By Alan Jervis

International Insurance Expert Witness

What is Insurance Archaeology?

Insurance archaeology is a process which involves the recovery of historical insurance coverage such as policy documents in order to secure defence and indemnity for a party that may have been named in a recent lawsuit for loss or injury that is related to a potential liability occurring years or decades earlier.

Examples of Late Manifested Claims for Loss or Injury:

Claims for liabilities relating to asbestosis, soil and ground contamination and other types of pollution liability and construction defects may take decades, or even a full century, to manifest. These claims may take the form of class action suits, or single actions directed at any one party, who may have been involved, either directly or indirectly, in the circumstances giving rise to the loss, damage or injury.

Recovering Historical Insurance Coverage may Protect a Defendant

Historical insurance policies may be old, but they can still provide coverage today. Policies over one hundred years old can still be relied upon for providing defence and indemnity coverage for present day liabilities. How is this possible? If the actual damage, loss or injury for a claim occurred during the old policy’s term, then it is possible that the claim is covered by the old policy. Even for claims discovered years or decades later, the insurance provider may be responsible for the damage that took place during those coverage periods. There may be no statute of limitation.

Historical Insurance Coverage: Lost Treasure!

The consequences of tracing back historical coverage can be significant. In some ways, it is like finding lost treasure! This means that a defendant named in a lawsuit may be able to secure insurance benefits for indemnity, defence, and for even such liabilities as clean-up or remedial costs. Interestingly enough, as a general rule, the older the policy, the lesser the exclusions and restrictions in coverage.

Historical Insurance is Commonly Lost or Destroyed

However, it is quite common for historical insurance to be lost, destroyed or even if it is located, it may be completely illegible. Historical insurance may have been lost in a fire or flood or may have been the victim of mergers and acquisitions and multiple change in locations. Who could have known in the 30s, 40s and 50s that claims would manifest into lawsuits 50 to 80 years later as a result of alleged negligence occurring in those earlier decades?

Who may Benefit from Historical Insurance?

Municipalities, government corporations, businesses, employers, shipowners and charterers, operators and contractors in the construction industry may all benefit from historical insurance being made available to defend expensive lawsuits.

Secondary Evidence

If historical policy documents cannot be found or reconstructed, then it may be possible to rely on secondary evidence such as correspondence, claims documents or accounting information as proof of historical coverage. In the absence of primary coverage, it is important to determine the insuring conditions of the day. This is where an insurance archaeologist can also be of assistance to both insurers and insureds.

A little about me, Alan Jervis

If you would like to further understand how I can help you and your clients, I am more than happy to have a discussion, or if you have a specific case you would like to discuss, you can book a pro-bono consultation with me.

I have been retained as an insurance expert witness in over 45 cases in 3 Continents and have tendered expert testimony at trial and arbitration. You can email directly at: and my website is: