Glossary of Insurance Terms
Accelerated Death Benefits
A life insurance policy option that provides policy proceeds to insured individuals over their lifetimes, in the event of a terminal illness. This is in lieu of a traditional policy that pays beneficiaries after the insured’s death. Such benefits kick in if the insured becomes terminally ill, needs extreme medical intervention, or must reside in a nursing home. The payments made while the insured is living are deducted from any death benefits paid to beneficiaries.
Unexpected event or circumstance without deliberate intent.
Accident and Health Insurance
Coverage for accidental injury, accidental death, and related health expenses. Benefits will pay for preventative services, medical expenses, and catastrophic care, with limits.
Period of time insured must incur eligible medical expenses at least equal to the deductible amount in order to establish a benefit period under a major medical expense or comprehensive medical expense policy.
Actual Cash Value
A form of insurance that pays damages equal to the replacement cost of damaged property minus depreciation. (See Replacement cost)
An insurance professional skilled in the analysis, evaluation, and management of statistical information. Evaluates insurance firms’ reserves, determines rates and rating methods and determines other business and financial risks.
Additional Living Expenses
Extra charges covered by homeowners policies over and above the policyholder’s customary living expenses. They kick in when the insured requires temporary shelter due to damage by a covered peril that makes the home temporarily uninhabitable.
An individual employed by a property/casualty insurer to evaluate losses and settle policyholder claims. These adjusters differ from public adjusters, who negotiate with insurers on behalf of policyholders and receive a portion of a claims settlement. Independent adjusters are independent contractors who adjust claims for different insurance companies.
Assets recognized and accepted by state insurance laws in determining the solvency of insurers and reinsurers. To make it easier to assess an insurance company’s financial position, state statutory accounting rules do not permit certain assets to be included on the balance sheet. Only assets that can be easily sold in the event of liquidation or borrowed against, and receivables for which payment can be reasonably anticipated, are included in admitted assets. (See Assets)
An insurance company licensed and authorized to do business in a particular state.
The tendency of those exposed to a higher risk to seek more insurance coverage than those at a lower risk. Insurers react either by charging higher premiums or not insuring at all, as in the case of floods. (Flood insurance is provided by the federal government but sold mostly through the private market.) In the case of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, adverse selection concentrates risk instead of spreading it. Insurance works best when risk is shared among large numbers of policyholders.
Selling insurance through groups such as professional and business associations.
See Crash parts; Generic auto parts.
Companies that market and sell products via independent agents.
Insurance is sold by two types of agents: independent agents, who are self-employed, represent several insurance companies and are paid on commission, and exclusive or captive agents, who represent only one insurance company and are either salaried or work on commission. Insurance companies that use exclusive or captive agents are called direct writers.
The maximum dollar amount or total amount of coverage payable for a single loss, or multiple losses, during a policy period, or on a single project.
Alien Insurance Company
An insurance company incorporated under the laws of a foreign country, as opposed to a foreign insurance company that does business in states outside its own.
Also known as open peril. This type of policy covers a broad range of losses. The policy covers risks not explicitly excluded in the policy contract.
Property insurance that is usually bought in conjunction with fire insurance; it includes wind, water damage, and vandalism coverage.
Alternative Dispute Resolution / ADR
Alternative to going to court to settle disputes. Methods include arbitration, where disputing parties agree to be bound by the decision of an independent third party, and mediation, where a third party tries to arrange a settlement between the two sides.
Mechanisms used to fund self-insurance. This includes captives, which are insurers owned by one or more non-insurers to provide owners with coverage. Risk-retention groups, formed by members of similar professions or businesses to obtain liability insurance, are also a form of self-insurance.
Summary of an insurer’s or reinsurer’s financial operations for a particular year, including a balance sheet. It is filed with the state insurance department of each jurisdiction in which the company is licensed to conduct business.
Beneficiary of an annuity payment, or person during whose life and annuity is payable.
