Insurance Law Research Guide

J. Bradley Nichols
Law Library Fellow

Introduction | Primary Federal Law | Federal Case Law | Arizona Primary Law | Secondary Sources

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.


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 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:

  • Chapter 20:  Regulation of Insurance
    • §§ 1011 - 1015 McCarran-Ferguson Act concerning state regulation of insurance
  • Chapter 65:  Liability Risk Retention
    • §§ 3902 - 3906
  • Chapter 93:  Insurance
    • §§ 6711 - 6717 State Regulation of Insurance
    • §§ 6731 - 6735 Re-domestication of Insurers
    • §§ 6751 - 6766 National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers

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

  • Title 12:  Banks and Banking
    • Chapter 16:  §§ 1811 - 1835(a) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Title 7:  Agriculture
    • Chapter 36:  §§ 1501 - 1524 Crop Insurance
  • Title 29:  Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
    • 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 1001, et. seq., and the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 2101, et. seq.
  • Title 42:  The Public Health and Welfare
    • Chapter 25: § 2414 Federal Flood Insurance
    • Chapter 50: §§ 4001 - 4129 National Flood InsuranceThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 12101, et. seq.; and The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 18001 et. seq.
  • Title 5:  Government Organization and Employees, Part (III) Employees, Subpart G Insurance and Annuities, Chapters 87 - 90:  §§ 8701 - 9009

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:

  • Title 5:  Administrative Personnel, Chapter 1 Officer of Personnel Management, Subchapter B, Part 870, Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program §§ 870.201 - 870.1208
  • Title 7:  Agriculture, Subtitle B Regulations of the Department of Agriculture, Chapter IV, Federal Crop Insurance Corporation
    • Part 407 §§ 407.1 - 407.17 Group Risk Plan Insurance Regulations
    • Part 457 §§ 457.1 - 457.167 Common Crop Insurance Regulations
  • Title 20:  Employees’ Benefits, Chapter VI, Employment Standards, Administration, Department of Labor, Subchapter A, Longshoreman’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and Related Statutes
    • Part 702 §§ 703.001 - 703.503 Insurance Regulations
  • Title 42:  Public Health, Chapter IV, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, § 403.201 State regulation of insurance policies.
  • Title 48:  Federal Acquisition Regulations System, §§ 1.000 - 9905.506-63

Both the United States Code with supplements and the Federal Register are available online.

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:

  • Supreme Court Reporter—Print volumes are available on lower level and online (2005 to present).
  • Federal Reporter—print volumes are available on the lower level with online access through both Westlaw and LexisNexis.
  • Federal Supplement—print volumes are available on the lower level with online access through Westlaw and LexisNexis.


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 the Arizona State Legislature.

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 the Arizona Secretary of State. The code may be searched using natural language or connectors in LexisNexis Academic Universe. Also see the Arizona Department of Insurance.

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.


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.

  • Miller's Standard Insurance Policies Annotated (5th ed., 2007) (loose leaf). Located at KF 1160 .M54—This multi-volume work is immensely useful to the specialized practitioner and provides references to cases that have interpreted the meaning of particular insurance policy provisions. The index is difficult to use and takes some time to master.
  • Insurance Law in a Nutshell (4th ed., Thomson West 2003). Located in Law Reserve KF 1164.3 .D6—As with all the titles in the Nutshell series, this work offers a very concise overview of insurance law. It is aimed at law students, those practitioners that simply want an overview of the subject, and is a good work for the lay person to consult for a general understanding of insurance law.
  • Understanding Insurance Law (3d ed., LexisNexis 2003). Located in Law Reserve KF 1164 .J47—This is another treatise from a series similar to the Nutshell series but a bit more in depth in its treatment. Mainly aimed at the law student but, also a good source for the lay person who desires a more detailed knowledge than the basics provided by other works.
  • Handbook on Insurance Coverage Disputes (12th ed., Aspen Law & Business 2004) (loose leaf). Located at KF 1164 .077 (Supp. 2010)—A well respected title in its twelfth edition aimed at the practitioner. This work is focused on insurance coverage disputes and litigation involving coverage issues.
  • Insurance Claims and Disputes:  Representation of Insurance Companies and Insureds (4th ed., West Group 2007). (3 Volume loose leaf). Located at KF 1164 .W564 (2007)—Similar to the work by Ostrager and also well respected, but a bit wider in scope. The work is aimed at the insurance defense practitioner.
  • Stemple on Insurance Contracts (3d ed., Aspen Publishers 2006) (Supp. 2010) (2 Volumes loose leaf). Located at KF 1164 .5744—Aimed at the specialist and provides in depth treatment of various insurance policies.
  • Law of Insurance Contract Disputes (2d ed., Aspen Law & Business 2005) (2 Volume loose leaf). Located at KF 1164 .S74—Another work by Stemple but focused on the interpretation of insurance contracts.
  • Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance (Rev. 3d ed., LexisNexis 2005) (Supp. 2010) (loose leaf). Located at KF 1218.8 .W5—This work is the highly regarded standard authority in this specialized area of insurance law.
  • Law of Title Insurance (Aspen Publishers 2000) (loose leaf with most current supplement 2010). Located at KF 1234 .B872—This is the standard work in this specialized area of insurance law.

Dictionaries and Thesauri

  • Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed., Thomson Reuters 2009). Located on the First Floor in the Reference Section at KF 156 .B53 (2009)—The most widely used legal dictionary now in its 9th edition. Provides definitions of legal terms and also provides history of arcane legal terms. Also provides citations to cases which have discussed the term of interest. Contains a very useful and extensive table of legal abbreviations.
  • Burton’s Legal Thesaurus (3d ed., MacMillan Library Reference 1998). Located on the First Floor in the Reference Section&mdashAn extensive work that is useful in providing additional search terms to the researcher.
  • Words & Phrases (West Publishing Company). Located on the First Floor in the Reference Section—This is a multi-volume work which provides citations and references to cases that have interpreted various legal terms. While not truly a dictionary, it is an underutilized resource which can be especially useful in finding citations to primary law. It is updated annually, but the library’s subscription has been cancelled as of 2010. It is available online through Westlaw.
  • Dictionary of Insurance Terms (4th ed., Barron’s 2000)—Available only as an online source through University of Arizona Net Library.

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:

  • Insurance Law Journal
  • Connecticut Insurance Law Journal
  • Journal of Insurance Regulation
  • Journal of Risk and Insurance

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:

Research Category

Business & Finance

Law (General)

Research Guides