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Insurance Law Research Guide

J. Bradley Nichols, Law Library Fellow

Disclaimer: This guide is intended as a research guide only and does not constitute legal advice. This guide is not exhaustive of all materials related to insurance law and is only meant to be a beginning point for your research. For specific legal issues and questions you should seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

Focus

This research guide is intended to assist library patrons locate information concerning insurance law in the Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library with an emphasis on locating primary and secondary sources, especially those related to Arizona. This guide attempts to point the user to the appropriate Arizona laws governing insurance in this state as well as those federal laws that govern insurance.

Insurance law has two major divisions. One focuses on regulating entities that engage in the insurance business. This realm of insurance law is primarily a body of statutes enacted by state legislatures and administrative regulations promulgated by agencies (typically a department of insurance, headed by the insurance commissioner) that exist in every state.

The other major division is a set of judicially articulated doctrines that regulate the relationship between an insurer and its policyholder. This aspect of insurance law is predominantly a specialized application of contract law, although tort law (e.g., the law of bad faith) and agency law principles, as well as some statutes and administrative regulations are sometimes relevant. See, The Oxford Companion to American Law (2002), located on the reference section on the First Floor under call number KF 150 .094.

Note: As digital technology advances many of our legal materials are going from print format to an electronic or (online) format only. This guide provides references to both print and online citations and where possible provides sites that can be accessed without a subscription. Some databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis can only be accessed by faculty and students of the University of Arizona. The library provides electronic access to the public to LexisNexis Academic. The Pima County Superior Court Library (http://www.sc.pima.gov/?tabid=60) provides public access to Westlaw.

Primary Federal Law

Insurance law is regulated by both federal and state statutory law. The McCarran-Ferguson Act (15 United States Code § 1011) provides that state law regulates the “business” side of the insurance industry while federal law covers such matters as tax, labor, and securities as those matters intersect with the insurance industry.

Codes (Statutes and Legislation)

Federal Statutes: United States Code (U.S.C.). Location:  First Floor
Federal statutes dealing with insurance are mainly found under Title 15 of the United States Code (15 U.S.C.):  Commerce and Trade of the United States. The United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A) is arranged in exactly the same manner as the United States Code (U.S.C.) and is also available and provides annotations and explanatory notes on each section and lists court cases that have interpreted those sections and it is recommended that researchers consult the annotated code. These are both available online as discussed below. Relevant chapters include:

Other related Code provisions related to insurance include but are not limited to:

Rules and Agency Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) First Floor
The Code of Federal Regulations contains rules and regulations that are promulgated by federal agencies which are a part of the executive branch and are responsible for enforcing the legislation that Congress passes. The following are some of the federal regulations that are applicable to insurance and include the following titles:

Both the United States Code with supplements and the Federal Register are available online at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html and http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/.

Federal Insurance Regulatory Agencies

Federal Case Law

The judicial branch (courts) review legislation passed by Congress and rules and regulations implemented by executive agencies as well as deciding disputes between private parties. Case law is an important source of law in the United States’ legal system. Federal courts generally interpret federal law (although state law also at times) and state courts such as the Arizona Supreme Court or Arizona Court of Appeals interpret state legislation, rules and regulations. Courts also rely on the common law (precedent) which is law made by the courts over time.

Cases are published in books called reporters and the reporter system is discussed in more detail below. United States Supreme Court decisions and other Federal Court decisions can be found in the following reporters:

State of Arizona Primary Law

Arizona State Statutes

The Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) are located on the First Floor of the Library. These are updated with pocket parts at the back of each volume and like the books themselves the pocket part are arranged by title, chapter and sections. A table of titles can be found at the front of each volume and a comprehensive index (softbound) is located at the end of the set. Those laws concerning insurance matters are generally located in Title 20.

The annotations found at the end of each section consist of commentaries, citations to legal authorities that discuss the section in question including court cases, secondary sources including law reviews. The commentaries also provide historical notes that are useful in tracking how the language used has changed as well as for locating legislative history associated with the section.

The Arizona statutes without annotations may be found online at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=20.

Arizona Insurance Rules and Regulations

The Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) contains the rules and regulations promulgated by the Arizona Department of Insurance to enforce insurance related legislation passed by the Arizona Legislature. The print version of the A.A.C. is available behind the reference desk under call number KFA 2435 .A23 (1974). An online version without annotations can be found at http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_20/20_table.htm. The code may be searched using natural language or connectors in LexisNexis Academic Universe.