A life insurance company contract that pays periodic income benefits for a specific period of time or over the course of the annuitant’s lifetime. These payments can be made annually, quarterly or monthly.
Laws that prohibit companies from working as a group to set prices, restrict supplies or stop competition in the marketplace. The insurance industry is subject to state antitrust laws but has a limited exemption from federal antitrust laws. This exemption, set out in the McCarran-Ferguson Act, permits insurers to jointly develop common insurance forms and share loss data to help them price policies.
The dividing of a loss proportionately among two or more insurers that cover the same loss.
A survey to determine a property’s insurable value or the amount of a loss.
Procedure in which an insurance company and the insured or a vendor agree to settle a claim dispute by accepting a decision made by a third party.
The deliberate setting of a fire.
Asset-Backed Securities / ABS
Bonds that represent pools of loans of similar types, duration, and interest rates. Almost any loan with regular repayments of principal and interest can be securitized, from auto loans and equipment leases to credit card receivables and mortgages.
Property owned, in this case by an insurance company, including stocks, bonds, and real estate. Insurance accounting is concerned with solvency and the ability to pay claims. State insurance laws, therefore require a conservative valuation of assets, prohibiting insurance companies from listing assets on their balance sheets whose values are uncertain, such as furniture, fixtures, debit balances, and accounts receivable that are more than 90 days past due. (See Admitted assets)
Assigned Risk Plans
Facilities through which drivers can obtain auto insurance if they are unable to buy it in the regular or voluntary market. These are the most well-known type of residual auto insurance market, which exist in every state. In an assigned risk plan, all insurers selling auto insurance in the state are assigned these drivers to insure, based on the amount of insurance they sell in the regular market. (See Residual market)
The assumption of risk from another insurance entity within a reinsurance agreement or treaty.
Insurer licensed or admitted to do business in a particular state.
Auto Insurance Policy
There are basically six different types of coverages. Some may be required by law. Others are optional. They are Comprehensive, Bodily Injury, Property Damage, Physical Damage, Uninsured Motorist, Under-Insured Motorist.
Auto Insurance Premium
The price that an insurance company charges for coverage, based on the frequency and cost of potential accidents, theft, and other losses. Prices vary from company to company, as with any product or service.
Commercial airlines hold property insurance on airplanes and liability insurance for negligent acts that result in injury or property damage to passengers or others. Damage is covered on the ground and in the air. The policy limits the geographical area and individual pilots covered.
Provides a snapshot of a company’s financial condition at one point in time. It shows assets, including investments and reinsurance, and liabilities, such as loss reserves to pay claims in the future, as of a certain date. It also states a company’s equity, known as policyholder surplus. Changes in that surplus are one indicator of an insurer’s financial standing.
Bank Holding Company
A company that owns or controls one or more banks. The Federal Reserve has responsibility for regulating and supervising bank holding company activities, such as approving acquisitions and mergers and inspecting the operations of such companies. This authority applies even though a bank owned by a holding company may be under the primary supervision of the Comptroller of the Currency or the FDIC.
0.01 percent of the yield of a mortgage, bills, notes or bonds. The smallest measure used.
Beach And Windstorm Plans
State-sponsored insurance pools that sell property coverage for the peril of windstorm to people unable to buy it in the voluntary market because of their high exposure to risk. Seven states (AL, FL, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX) offer these plans to cover residential and commercial properties against hurricanes and other windstorms. Georgia and New York provide this kind of coverage for windstorm and hail in certain coastal communities through other property pools. Insurance companies that sell property insurance in the state are required to participate in these plans. Insurers share in profits and losses. (See Fair access to insurance requirements plans / FAIR plans; Residual market)
Temporary authorization of coverage issued prior to the actual insurance policy.
Insurance coverage for more than one item of property at a single location, or two or more items of property in different locations.
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage
Part of an auto insurance policy that covers injuries the policyholder causes to someone else.
