Most people have some kind of insurance: for their car, their house, or even their life. Yet most of us don’t stop to think too much about what insurance is or how it works.
Put simply, insurance is a contract, represented by a policy, in which a policyholder receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company. The company pools clients’ risks to make payments more affordable for the insured.
Insurance policies are used to hedge against the risk of financial losses, both big and small, that may result from damage to the insured or their property, or from liability for damage or injury caused to a third party.
A multitude of different types of insurance policies is available, and virtually any individual or business can find an insurance company willing to insure them—for a price. The most common types of personal insurance policies are auto, health, homeowners, and life. Most individuals in the United States have at least one of these types of insurance, and car insurance is required by law.
Businesses require special types of insurance policies that insure against specific types of risks faced by a particular business. For example, a fast-food restaurant needs a policy that covers damage or injury that occurs as a result of cooking with a deep fryer.
An auto dealer is not subject to this type of risk but does require coverage for damage or injury that could occur during test drives.
With regard to health insurance, people who have chronic health issues or need regular medical attention should look for policies with lower deductibles. Though the annual premium is higher than a comparable policy with a higher deductible, less expensive access to medical care throughout the year may be worth the tradeoff.
Homeowners insurance (also known as home insurance) protects your home and possessions against damage or theft. Virtually all mortgage companies require borrowers to have insurance coverage for the full or fair value of a property (usually the purchase price) and won’t make a loan or finance a residential real estate transaction without proof of it.
When you buy or lease a car, it’s important to protect that investment. Getting auto insurance can offer reassurance in case you’re involved in an accident or the vehicle is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by a natural disaster. Instead of paying out of pocket for auto accidents, people pay annual premiums to an auto insurance company; the company then pays all or most of the costs associated with an auto accident or other vehicle damage.
Life insurance is a contract between an insurer and a policy owner. A life insurance policy guarantees that the insurer pays a sum of money to named beneficiaries when the insured dies in exchange for the premiums paid by the policyholder during their lifetime.