What is Homeowners Insurance?
Homeowners insurance is a form of property insurance designed to protect an individual's home against damages to the house itself, or to possessions in the home. Homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.
In the U.S. there are seven forms of homeowners insurance that have become standardized in the industry; they range in name from HO-1 through HO-8 and offer various levels of protection depending on the needs of the homeowner.
What is Auto Insurance?
Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy.
An auto insurance policy is comprised of six different kinds of coverage. Most states require you to buy some, but not all, of these coverages. If you're financing a car, your lender may also have requirements.
Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance company should notify you by mail when it's time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.
What is Commercial Insurance?
The most common types of commercial insurance are property, liability and workers' compensation. In general, property insurance covers damages to your business property; liability insurance covers damages to third parties; and workers' compensation insurance covers on-the-job injuries to your employees. Depending on your business, you may want additional specialized coverages. Listed below are some of the different types of business insurance.
Property insurance pays for losses and damages to real or personal property. For example, a property insurance policy would cover fire damage to your office space. You can purchase additional coverages for business property, including:
Boiler and Machinery Insurance
Boiler and machinery insurance sometimes referred to as "equipment breakdown" or "mechanical breakdown coverage," provides coverage for the accidental breakdown of boilers, machinery, and equipment. This type of coverage usually will reimburse you for property damage and business interruption losses. For example, this coverage would cover fire damage to computers.
Debris Removal Insurance
Debris removal insurance covers the cost of removing debris after a fire, flood, windstorm, etc. For example, a fire burns your building to the ground. Before you can start rebuilding, the remains of the old building have to be removed. Your property insurance will cover the costs of rebuilding, but not of removing the debris.
Builder's Risk Insurance
Builder's risk insurance covers buildings while they are being constructed. For example, a Builder's risk policy would cover losses if a windstorm takes down your partially constructed condominium complex.
Glass insurance covers broken store windows and plate glass windows.
Inland Marine Insurance
Inland marine insurance covers property in transit and other people's property on your premises. For example, this insurance would cover fire-damage to customers' clothing from a fire at your dry cleaning business.
Business Interruption Insurance
Business interruption insurance covers lost income and expenses resulting from property damage or loss. For example, if a fire forces you to close your doors for two months, this insurance would reimburse you for salaries, taxes, rents, and net profits that would have been earned during the two-month period.
Ordinance or Law Insurance
Ordinance or law insurance covers the costs associated with having to demolish and rebuild to code when your building has been partially destroyed (usually 50 percent). For example, your three-story building is 100 years old. A flood destroys the basement and first two stories. Because more than 50 percent of your building has to be rebuilt, a local ordinance requires that the building be completely demolished and rebuilt according to current building codes. Property insurance covers only the replacement value, not the upgrade.
Commercial leases often require tenants to carry a certain amount of insurance. A renter's commercial policy covers damages to improvements you make to your rental space and damages to the building caused by the negligence of your employees.
Crime insurance covers property crimes such as theft, burglary, and robbery of money, securities, stock, and fixtures from employees and outsiders.
A bond company covers losses due to a bonded employee's theft of business property and money.
Liability insurance covers injuries that you cause to third parties. If someone sues you for personal injuries or property damage, the cost of defending and resolving the suit would be covered by your liability insurance policy. A general liability policy will cover you for common risks, including customer injuries on your premises. More specialized varieties of liability insurance include:
Errors and Omissions Insurance
Errors and omissions ("E & O") insurance covers inadvertent mistakes or failures that cause injury to a third party. The act must actually be an inadvertent error, and not merely poor judgment or intentional acts. For example, an E & O policy would cover damages arising from an insurance agent failing to file policy applications, or a notary forgetting to fill out notarizations properly.
Malpractice insurance, or professional liability insurance, pays for losses resulting from injuries to third parties when a professional's conduct falls below the profession's standard of care. For example, if a doctor makes a mistake that other doctors of his specialty would not have made, his patient might sue him. A malpractice policy will pay his defense costs and any judgment or settlement. Malpractice insurance is available for doctors, dentists, accountants, real estate agents, architects, and other professionals.
Commercial automobile policies cover the cars, vans, trucks and trailers used in your business. The coverage will reimburse you if your vehicles are damaged or stolen or if the driver injures a person or property.
Directors' and Officers' Liability Insurance
This type of insurance is generally purchased by corporations and nonprofit organizations to cover the costs of lawsuits against directors and officers.
Workers' Compensation Insurance
Workers' compensation insurance covers you for an employee's on-the-job injuries. Businesses with employees are required by various state laws to carry some type of workers' compensation insurance. In most cases, workers' compensation laws prohibit the employee from bringing a negligence lawsuit against an employer for work-related injuries.
What is a Bond?
Bond insurance (also known as "financial guaranty insurance") is a type of insurance whereby an insurance company guarantees scheduled payments of interest and principal on a bond or other security in the event of a payment default by the issuer of the bond or security. As compensation for its insurance, the insurer is paid a premium (as a lump sum or in installments) by the issuer or owner of the security to be insured. Bond insurance is a form of "credit enhancement" that generally results in the rating of the insured security being the higher of (i) the claims-paying rating of the insurer and (ii) the rating the bond would have without insurance (also known as the “underlying” or “shadow” rating).
The premium requested for insurance on a bond is a measure of the perceived risk of failure of the issuer. It can also be a function of the interest savings realized by an issuer from employing bond insurance or the increased value of the security realized by an owner who purchased bond insurance.
What is Life insurance?
Term assurance provides life insurance coverage for a specified term. The policy does not accumulate cash value. Term insurance is significantly less expensive than an equivalent permanent policy but will become higher with age. Policy holders can save to provide for increased term premiums or decrease insurance needs (by paying off debts or saving to provide for survivor needs).