Boiler And Machinery Insurance
Often called Equipment Breakdown, or Systems Breakdown insurance. Commercial insurance that covers damage caused by the malfunction or breakdown of boilers, and a vast array of other equipment including air conditioners, heating, electrical, telephone, and computer systems.
A security that obligates the issuer to pay interest at specified intervals and to repay the principal amount of the loan at maturity. In insurance, a form of suretyship. Bonds of various types guarantee a payment or a reimbursement for financial losses resulting from dishonesty, failure to perform and other acts.
An evaluation of a bond’s financial strength, conducted by such major ratings agencies as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.
Book of Business
Total amount of insurance on an insurer’s books at a particular point in time.
An intermediary between a customer and an insurance company. Brokers typically search the market for coverage appropriate to their clients. They work on commission and usually sell commercial, not personal, insurance. In life insurance, agents must be licensed as securities brokers/dealers to sell variable annuities, which are similar to stock market-based investments.
Burglary And Theft Insurance
Insurance for the loss of property due to burglary, robbery or larceny. It is provided in a standard homeowners policy and in a business multiple peril policy.
Business Interruption Insurance
Commercial coverage that reimburses a business owner for lost profits and continuing fixed expenses during the time that a business must stay closed while the premises are being restored because of physical damage from a covered peril, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance also may cover financial losses that may occur if civil authorities limit access to an area after a disaster and their actions prevent customers from reaching the business premises. Depending on the policy, civil authorities coverage may start after a waiting period and last for two or more weeks.
Business Owners Policy / BOP
A policy that combines property, liability and business interruption coverages for small- to medium-sized businesses. Coverage is generally cheaper than if purchased through separate insurance policies.
The supply of insurance available to meet demand. Capacity depends on the industry’s financial ability to accept risk. For an individual insurer, the maximum amount of risk it can underwrite based on its financial condition. The adequacy of an insurer’s capital relative to its exposure to loss is an important measure of solvency.
Shareholder’s equity (for publicly-traded insurance companies) and retained earnings (for mutual insurance companies). There is no general measure of capital adequacy for property/casualty insurers. Capital adequacy is linked to the riskiness of an insurer’s business. A company underwriting medical device manufacturers needs a larger cushion of capital than a company writing Main Street business, for example. (See Risk-based capital ; Surplus ; Solvency)
The markets in which equities and debt are traded. (See Securitization of insurance risk)
A person who represents only one insurance company and is restricted by agreement from submitting business to any other company, unless it is first rejected by the agent’s captive company. (See Exclusive agent)
Insurers that are created and wholly-owned by one or more non-insurers, to provide owners with coverage. A form of self-insurance.
Equal to 365 days of insured coverage for a single vehicle. It is the standard measurement for automobile insurance.
A system of coordinating medical services to treat a patient, improve care, and reduce cost. A case manager coordinates health care delivery for patients.
Term used for statistical recording purposes to refer to a single incident or a series of closely related incidents causing severe insured property losses totaling more than a given amount, currently $25 million.
Risk-based securities that pay high interest rates and provide insurance companies with a form of reinsurance to pay losses from a catastrophe such as those caused by a major hurricane. They allow insurance risk to be sold to institutional investors in the form of bonds, thus spreading the risk. (See Securitization of insurance risk)
A percentage or dollar amount that a homeowner must pay before the insurance policy kicks in when a major natural disaster occurs. These large deductibles limit an insurer’s potential losses in such cases, allowing it to insure more property. A property insurer may not be able to buy reinsurance to protect its own bottom line unless it keeps its potential maximum losses under a certain level.
Probability of catastrophic loss, based on the total number of catastrophes in a state over a 40-year period.
Using computers, a method to mesh long-term disaster information with current demographic, building and other data to determine the potential cost of natural disasters and other catastrophic losses for a given geographic area.
Reinsurance (insurance for insurers) for catastrophic losses. The insurance industry is able to absorb the multibillion dollar losses caused by natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks because losses are spread among thousands of companies including catastrophe reinsurers who operate on a global basis. Insurers’ ability and willingness to sell insurance fluctuates with the availability and cost of catastrophe reinsurance.