The website for the Arizona Department of Insurance is http://www.id.state.az.us/.

Arizona Case Law:

As noted earlier, the judicial branch of government - the courts - are responsible for interpreting the laws passed by the legislature (statutes) and the regulations implementing the statutes promulgated by agencies which are part of the executive branch.

The decisions of courts are called cases or case law. These cases are reported in what are called reporters. The most common and popular reporters are published by a company called Thomason West. Each case reported by Thomson West contains head notes which are associated with discrete specific aspects of law - it is essentially a classification system.

There are insurance head notes and they can be viewed in the Arizona Digest. The Arizona Digest and other digests provide very brief descriptions of points of law that can be cross referenced with other regional digests (many states in one digest) or a national digest (Decennial Digest). One can use the digest to locate a point of law of interest and be able to identify a case that discusses that point of law. The digests ontain citations to cases that allow one to look up the cases in the reporters.

The Arizona Reporters containing Arizona court decisions from the Arizona Supreme Court and the Arizona Court of Appeals can be found are located on the First Floor. The Arizona Digest can be found on the First Floor under call number KFA 2457 .A7 (1991).

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources consist of commentary on the primary law. Secondary sources include treatises (books), legal encyclopedias, law review articles, and other commentaries. Secondary sources allow the user to gain a general overview of a subject or explore a very specific issue within the context of the general topic.

Secondary sources are also an excellent place to find citations or references to primary law. Primary law is generally said to be “controlling” that is it must be considered by a court whereas secondary materials are not controlling or binding and may merely be persuasive. Useful secondary sources for insurance law research include but are not limited to the following:

General Legal Encyclopedias

There are two well known and well regarded legal encyclopedias that provide a general treatment of various legal topics and are not limited to insurance law.  Both encyclopedias provide references to statutes, cases, and regulations and are updated annually. American Jurisprudence 2d (AmJur 2d), Volumes 43-44(A), and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS) (print version cancelled as of 2010) offer a general overview of insurance law and cite to federal and state primary law as well as other secondary sources. Both of these sets are located on the First Floor in the Reference Section.

Treatises

Two especially useful multi-volume topic specific treatises are Holmes’ Appleman on Insurance (2d ed., Matthew-Bender 2006-2007) (formerly Appleman’s on Insurance), KF 1164 .A764, and Couch on Insurance (3d ed., West Group 1995), KF 1159.5 .R87. These two sets are located on the lower level in the treatise section and are the most comprehensive and well regarded treatises on the subject of insurance. There is significant overlap between them. Appleman is available online through Lexis in the INSURE and APLMAN databases. The print version of Couch has been cancelled and is only current through June 2010. Couch is available online through Westlaw.

An Arizona specific treatise limited to liability insurance law is Arizona Liability Insurance Law, by Steven Plitt, published by the Arizona State Bar; it is located on the First Floor in both the Reserve and Reference Sections under call number KFA 2591 .A1 (1998) (Supp. 2006).

Please note that other insurance materials are located on the lower level of the law library in the treatise section and will be found under the general call number KF 1164.

Dictionaries and Thesauri

Law Reviews, Journals, and Periodicals

Law reviews are typically written by law professors or experts in their respective fields. The following law reviews and journals concerned with the topic of insurance law are all available as electronic sources:

Online Resources

As noted earlier, extensive resources related to the insurance industry and insurance law are available online and some material are available only online. The two largest online legal research databases are Westlaw and LexisNexis. Both services contain extensive databases that not only include primary law but also secondary legal sources. By way of example, Westlaw has over 100 databases related to insurance law.

Insurance Blogs

A number of blogs - internet based discussion sites - are available online that one may sign up for to keep up with ongoing news, scholarship continuing education and important events. Some of these include the following:

Insurance Associations/Groups

There are a number of associations dealing with various aspects of insurance law that can be a valuable resource to the researcher. Some of these associations include the following:

Research Guides

Most law school libraries and many public law libraries create research guidelines for their patrons with a number producing research guidelines related to insurance law. These can be very useful to the researcher and often may be accessed by the public. Two research guidelines were found particularly helpful in the creation of this research guideline:

Page Updated:  5 April 2011