Previously, we have addressed the topic of indemnity periods and I expressed my concern on the number of questions I have had come through from Insurance Brokers and Underwriters where the indemnity period for a client was being reduced in this time of increasing rates.
Another issue which has resurfaced as a result of these rate increases is the move to reduce the cover from reinstatement replacement conditions, to indemnity conditions.
Up until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the vast majority of insurance policies were settled on indemnity conditions. One of the great innovations and improvements in insurance was to move to reinstatement and replacement conditions, also known as ‘new for old’. This proved, and continues to prove, to be an enormous benefit to an Insured who in the event of a partial or total loss, does not have to find the funds to make up the difference between the, let’s call it market value for the sake of convenience, than the actual cost of replacement.
Subsequently, the insurance industry went one step further by introducing extra costs of reinstatement, which meant not only did we bring the asset back to a condition as new, but also brought it up to date where required to meet any statutory or regulatory requirements.
Not only is there a significant financial benefit to the Insured in the event of a loss, there is also a significant saving in time for there is no need to have the haggle to agree indemnity value which in most cases is based on the replacement value, less an allowance for its age and condition (again, I stress that this is not universally across).
I find that in my discussions with Insureds that wish to consider this option, that they are thinking of a total loss situation and they are factoring in what I call the “it will never happen to me” syndrome. Most losses are partial, and the most common type of loss, say to a building, is not a fire but rather storm damage.
So, let’s say that an insured owns a commercial property and there is a hail storm and the roof requires replacement. If the Insured is reluctant to pay the premium on insurance, how will they feel when they have to meet the cost differential between the cost of a brand new roof, particular if it requires upgrading to meet requirements, and the depreciated replacement value based on the age and condition of the old roof.
If the building is only a few years old and there is going to be no depreciation anywhere, there is no benefit in insuring for indemnity conditions for the value between the replacement value and the depreciated replacement value will be negligible in any event. It is only when the building is older that there is any benefit in premium, but then the question is, at what cost to protection?
Another scenario that crops up is that an Insured, particularly in the manufacturing sector, makes the claim that if there was a total loss and they lost 46 production machines, they would move their operation to China and therefore there is no benefit in having reinstatement and replacement conditions. I again point out that most losses are partial. What happens if fire or water damage makes only 1 or 2 machines irreparable? Would the Insured move their operation overseas having only lost a small portion of the equipment in Australia? Invariably, the answer is no.
In my discussions with insureds where we have a meaningful discussion about the additional risk that is being accepted by the insured by moving from reinstatement and replacement to indemnity conditions that in the vast majority of cases when the Insured considers all the facts, they elect to remain with reinstatement and replacement conditions.
I can not recall a single claim that I have handled in my 45 year career where the Insured has been insured for indemnity conditions and where it is proved to be a good outcome for the business or the principal stakeholders.