Cell Phone Insurance
Separate insurance provided to cover cell phones for damage or theft. Policies are often sold with the cell phones themselves.
Chartered Financial Consultant / CHFC
A professional designation given by The American College to financial services professionals who complete courses in financial planning.
Chartered Life Underwriter / CLU
A professional designation by The American College for those who pass business examinations on insurance, investments, and taxation, and have life insurance planning experience.
Chartered Property/Casualty Underwriter / CPCU
A professional designation given by the American Institute for Property and Liability Underwriters. National examinations and three years of work experience are required.
A form of insurance that pays claims presented to the insurer during the term of the policy or within a specific term after its expiration. It limits liability insurers’ exposure to unknown future liabilities. (See Occurrence policy)
Short for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. A federal law under which group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees must offer continuation of coverage to employees who leave their jobs and their dependents. The employee must pay the entire premium. Coverage can be extended up to 18 months. Surviving dependents can receive longer coverage.
In property insurance, requires the policyholder to carry insurance equal to a specified percentage of the value of property to receive full payment on a loss. For health insurance, it is a percentage of each claim above the deductible paid by the policyholder. For a 20 percent health insurance coinsurance clause, the policyholder pays for the deductible plus 20 percent of his covered losses. After paying 80 percent of losses up to a specified ceiling, the insurer starts paying 100 percent of losses.
Property that is offered to secure a loan or other credit and that becomes subject to seizure on default. (Also called security.)
Collateral Source Rule
Bars the introduction of information that indicates a person has been compensated or reimbursed by a source other than the defendant in civil actions related to negligence or other liability.
Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers the damage to the policyholder’s car from a collision.
Percentage of each premium dollar a property/casualty insurer spends on claims and expenses. A decrease in the combined ratio means financial results are improving; an increase means they are deteriorating. When the ratio is over 100, the insurer has an underwriting loss.
Commercial General Liability Insurance / CGL
A broad commercial policy that covers all liability exposures of a business that are not specifically excluded. Coverage includes product liability, completed operations, premises and operations, and independent contractors.
Products designed for and bought by businesses. Among the major coverages are boiler and machinery, business interruption, commercial auto, comprehensive general liability, directors and officers liability, fire and allied lines, inland marine, medical malpractice liability, product liability, professional liability, surety and fidelity, and workers compensation. Most of these commercial coverages can be purchased separately except business interruption which must be added to a fire insurance (property) policy. (See Commercial multiple peril policy)
Commercial Multiple Peril Policy
Package policy that includes property, boiler and machinery, crime, and general liability coverages.
Short-term, unsecured, and usually discounted promissory note issued by commercial firms and financial companies often to finance current business. Commercial paper, which is rated by debt rating agencies, is sold through dealers or directly placed with an investor.
Fee paid to an agent or insurance salesperson as a percentage of the policy premium. The percentage varies widely depending on coverage, the insurer, and the marketing methods.
Community Rating Laws
Enacted in several states on health insurance policies. Insurers are required to accept all applicants for coverage and charge all applicants the same premium for the same coverage regardless of age or health. Premiums are based on the rate determined by the geographic region’s health and demographic profile.
Competitive Replacement Parts
See Crash parts ; Generic auto parts
Competitive State Fund
A facility established by a state to sell workers compensation in competition with private insurers.
A measure used by some state insurance departments to track consumer complaints against insurance companies. Generally, it is written as the number of complaints upheld against an insurance company, as a percentage of premiums written. In some states, complaints from medical providers over the promptness of payments may also be included.
Completed Operations Coverage
Pays for bodily injury or property damage caused by a completed project or job. Protects a business that sells a service against liability claims.
Part of an auto insurance policy that covers damage to the policyholder’s car not involving a collision with another car (including damage from fire, explosions, earthquakes, floods, and riots), and theft.
