What Is An Insurable Interest?

Does my potential new client have an insurable interest?  That is a question insurance lawyers have to answer first when talking to someone who believes they are owed money on an insurance claim.

As stated by the Dallas Court of Appeals in 1993, in the opinion styled, Jones v. Texas Pacific Indemnity Co., “A party must have an insurable interest in the insured property to recover under an insurance policy.”  It is  not necessary that the party own the property to have an insurable interest.  An insurable interest is an exposure to financial loss possessed by a person giving rise to a legal interest that the insured possesses a right to protect.  An insured who owns a house or auto therefore has an insurable interest in the house or auto because the insured would be hurt financially if the house or auto were damaged or destroyed.  This is also discussed by the Texas Supreme Court in the 1963, opinion styled, Smith v. Eagle Star Insurance Co.  An insurable interest does not constitute an entitlement to insurance because the insurer is permitted to underwrite and price the risk sought to be insured.  Even if an insurance policy is issued, it cannot be enforced by a party who has no insurable interest — even if that party is a named insured.  This was discussed in the 1972, Amarillo Court of Appeals opinion styled, North River Insurance Co. v. Fisher.

An insurable interest is necessary for the following reasons:

  1.  to prevent gambling
  2.  to reduce intentional loss
  3.  to enforce the principle of indemnity

This was discussed as early as 1866, in Howard Fire Insurance Co. v. Chase, wherein the court stated that an insurable interest avoids the temptation to destroy property.  The 1998, Tyler Court of Appeals, in Stillwagoner v. Travelers Insurance Co., said an insurable interest is required to avoid inducement to cause loss, and to avoid wagering contracts.