""This branch of insurance, which has developed considerably of recent years, is analogous to life assurance, and is not a contract of indemnity. Under the ordinary form of policy, the person insured, or his legal representative, is entitled to certain fixed payments in case he sustains any bodily injury " caused by violent, accidental, external, and visible means," and resulting in death or disablement within three months of the accident.
The amount payable in case of death and the weekly compensation for disablement are fixed by the policy without any regard to the age, income, position, or earnings of the person insured. The weekly payments continue only so long as the disablement lasts, compensation as a general rule not being payable for more than twenty-six weeks for any one accident.
The period covered by the insurance is generally one year, although it may be limited to any period, as, for instance, where the purchaser of a weekly journal insures the purchaser for a week, or it may be confined to a particular journey. There is no obligation on the part of the insurance company to renew the policy at the expiration of the year.
The conditions of these policies vary, and must be carefully observed. Where the applicant is required to fill up a proposal form and to sign a declaration at its foot that the answers shall form the basis of the contract and are true, he will be bound by any material misstatement which he himself makes in filling up the form, or which is innocently made by a person whom he employs or permits to write in the answers for him, and the result of this will be that the policy will become void. A publican, who was also a tea traveller, was persuaded by an agent of the Rock .Life Assurance Company to insure in his company against accidents; the same agent had previously effected an insurance for the publican against injury by accident in the Law Accident Company, and obtained for him a sum of about £6 as compensation for some slight previous accident. Over a game of billiards the insurance in the Rock was carried out, the agent filling up the proposal form and the publican signing it without reading it.
Question No. 5 was: "Are you already insured against accidents? If so, state name of office and amount of policy." Answer: "No."
Question No. 6: "Have you ever made a claim or received compensation for injuries or disease? If so, state from whom, and give dates and particulars." Answer: "No."
Law but as the answers to questions 5 and 6 were untrue, and the answer to question 4 was only part of the truth, and the omission was material, the policy was held void.
The same view was held in a case in Scotland, where the agent filled up the form for the insurer, and the latter signed it without reading it over, and did not perceive that an answer to a material question on the form was false.
The policy often provides that the company may send its own medical man to attend or visit the assured, or may insist on a post-mortem examination, or require other proof satisfactory to its directors of the cause of death, the nature of the accident, or the extent of the disablement. Other conditions may involve the signing of the form contained in a newspaper, the registration at the chief office of the company of the name and address of the purchaser of a diary and the payment of a small registration fee, generally sixpence, or that the person assured shall actually be carrying the policy on his person at the time of the accident, and in nearly every case that notice is given within a certain time and to the company at their head office.
As to what accidents are covered by the policy, the risk insured against is generally defined in the conditions of the' policy. There must, as a rule, be some external violence operating directly upon the person of the assured. Suicide is not an accident, but suicide is not to be presumed. Compensation has been recovered in cases where the accident was caused by the persons insured jumping into or out of railway carriages or omnibuses while in motion. But, as a general rule, the policy contains some proviso excluding an injury received by the insured when acting in contravention of the by-laws of a public company, or while exposing himself " to obvious risk of injury." In all cases, however, not covered by such exceptions the assured can recover on the policy, though his own misconduct or negligence conduced to the accident.
To state that the death or disablement must be the direct result of the accident may appear a very obvious proposition, but when two or more causes contribute to produce death or injury legal questions of great difficulty may arise. If, for instance, a man who is suffering from a serious illness meets with an accident and subsequently dies, who shall decide whether his death was caused by the illness or by the accident? The doctor who attended the insured in his illness will probably attribute his death to the accident; the medical officer of the company will be equally certain that the disease from which the assured was suffering, and not the accident, ended his life.