Compulsory Auto Insurance
The minimum amount of auto liability insurance that meets a state law. Financial responsibility laws in every state require all automobile drivers to show proof, after an accident, of their ability to pay damages up to the state minimum. In compulsory liability states this proof, which is usually in the form of an insurance policy, is required before you can legally drive a car.
Liability of individuals, corporations, or partnerships for accidents caused by people other than employees for whose acts or omissions the corporations or partnerships are responsible.
Synonym for insurance.
Sheet metal parts that are most often damaged in a car crash. (See Generic auto parts)
The promise to pay in the future in order to buy or borrow in the present. The right to defer payment of debt.
A contract that enables a user, such as a bank, to better manage its credit risk. A way of transferring credit risk to another party.
A technique to lower the interest payments on a bond by raising the issue’s credit rating, often through insurance in the form of a financial guarantee or with standby letters of credit issued by a bank.
Commercial coverage against losses resulting from the failure of business debtors to pay their obligation to the insured, usually due to insolvency. The coverage is geared to manufacturers, wholesalers, and service providers who may be dependent on a few accounts and therefore could lose significant income in the event of an insolvency.
Credit Life Insurance
Life insurance coverage on a borrower designed to repay the balance of a loan in the event the borrower dies before the loan is repaid. It may also include disablement and can be offered as an option in connection with credit cards and auto loans.
See Bond rating
The number produced by an analysis of an individual’s credit history. The use of credit information affects all consumers in many ways, from getting a job, finding a place to live, securing a loan, getting a telephone, and buying insurance. Credit history is routinely reviewed by insurers before issuing a commercial policy because businesses in poor financial condition tend to cut back on safety which can lead to more accidents and more claims. Auto and home insurers may use information in a credit history to produce an insurance score. Insurance scores may be used in underwriting and rating insurance policies. (See Insurance score)
Protection against damage to growing crops from hail, fire, or lightning provided by the private market. By contrast, multiple peril crop insurance covers a wider range of yield-reducing conditions, such as drought and insect infestation, and is subsidized by the federal government.
Part of a property or liability insurance policy that states the name and address of policyholder, property insured, its location and description, the policy period, premiums, and supplemental information. Referred to as the “dec page.”
The amount of loss paid by the policyholder. Either a specified dollar amount, a percentage of the claim amount, or a specified amount of time that must elapse before benefits are paid. The bigger the deductible, the lower the premium charged for the same coverage.
Defined Benefit Plan
A retirement plan under which pension benefits are fixed in advance by a formula based generally on years of service to the company multiplied by a specific percentage of wages, usually average earnings over that period or highest average earnings over the final years with the company.
Defined Contribution Plan
An employee benefit plan under which the employer sets up benefit accounts and contributions are made to it by the employer and by the employee. The employer usually matches the employee’s contribution up to a stated limit.
Customer assets that are held in a checking account. Funds can be readily withdrawn by check, “on demand.”
The conversion of insurance companies from mutual companies owned by their policyholders into publicly-traded stock companies.
Financial institution that obtains its funds mainly through deposits from the public. Includes commercial banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions.
In insurance, reducing regulatory control over insurance rates and forms. Commercial insurance for businesses of a certain size has been deregulated in many states.
Contracts that derive their value from an underlying financial asset, such as publicly-traded securities and foreign currencies. Often used as a hedge against changes in value.
Diminution Of Value
The idea that a vehicle loses value after it has been damaged in an accident and repaired.
Property/casualty premiums collected by the insurer from policyholders, before reinsurance premiums are deducted. Insurers share some direct premiums and the risk involved with their reinsurers.
Direct Sales / Direct Response
Method of selling insurance directly to the insured through an insurance company’s own employees, through the mail, or via the Internet. This is in lieu of using captive or exclusive agents.
Insurance companies that sell directly to the public using exclusive agents or their own employees, through the mail, or via Internet. Large insurers, whether predominately direct writers or agency companies are increasingly using many different channels to sell insurance. In reinsurance, denotes reinsurers that deal directly with the insurance companies they reinsure without using a broker.
