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Duty of Disclosure

Duty of Disclosure is an important term in the world of insurance. It refers to the legal requirement for you to provide all relevant information about your business when applying for or renewing an insurance policy. This information helps the insurer decide whether to offer you insurance and, if so, at what terms.

What is a Duty of Disclosure in Insurance?

The Duty of Disclosure is a fundamental aspect of insurance law. It obliges the person or business seeking insurance (the insured) to disclose all material facts that might influence the insurer’s decision to cover them. This requirement ensures that the insurer has a clear and accurate understanding of the risk they are taking on.

Example of Duty of Disclosure

Imagine you run a small manufacturing business. When you apply for business insurance, you must inform the insurer about every significant detail that could affect your policy. For instance, if your business uses hazardous materials, has experienced previous claims, or operates in a high-risk area, these details must be disclosed. If you fail to mention that your business stores flammable chemicals, and a fire occurs, the insurer might refuse to pay the claim because you did not disclose a material fact.

Key Components of Duty of Disclosure

Understanding the key components of Duty of Disclosure can help you fulfill this obligation correctly. Here are three essential elements:

1. Material Facts

A material fact is any information that could influence an insurer’s decision to provide coverage or determine the terms of the policy. This includes details about your business operations, financial status, and previous insurance claims. For example, if your business has been involved in legal disputes, this could be a material fact.

2. Full and Accurate Disclosure

You must provide complete and accurate information to the best of your knowledge. This means not withholding any relevant details or misrepresenting any facts. Honest communication is crucial because even an innocent mistake can lead to complications with your coverage.

3. Continuous Disclosure

The Duty of Disclosure is ongoing. This means you must update your insurer about any significant changes to your business that occur during the policy period. For instance, if you expand your business operations or move to a new location, these changes should be reported to your insurer.

Types of Duty of Disclosure

There are different types of Duty of Disclosure that you should be aware of when managing your business insurance. Here are four key types:

Pre-Contractual Disclosure

This type of disclosure occurs before the insurance policy is agreed upon. You need to provide all relevant information to the insurer when you first apply for coverage. This helps the insurer assess the risk and determine the policy terms.

Post-Contractual Disclosure

After the insurance contract is in place, you must continue to disclose any new material facts that arise. This ensures that the insurer is always aware of any changes that might affect your coverage. For example, if you purchase new equipment that increases the value of your assets, you need to inform your insurer.

Renewal Disclosure

When it's time to renew your policy, you must review and update all information previously provided. Any new developments or changes in your business should be disclosed to ensure that your coverage remains appropriate and accurate.

Disclosure in the Event of a Claim

If you need to make a claim, you must disclose all relevant details related to the incident. This includes providing accurate information about the circumstances leading to the claim and any previous related incidents. Full disclosure during a claim helps ensure a smooth and fair claims process.

Exclusions and Limitations

While the Duty of Disclosure is crucial, there are some exclusions and limitations to be aware of:

Non-Material Facts

You are not required to disclose information that is not material to the risk being insured. For instance, minor operational details that do not affect the overall risk profile of your business may not need to be disclosed.

Public Information

Information that is public knowledge or that the insurer is already aware of does not need to be disclosed. For example, general industry risks that are widely recognized do not require specific disclosure.

Insurer’s Duty

Insurers also have a duty to ask clear and specific questions to gather the necessary information. If an insurer fails to ask about a particular risk, they may not be able to deny a claim based on non-disclosure of that risk.

Time Limits

There may be time limits for making certain disclosures. It’s important to understand these timelines to ensure that you provide the necessary information within the required period.


In some cases, insurers may waive the Duty of Disclosure for specific types of information. These waivers should be clearly outlined in the policy documents.