It’s time for the next installment of Holcomb Dunbar law series “Insurance Law from A to Z.” This was put together by our litigation group who practice in the insurance law arena. Of course, if you have questions about these or any other topics please do not hesitate to contact us.
This week’s installment – Cooperation and Assistance
Insurance agreements usually have language requiring the insureds to help in the investigation and defense of a claim. This is called the cooperation clause. A breach of the cooperation clause in an insurance contract is considered a material breach if prejudicial to the defense and relieves the insurer of the duty to defend or indemnify its insured under the policy. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 394 So. 2d 890, 893 (Miss. 1981). However, non-prejudicial misrepresentations will be considered immaterial. Id.
The insurer bears the burden of showing both attempted diligence in securing the insured’s cooperation, and failure of the insured to cooperate in a material matter. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Tillman, 161 So. 2d 604, 616 (Miss. 1964).
The insured may also breach the cooperation clause by misrepresenting facts surrounding the accident or by collusively assuming liability for the accident. Employers Mut. Cas. Co. v. Ainsworth, 164 So. 2d 412, 418 (Miss. 1964). However, unintentional misrepresentations do not establish a breach of the duty to cooperate, especially if the insured promptly corrects the misrepresentations. Id.
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