It is expected that new state laws encouraging victims of child sexual abuse will trigger the emergence of a wave of procedures against insurance companies.
Laws are in force in twenty-two states and Washington, DC, which extend or end the statute of limitations for claims of sexual abuse against alleged abusers or the institutions with which they were affiliated. , according to the Child USA advocacy group.
It is hoped that most of these institutions, such as churches or schools, will seek to use liability insurance to cover some of the cost of defending these legal proceedings and to pay potential damages.
But almost all aspects of these insurance contracts could be in dispute. In some cases, it may be difficult to get a contract at all.
“The insurance litigation wave is starting,” said
attorney at Anderson Kill, who represents insurance policy holders.
The legal disputes emphasize the complexity of decades' age claims and the uncertainty about how much money will eventually become available to compensate victims.
The total cost of insurance is difficult to estimate, but analysts say it could reach billions of dollars. Settlements in California and Minnesota have reached multi-million dollar settlements in previous cases, including a $ 660 million settlement between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and about 500 complainants in 2007.
Insurance companies historically paid between 20% and 80% of settlements between churches and victims, the research company Dowling & Partners said in July's note for clients.
The New York Child Victims Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, opened a year window on August 14 's victims to sue their abusers and affiliated institutions regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in the state in recent weeks against churches and other organizations.
The Rochester Diocese filed for bankruptcy in September 12, citing 46 new law cases filed against the diocese since the opening of the window. In his bankruptcy filing, the diocese said that she might have insurance cover for some of the claims of sexual abuse. The diocese refused to comment.
Insurers reserve reserves to pay claims based on what they expect to pay in future years or years. For many liability insurance policies sold to churches or other institutions in recent decades, insurers may consider that they would not incur future sexual abuse claims on those policies when passed. the border statutes. t Now they must recalculate their reserves based on the new laws.
, Cos and Travelers
Optional Insurance Group Inc.
All of them have spoken to conference calls this year that they have increased their reserves due to potential exposure to sexual abuse claims.
Many institutions and insurers do not keep policy documents decades of age, and it may be difficult to track data. Sometimes “insurance archaeologists” are employed to obtain evidence of old policies.
“There are all kinds of policies that are being examined to see if there is coverage,” he said
senior member of Hurwitz & Fine PC in Buffalo, N.Y., representing insurers in coverage disputes.
If the policyholder cannot immediately find an insurance policy, the policyholder may not notify the insurer of a claim or deal within the time required by the policy, which could jeopardize the envelope. , he said.
Insurers and policyholders could also say whether a policyholder knew about alleged abuse and ignored it. Liability insurance policies usually cover negligent but not active actions.
CNA Financial Corp.
He opposed the Diocese of Buffalo earlier this month, asking a court to rule that insurance policies that one of its companies should sell to the diocese in the 1970s should not apply to recent claims of child abuse. The diocese has accused “a long-term pattern of covering allegations of abuse,” the law says.
The CNA refused to comment. The diocese stated that it intends to take all necessary steps to enforce the insurance contracts.
How best can insurance companies deal with changes in state laws? Join the conversation below.
The Catholic Archdiocese of New York invoked more than 30 insurance companies in June, hoping that firms would refuse coverage. These companies provided insurance to the Archdiocese at some point beginning in 1954, according to law.
The Archdiocese informed any of her insurers, Chubb's subsidiary, of a sexual abuse exercise earlier this year, and Chubb said that the law would not cover the claim.
“We are confident and expect our insurers to meet their financial obligations under the policies, as they are now committed to doing so,” said the Archdiocese. Chubb refused to comment.
A further key issue is whether all claims for alleged abusers should be in one insurance claim, or whether all victims or cases of abuse should be treated as a separate “incident” under an insurance policy.
The distinction can be significant. Many policies have coverage limits and deductions relating to each incident. The more incidents there are, the more an insurer and a policyholder have to pay.
Write Nicole Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ian Lovett at Ian.Lovett@wsj.com
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