Insurance Law Lesson 21: Duty to Defend

A key element to a liability insurance policy (or coverage part) is the duty to defend.

This means that when the insured gets sued for something that could be covered, the insurance company has to pay for a lawyer to defend the case.

Duty to defend is broader than duty to indemnify. If the allegations of the lawsuit allege some injury that could be covered, then defense duty is triggered.

Duty to defend usually also comes with an insurer’s right to choose defense counsel, control the defense, and the right to settle. Some policies allow the insured greater control. Some states grant the insured greater control when the insurer provides the defense under reservation (IL “Peppers Counsel,” CA “Cumis Counsel,” MS “Moeller Counsel,” etc).

When 1 part of a lawsuit alleges some injury covered by the policy, but another part does not, the insurer must defend the entire suit. So, if a lawsuit asserts theories of both negligence and intentional injury, the insurer must defend the whole suit.

Defense does not mean counterclaims. An insurer defending its insured does not have to pay a lawyer to pursue the insured’s counterclaim

Leave a Reply