Bourgeon and Picard, ‘Nitpicky Insurers and the Law of Contracts’

The standard economic analysis of the insured-insurer relationship under moral hazard postulates a simplistic setup that hardly explains the many features of an insurance contract. We extend this setup to include the situation that the insured was facing at the time of the accident and the circumstances of the loss. We show that if this information is costlessly observable, then it should be included in the contract to improve the risk sharing-incentive trade-off under moral hazard. However, in practice the insurer observes the circumstances of the loss only in particular cases – most of the time by performing a costly audit – and almost never the situation the insured was facing at the time of the accident. The resulting incompleteness of the contract opens the door to controversies and disputes that may lead to judicial procedures. We show how the law of insurance contracts should allow insurers to incentivize policyholders to exert an adequate level of effort, and, at the same time, to limit their propensity to nitpick.

Bourgeon, Jean-Marc and Picard, Pierre, Nitpicky Insurers and the Law of Contracts (September 25, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No 6669.

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