Directors And Officers Liability Insurance / D&O
Covers directors and officers of a company for negligent acts or omissions, and for misleading statements that result in suits against the company, often by shareholders. Directors and officers insurance policies usually contain two coverages: personal coverage for individual directors and officers who are not indemnified by the corporation for their legal expenses or judgments against them – some corporations are not required by their corporate or state charters to provide indemnification and corporate reimbursement coverage for indemnifying directors and officers. Entity coverage for claims made specifically against the company may also be available.
Money returned to policyholders from an insurance company’s earnings. Considered a partial premium refund rather than a taxable distribution, reflecting the difference between the premium charged and actual losses. Many life insurance policies and some property/casualty policies pay dividends to their owners. Life insurance policies that pay dividends are called participating policies.
Domestic Insurance Company
Term used by a state to refer to any company incorporated there.
Early Warning System
A system of measuring insurers’ financial stability set up by insurance industry regulators. An example is the Insurance Regulatory Information System (IRIS), which uses financial ratios to identify insurers in need of regulatory attention.
The portion of premium that applies to the expired part of the policy period. Insurance premiums are payable in advance but the insurance company does not fully earn them until the policy period expires.
Covers a building and its contents, but includes a large percentage deductible on each. A special policy or endorsement exists because earthquakes are not covered by standard homeowners or most business policies.
Total financial loss resulting from the death or disability of a wage earner, or from the destruction of property. Includes the loss of earnings, medical expenses, funeral expenses, the cost of restoring or replacing property, and legal expenses. It does not include noneconomic losses, such as pain caused by an injury.
Electronic Commerce / E-Commerce
The sale of products such as insurance over the Internet.
A kind of deductible or waiting period usually found in disability policies. It is counted in days from the beginning of the illness or injury.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act / ERISA
Federal legislation that protects employees by establishing minimum standards for private pension and welfare plans.
Employment Practices Liability Coverage
Liability insurance for employers that covers wrongful termination, discrimination, or sexual harassment toward the insured’s employees or former employees.
A written form attached to an insurance policy that alters the policy’s coverage, terms, or conditions. Sometimes called a rider.
Environmental Impairment Liability Coverage
A form of insurance designed to cover losses and liabilities arising from damage to property caused by pollution.
In investments, the ownership interest of shareholders. In a corporation, stocks as opposed to bonds.
Errors And Omissions Coverage / E&O
A professional liability policy covering the policyholder for negligent acts and omissions that may harm his or her clients.
Funds that a lender collects to pay monthly premiums in mortgage and homeowners insurance, and sometimes to pay property taxes.
Excess And Surplus Lines
Property/casualty coverage that isn’t available from insurers licensed by the state (called admitted insurers) and must be purchased from a non-admitted carrier.
Excess Of Loss Reinsurance
A contract between an insurer and a reinsurer, whereby the insurer agrees to pay a specified portion of a claim and the reinsurer to pay all or a part of the claim above that amount.
A provision in an insurance policy that eliminates coverage for certain risks, people, property classes, or locations.
A captive agent, or a person who represents only one insurance company and is restricted by agreement from submitting business to any other company unless it is first rejected by the agent’s company. (See Captive agent)
Percentage of each premium dollar that goes to insurers’ expenses including overhead, marketing, and commissions.
Record of losses.
Possibility of loss.
An endorsement added to an insurance policy, or clause within a policy, that provides additional coverage for risks other than those in a basic policy.
