Commencement of cover determines the time from which the insurer is bound to indemnify the insured or pay the sum assured should the risk attach. Indemnity contract ordinarily run fro one year while the duration of non-indemnity contract is determined by the parties.
The date and time of commencement of cover is critical as it determines the commencement of the parties’ obligations. As a general rule, cover commences at the time and date prescribed by the policy or cover note. However, if the document is silent as to the time or is ambiguous, cover commences at the beginning of the next full day.
A full day is a period of twenty four consecutive hours from midnight. In
Cartwright Vs Mac Cormick Trafalqar Insurance Co. Ltd
An insurance co. issued a cover note to a motorist showing the effective time and date of commencement as 11.45 AM. On December 1959. the not efurther stated.
‘ This cover note is only valid for 15 days from the commencement date of risk…under no circumstances is the time and date of commencement of risk to be prior to the actual time of issue of this cover note. …in nay event the duration of the cover note shall not be more than 15 days from the date of commencement stated herein”.
The motorist was involved in an accident at 5.45 pm on December 17, 1959, 15 dasy and 6 hours after the commencement of the cover.
It was held that the insurance company wads liable to indemnify the insured. The court was of the view that on the true construction of the cover note, the descriptions, date and time of commencement were used as separate terms and the term ‘commencement date’ and date of commencement were synonymous with the day of commencement and consequently the 15 days read from the midnight of the commencement date.
The decision in this case was also justified on common law. In the words of Harman L.J. pg. 14 and 15;
“These cases seem to me to show that generally speaking when a day mentioned, from which the time is to start running, fractions of a day ought to be disregarded and time should run from midnight… and therefore the 15 days is to be calculated from midnight on the commencement date.”
In the words of Wilmer L.J
“There is abundant authority going back at least to Lord Mansfield’s day for the proposition that in calculating a period of time, within which some acts must be done or after which it may not be done, fractions of the day are ignored.”
Cases on the day and date argument include;
- Hayman Vs Downs  AC 356
- Stewart Vs Chapman  2 ALL ER 613,  2 KB 792
- Hercules Insurance Co. Ltd Vs Trivedi and Co. Ltd  EA 348
- Cornfoot Vs Royal Exchange Association Corporation  1 kb 40