It is a principle of insurance that due to the potential accumulation of claims there is a general exclusion of damage caused to a risk (buildings, factories, their technical equipment, installations, stocks and other contents) in connection with war and civil war.
In this information and in oncoming postings we will focus on the question what actions of war as we see them currently in Ukraine mean for the existence of insurance coverage and for payments of damages by the insurer. We start with the most important part, considering the values involved, property insurance and property business interruption (BI).
Exclusion and termination of cover
It is a principle of insurance that due to the potential accumulation of claims there is a general exclusion of damage caused to a risk (buildings, factories, their technical equipment, installations, stocks and other contents) in connection with war and civil war. The standard definition of this exclusion is “exclusion of damage caused as direct or indirect consequence of any kind of military action, with or without declaration of war, and all violent actions by states; further caused by civil commotion, uproar, rebellion, revolution, civil war including all military or police or other state measures in connection therewith.”
Standard European insurance wordings do not automatically terminate insurance contracts if the situation described by the exclusion quoted occurs. Quite on the contrary, they state clearly that cover remains in existence, but the insured has to prove that a fire occurred during war time does not have its origin in war or any military action.
There are insurance contracts, however, that terminate cover at the outbreak of war, so it is important to have a look in the standard or written wordings applicable to each individual insurance contract.
Most reinsurance treaties still have the World War clause, saying that the treaty ends in the case of a war between the nations United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China. So, the extension of the current conflict into a war between Russia and NATO would most probably trigger this clause. But we are not there, and we can only hope that we never will.
Grey area sabotage, arson and terrorism
War and warlike action, the breakdown of public order may lead to loss events, like damage due to sabotage, arson committed by persons inside and outside a company, acts of terrorism. Here we enter a certain grey area, as far as insurance coverage is concerned. Each claim will obviously be analyzed very carefully whether it is a case of indirect consequence of the war, as defined above, or whether the property damage occurred independently from the conflict situation.
Another point to be considered is that the insured must in fact own the premises insured at the time when the loss occurs. Any change in this ownership, such as seizure or requisition – not insured in property insurance, as this is a political risk – but also abandonment of or being chased from premises will most probably suspend coverage. If the ownership is still existing as a title, but no employees are left on the premises, this means that the control of the risk has been given up and the usual obligations of the insured cannot be fulfilled any longer, which causes serious doubts regarding the validity of cover.
Non-Property Damage Business Interruption
These principles in respect of property insurance apply equally to business interruption. Even if a Non-Property Damage Business Interruption endorsement has been agreed, this follows the basic and general conditions of BI. So, in the case of an enterprise standstill due to the lack of energy supply, cut of ways of communication, disruption of the supply chain, lack of workforce etc. there will always be an evaluation whether these events are due to a situation of war or not.
Although the margin for negotiation is rather small for a broker in this context, GrECo will do the same as in every other loss event, that is to support the interests of our clients in order to reach a fair and just evaluation of the insured’s claim and to obtain wherever possible a correct loss payment from the insurers.
Head of Insurance Mediation Services
T +43 5 0404 229