factors are considered when applying Causa Proxima?

Assessment under the Principle of Causa Proxima requires the consideration of factors like the direct and immediate cause of the loss, the chain of events leading to the damage caused with respective evidence and the overall circumstances of the event.

Can multiple causes be considered under Causa Proxima?

Yes, though the principle recognises that multiple factors can contribute to an event only the nearest event is used to back up the claim.

Can policyholders dispute the insurer’s assessment of the proximate cause?

Although policyholders have the right to dispute an assessment, it would have to include strong evidence.

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