The regular review of every contract you sign is a highly important risk management task. This includes a contract’s waiver of subrogation clause.
Subrogation is a basic insurance concept used in insurance contracts. If a loss occurs, it typically happens through someone’s negligence. In general, the negligent or “at fault” party is liable for the cost of the loss; your insurance carrier can then choose to sue the at-fault party to recover the amount of a claim they paid for you in a process known as subrogation. You may not find the term subrogation in your contract, but it may be included - check for the terminology ”Transfer of Rights of Recovery Against Others to Us,” which some insurance policies use in place of subrogation.
When a waiver of subrogation is required in a contract, it means that you are waiving your insurance company’s right to subrogate against another party, most commonly the party you are in under contract with. Most policy contracts, with the exception of workers’ compensation, allow you to waive your rights of subrogation as long as it is done in writing and prior to the loss. Often an endorsement is added specifically referring to the exact contract as a means of clarification. However, there are associated risks:
- In some jurisdictions, waivers of subrogation are not available. Therefore, a careful review of the state statute is required. You should also obtain your workers’ compensation carrier’s position and agreement on waivers of subrogation.
- Waiver of subrogation requirements should be built into a contract. The contract wording should be thoroughly reviewed to ensure the waiver of subrogation is being utilized appropriately for the situation. For example, mutual waivers may be beneficial in landlord/tenant contracts, where all parties waive their rights. However, in construction contracts, mutual waivers may not be acceptable or prudent.
A waiver of subrogation clause is placed in a contract to minimize lawsuits and claims between the parties. The risk, once assigned to the insurers by the parties, is determined to stop there, without allowing the insurer to seek costs from a third party. This guarantees that if a loss occurs, the owner's insurer pays the claim and the insurance proceeds can be used to fund the cost of repairs without determining who was at fault. Without a waiver of subrogation, litigation or arbitration is frequently needed to determine whose fault caused a loss, which can lead to long and costly delays.
It’s important that all contractual language mirrors your policy.