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What is Indemnity in Law?

Indemnity in the broader context refers to an all-inclusive form of compensation for damages or losses caused by one party to another. From a legal perspective, indemnification may also refer to a clause that guarantees specific individuals, such as board members, protection against any legal liability for their actions when acting on behalf of the company.

In most legally binding contracts, the indemnity clause compensates a party(s) from loss, damages or harm caused. For indemnity to be binding, the two parties must enter into a contractual agreement. In the agreement, one party makes a binding pledge to take responsibility for losses caused by another party.

Indemnity also holds meaning in corporate law. Here, an indemnity refers to an agreement that holds board directors free from any personal liability claims if the company they serve ever gets sued.

Therefore, the legal definition of indemnity applies to various varying scenarios. The only difference is perhaps the application and interpretation on a case basis.

Conditions for Indemnity

Certain conditions must be met for indemnity to be valid legally. The following are the conditions that often show that a contract of indemnity is valid.

  • Two parties – the promiser and the promise
  • A promise- commitment to compensate
  • Expressed or implied
  • Loss incurred
  • Lawful object and consideration

These conditions affirm the validity of the indemnity agreement.

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What is an Example of Indemnity?

The best example of indemnity would be insurance indemnification. Let's say the commercial property owner has consistently paid insurance premiums for the property. The money is paid to an insurance company that promises to take full responsibility for repaying any losses if any loss or damages ever occurs.

Suppose the building suffers significant damage caused by fire or an Act of God. In that case, the property owner has the right to a claim. The failure to honor such indemnity claims can be challenged in a court of law.

The same examples apply in all other cases where one party promises to compensate another for losses or damages.

Types of Indemnity

An indemnity may fall into two main types. Depending on the circumstances, indemnity may either be expressed or implied.

Express Indemnity

An express indemnity may also refer to written indemnity. The terms and conditions defining the indemnification clause are presented in written form where there's express indemnity. The agreement's terms and conditions should be mentioned and clarified expressly in the contract.

In an express indemnity clause, the liabilities of both parties should be spelled out in the agreement. It may take an indemnity lawyer to help draft and review the indemnity agreement. An attorney can also help interpret any legal jargons that may be unclear.

Some of the most common types of indemnity include insurance indemnity contracts. Companies operating in the construction industry may also have indemnity contracts in their construction contracts. Agency contracts are also another area that requires well-drafted indemnity contracts.

The written agreement in these kinds of contracts is fully binding. Any breach by either party may warrant legal redress. Both parties in an indemnity contract must read and understand the terms and conditions before entering the contract.

Implied Indemnity

Implied indemnity is the other type of agreement that bears an obligation for two concerned parties. The only difference is that the deal isn't in written form in this case. Instead, implied indemnity often emanates from circumstances or the conduct of two concerned parties.

The facts and the conduct of the parties involved often determine the obligation's extent. For instance, in a master-servant relationship, the master must compensate the servant if they suffer injuries. However, the injuries must have resulted from the servant following the master's instructions.

In most cases related to implied indemnity, reference is often made to the precedent set in the Adamson vs Jarvis 1872 case. In the case, the court ruled that the master will be liable to indemnify a servant if the servant suffers injuries while executing implied instructions.

The two main indemnities are critical when assessing the dynamics around varying contractual arrangements.

Indemnity in Contracts

There's clarity on the main types of indemnity; it's essential to understand this critical legal concept within the context of contacts. So here're some common types of contracts of indemnity that often apply today.

Broad Indemnification

Broad indemnification implies an expanded approach to indemnity. The indemnifier promises to pay for the losses incurred by all the parties in a given contract, including the third party. In a broad indemnification contract, the indemnifier will take full responsibility even when the third party is at fault.

Intermediate indemnification

Intermediate indemnification refers to an agreement where the indemnifier promises to pay for the losses incurred due to acts of the promisor and the promisee only. This means that the indemnifier doesn't take responsibility for any losses incurred due to the actions of a third party.

Limited indemnification

The limited indemnification contract is different from the two other contracts. In this type of contract, the indemnifier only commits to pay for the losses or injuries incurred due to their actions. In such cases, the losses incurred due to the acts of the promisee or the third party cannot be binding.

It's important to understand these three types of contracts of indemnity and how they affect the determination of liability. Ultimately, the promisor, promisee, and the third party need to understand the extent of liability they bear in a given contract.

Purpose of the Indemnity Clause

For an indemnity contract to be binding, there's a need to have an explicit indemnity clause. The indemnification clause is a part of the contract that sets out to protect one party in a contract from any form of liability in the case where a third party or third entity suffers harm.

The clause bears contractual obligations for one party to compensate another party for any losses incurred in the present or the future. It would help to have a lawyer by your side to help draft the indemnity and hold harmless agreement. Then, you'll have a favorable indemnity clause to cover you from any emergent liability.

Here's an article on the purpose of an indemnity clause

Indemnity in Insurance

Most insurance policies operate within the indemnity principle. The application of the indemnity principle, in this case, seeks to protect the insured against losses that may be a result of unforeseen circumstances. In an insurance contract, the insurer on the indemnitor promises to cover or compensate the indemnitee for any damages incurred.

However, the indemnitee must also commit to paying premiums for the insurer as consideration for future insurance. The indemnification clause in such cases should clarify the terms of engagement between the two parties.

Get Your Indemnity Agreement Drafted by a Professional Today

Regardless of the size of your company, an indemnity agreement always comes in handy. Regardless of the contractual agreement, you are about to engage in, and legal representation is one thing you can't overlook. Every business would wish to protect itself from the risk of liability, more so when dealing with subcontractors.

Our team of contract lawyers have the professional aptitude to handle all your indemnity agreement needs. We also address any other issues related to contract law that may arise in your business practice. Contact us today for all your legal needs.

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