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What is required to cancel an insurance contract?
An insured may terminate an insurance policy at any time. Generally, it requires that the insured express intent to cancel the policy. This may include notifying the insurer in writing or discontinuing payment of premiums. If the insured stops paying the insurance premiums, the insurer must provide the insured with notice of its intention to cancel the policy. If the insurer fails to provide notice within the statutory period, the insured may be able to resume her insurance contract by resuming payments. An insurer is generally limited by statute in its ability to cancel a policy. Below are the common situations in which an insurer may cancel a policy.
• Void by Insurer – An insurer may void a contract if the insured supplies false or misleading information to the insurer to obtain insurance. To void the contract, the insurer must demonstrate that the insured made a fraudulent or material misrepresentation. Further, the insurer must demonstrate that it would not have entered into the insurance relationship with the insured if it had known of the misrepresented facts.
⁃ Note: This right is limited by the incontestability period or clauses in the contract.
• Conditions in Policy – An insurance policy may contain any number of conditions that can cause cancellation of the insurance policy. These are normally limited by state law and rules of equity.
⁃ Example: A professional liability or malpractice policy may contain a clause terminating a policy if a person loses a professional licensure.
• End of Policy Term – An insurer may be able to terminate an insurance policy at the end of a stated insurance term. State law may limit the ability of the insurer to deny an insured the ability to renew a policy that has not lapsed. This is particularly true with health and life insurance policies.
⁃ Example: A term life insurance policy has a stated period during which the insurance provisions are effective.
• Discussion: How do you feel about the requirements for terminating an insurance policy? Why do you think the law places these limitations? Do you have an opinion regarding the above-listed situations allowing an insurer to cancel a policy?
• Practice Question: ABC Corp holds an insurance policy with 123 Corp. ABC has made lots of claims in the past years and 123 is considering canceling the policy. What will 123 have to do procedurally to cancel the policy? What conditions provide 123 the ability to cancel the policy?