Mortgage life insurance
Insures a loan secured by real property and usually features a level premium amount for a declining policy face value because what is insured is the principal and interest outstanding on a mortgage that is constantly being reduced by mortgage payments. The face amount of the policy is always the amount of the principal and interest outstanding that are paid should the applicant die before the final installment is paid.
Group life insurance
Group life insurance (also known as wholesale life insurance or institutional life insurance) is term insurance covering a group of people, usually employees of a company, members of a union or association, or members of a pension or superannuation fund. Individual proof of insurability is not normally a consideration in its underwriting. Rather, the underwriter considers the size, turnover, and financial strength of the group. Contract provisions will attempt to exclude the possibility of adverse selection. Group life insurance often allows members exiting the group to maintain their coverage by buying individual coverage. The underwriting is carried out for the whole group instead of individuals.
Permanent life insurance
Permanent life insurance is life insurance that covers the remaining lifetime of the insured. A permanent insurance policy accumulates a cash value up to its date of maturation. The owner can access the money in the cash value by withdrawing money, borrowing the cash value, or surrendering the policy and receiving the surrender value.
The three basic types of permanent insurance are whole life, universal life, and endowment.
Whole life insurance provides lifetime coverage for a set premium (see main article for a full explanation of the many variations and options).
Universal life coverage
Universal life insurance (UL) is a relatively new insurance product, intended to combine permanent insurance coverage with greater flexibility in premium payments, along with the potential for greater growth of cash values. There are several types of universal life insurance policies, including interest- sensitive (also known as "traditional fixed universal life insurance"), variable universal life (VUL), guaranteed death benefit, and equity-indexed universal life insurance.
Universal life insurance policies have cash values. Paid-in premiums increase their cash values; administrative and other costs reduce their cash values.
Universal life insurance addresses the perceived disadvantages of whole life – namely that premiums and death benefits are fixed. With universal life, both the premiums and death benefit are flexible. With the exception of guaranteed-death-benefit universal life policies, universal life policies trade their greater flexibility off for fewer guarantees.
"Flexible death benefit" means the policy owner can choose to decrease the death benefit. The death benefit can also be increased by the policy owner, usually requiring new underwriting. Another feature of flexible death benefit is the ability to choose option A or option B death benefits and to change those options over the course of the life of the insured. Option A is often referred to as a "level death benefit"; death benefits remain level for the life of the insured, and premiums are lower than policies with Option B death benefits, which pay the policy's cash value—i.e., a face amount plus earnings/interest. If the cash value grows over time, the death benefits do too. If the cash value declines, the death benefit also declines. Option B policies normally feature higher premiums than option A policies.
The endowment policy is a life insurance contract designed to pay a lump sum after a specific term (on its 'maturity') or on death. Typical maturities are ten, fifteen or twenty years up to a certain age limit. Some policies also pay out in the case of critical illness.
Policies are typically traditional with-profits or unit-linked (including those with unitized with-profits funds).
Endowments can be cashed in early (or surrendered) and the holder then receives the surrender value which is determined by the insurance company depending on how long the policy has been running and how much has been paid into it.
Accidental death insurance is a type of limited life insurance that is designed to cover the insured should they die as the result of an accident. "Accidents" run the gamut from abrasions to catastrophes but normally do not include deaths resulting from non-accident-related health problems or suicide. Because they only cover accidents, these policies are much less expensive than other life insurance policies.
Such insurance can also be accidental death and dismemberment insurance or AD&D. In an AD&D policy, benefits are available not only for accidental death but also for the loss of limbs or body functions such as sight and hearing.
Accidental death and AD&D policies very rarely pay a benefit, either because the cause of death is not covered by the policy or because death occurs well after the accident, by which time the premiums have gone unpaid. To know what coverage they have, insureds should always review their policies. Risky activities such as parachuting, flying, professional sports, or military service are often omitted from coverage.
Accidental death insurance can also supplement standard life insurance as a rider. If a rider is purchased, the policy generally pays double the face amount if the insured dies from an accident. This was once called double indemnity insurance. In some cases, triple indemnity coverage may be available.
Senior and pre-need products
Insurance companies have in recent years developed products for niche markets, most notably targeting seniors in an aging population. These are often low to moderate face value whole life insurance policies, allowing senior citizens to purchase affordable insurance later in life. This may also be marketed as final expense insurance and usually have death benefits between $2,000 and $40,000. One reason for their popularity is that they only require answers to simple "yes" or "no" questions, while most policies require a medical exam to qualify. As with other policy types, the range of premiums can vary widely and should be scrutinized prior to purchase, as should the reliability of the companies.
Health questions can vary substantially between exam and no-exam policies. It may be possible for individuals with certain conditions to qualify for one type of coverage and not another. Because seniors sometimes are not fully aware of the policy provisions it is important to make sure that policies last for a lifetime and that premiums do not increase every 5 years as is common in some circumstances.
Pre-need life insurance policies are limited premium payment, whole life policies that are usually purchased by older applicants, though they are available to everyone. This type of insurance is designed to cover specific funeral expenses that the applicant has designated in a contract with a funeral home. The policy's death benefit is initially based on the funeral cost at the time of prearrangement, and it then typically grows as interest is credited. In exchange for the policy owner's designation, the funeral home typically guarantees that the proceeds will cover the cost of the funeral, no matter when death occurs. Excess proceeds may go either to the insured's estate, a designated beneficiary, or the funeral home as set forth in the contract. Purchasers of these policies usually make a single premium payment at the time of prearrangement, but some companies also allow premiums to be paid over as much as ten years.
For more information please contact one of our knowledgeable agents.
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