If the natural result of an accident is to bring on some form of disease, such as hernia or erysipelas, which causes death, then it is obvious that the accident was the direct cause of death, although the patient survived the accident and died of hernia or crysipelas.
If the interposed disease is merely a link in the chain of circumstances, and not a separate and independent cause, the proper view to take is that the death or disablement was caused by the accident. Where a signalman saw that a collision was imminent, and from the consequent excitement and alarm suffered a nervous shock which incapacitated him from work, it was held that this was an accident within the meaning of the policy. Again, in the case of an assured person, who, while crossing a stream, was seized with an epileptic fit, fell in and was drowned, the company was held liable, although the insurance did not extend "to an injury caused by or arising from natural disease or weakness, or exhaustion consequent upon disease," because the assured sustained no personal injury which could occasion death except the drowning, which was accidental.
This is a form of accident insurance which of late years has become common, and which no one in the position of an employer can afford to neglect. Every master and mistress should be careful to have their servants and employees insured against accidents which they may receive while in their service.
The company undertake to indemnify the person effecting the insurance with them against any liability which he may incur for damages or costs or medical expenses in case anyone in his employ should be accidentally injured and claim compensation from his employer. The policy generally requires the employer to give immediate notice to the company at the head office of any accident causing injury to a person in his employ, and stipulates that time shall be of the essence of such condition.
Notice by telephone to the agent or person who introduced the employer to the company has been held not to be notice to the company as required.
The policy must bear a penny stamp.
All workmen, including indoor and outdoor servants, such as gardeners and chauffeurs, are entitled to compensation; the only exception being non-manual workers earning more than £250 a year.
For a fatal injury the employer becomes liable to pay three years' wages to dependants, the minimum being £150 and the maximum £300.
If there are no dependants, the liability is reduced to medical and funeral expenses up to £10.
For temporary injuries half wages during disablement, not exceeding £1 a week.
To women under twenty-one years of age earning less than 20s. a week, full wages are payable during disablement up to 10s. aweek.
Should the workman be killed or seriously and permanently disabled by an accident caused by his own serious and wilful misconduct, his employer will still be liable for compensation, but not if the injuries received were of a temporary kind.
The premium payable varies with the liability which it covers; it is often calculated in the form of a percentage on the total amount of wages paid by the employer, and on various scales, according to the risks of the particular trade which he carries on.
For accidents to domestic servants the rate varies from 2s. to 30s. per head per annum. For example, an employer can insure against all liability under the Workmen's Compensation Act 1906, the Employers' Liability Act 1880, the Fatal Accidents Act 1846, and at common law for an injury to his cook or butler for 2s. 6d., or against the liability as above; full wages for first month and medical expenses up to £5 for a premium of 5s. Whereas the minimum premium for a chauffeur or a hunting groom would be about 20s. A coachman will be about a third less than a chauffeur, and a gardener about double that of a butler.
The company often insert a proviso protecting themselves against any change in the trade of the employer, of his mode of conducting it, and also a proviso obliging him to defend any action brought against him by his workman, if the company requires him so to do, and forbidding him to compromise the action or to pay any compensation to the workman without their consent.
Policies of indemnity may also be issued for loss sustained by breakage of glass in private houses, shops, offices, and public buildings, usually described as a plate-glass policy. Owners of private carriages and horses and motor-cars may insure their vehicles and animals, and may be indemnified against the carelessness of their coachmen or chauffeurs. Policies are also issued protecting employers against liability in respect of accidents to the public or to the workmen of other employers caused through the fault of their employees.