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Definitions and Types of Insurance

15 January, 2016 - 09:34


  1. Know the basic types of insurance for individuals.
  2. Name and describe the various kinds of business insurance.

Certain terms are usefully defined at the outset. Insurance is a contract of reimbursement. For example, it reimburses for losses from specified perils, such as fire, hurricane, and earthquake. An insurer is the company or person who promises to reimburse. The insured (sometimes called the assured) is the one who receives the payment, except in the case of life insurance, where payment goes to the beneficiary named in the life insurance contract. The premium is the consideration paid by the insured—usually annually or semiannually—for the insurer’s promise to reimburse. The contract itself is called the policy. The events insured against are known as risks or perils.

Regulation of insurance is left mainly in the hands of state, rather than federal, authorities. Under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, Congress exempted state-regulated insurance companies from the federal antitrust laws. Every state now has an insurance department that oversees insurance rates, policy standards, reserves, and other aspects of the industry. Over the years, these departments have come under fire in many states for being ineffective and “captives” of the industry. Moreover, large insurers operate in all states, and both they and consumers must contend with fifty different state regulatory schemes that provide very different degrees of protection. From time to time, attempts have been made to bring insurance under federal regulation, but none have been successful.

We begin with an overview of the types of insurance, from both a consumer and a business perspective. Then we examine in greater detail the three most important types of insurance: property, liability, and life.