Extended Replacement Cost Coverage
Pays a certain amount above the policy limit to replace a damaged home, generally 120 percent or 125 percent. Similar to a guaranteed replacement cost policy, which has no percentage limits. Most homeowner policy limits track inflation in building costs. Guaranteed and extended replacement cost policies are designed to protect the policyholder after a major disaster when the high demand for building contractors and materials can push up the normal cost of reconstruction. (See Guaranteed replacement cost coverage)
A reinsurance policy that provides an insurer with coverage for specific individual risks that are unusual or so large that they aren’t covered in the insurance company’s reinsurance treaties. This can include policies for jumbo jets or oil rigs. Reinsurers have no obligation to take on facultative reinsurance but can assess each risk individually. By contrast, under treaty reinsurance, the reinsurer agrees to assume a certain percentage of entire classes of business, such as various kinds of auto, up to preset limits.
Fair Access To Insurance Requirements Plans / Fair Plans
Insurance pools that sell property insurance to people who can’t buy it in the voluntary market because of high risk over which they may have no control. FAIR Plans, which exist in 28 states and the District of Columbia, insure fire, vandalism, riot, and windstorm losses, and some sell homeowners insurance which includes liability. Plans vary by state, but all require property insurers licensed in a state to participate in the pool and share in the profits and losses. (See Residual market)
Package policy that protects the policyholder against named perils and liabilities and usually covers homes and their contents, along with barns, stables, and other structures.
Reserve balances that depository institutions lend each other, usually on an overnight basis. In addition, Federal funds include certain other kinds of borrowings by depository institutions from each other and from federal agencies.
Federal Insurance Administration / FIA
Federal agency in charge of administering the National Flood Insurance Program. It does not regulate the insurance industry.
Federal Reserve Board
Seven-member board that supervises the banking system by issuing regulations controlling bank holding companies and federal laws over the banking industry. It also controls and oversees the U.S. monetary system and credit supply.
A form of protection that covers policyholders for losses that they incur as a result of fraudulent acts by specified individuals. It usually insures a business for losses caused by the dishonest acts of its employees.
A type of surety bond, sometimes called a probate bond, which is required of certain fiduciaries, such as executors and trustees, that guarantees the performance of their responsibilities.
Legal responsibility of a fiduciary to safeguard assets of beneficiaries. A fiduciary, for example a pension fund manager, is required to manage investments held in trust in the best interest of beneficiaries. Fiduciary liability insurance covers breaches of fiduciary duty such as misstatements or misleading statements, errors and omissions.
States where insurers must file rate changes with their regulators, but don’t have to wait for approval to put them into effect.
Financial Guarantee Insurance
Covers losses from specific financial transactions and guarantees that investors in debt instruments, such as municipal bonds, receive timely payment of principal and interest if there is a default. Raises the credit rating of debt to which the guarantee is attached. Investment bankers who sell asset-backed securities, securities backed by loan portfolios, use this insurance to enhance marketability. (See Municipal bond insurance)
Financial Responsibility Law
A state law requiring that all automobile drivers show proof that they can pay damages up to a minimum amount if involved in an auto accident. Varies from state to state but can be met by carrying a minimum amount of auto liability insurance. (See Compulsory auto insurance)
Finite Risk Reinsurance
Contract under which the ultimate liability of the reinsurer is capped and on which anticipated investment income is expressly acknowledged as an underwriting component. Also known as Financial Reinsurance because this type of coverage is often bought to improve the balance sheet effects of statutory accounting principles.
Coverage protecting property against losses caused by a fire or lightning that is usually included in homeowners or commercial multiple peril policies.
Coverage for the policyholder’s own property or person. In no-fault auto insurance it pays for the cost of injuries. In no-fault states with the broadest coverage, the personal injury protection (PIP) part of the policy pays for medical care, lost income, funeral expenses and, where the injured person is not able to provide services such as child care, for substitute services. (See No-fault ; Third-party coverage)
An annuity that pays the annuitant a guaranteed, fixed return every month for a fixed premium. The guarantee is based on the expected return of the underlying investments of the insurance company. (See Annuity)
Attached to a homeowners policy, a floater insures movable property, covering losses wherever they may occur. Among the items often insured with a floater are expensive jewelry, musical instruments, and furs. It provides broader coverage than a regular homeowners policy for these items.
Coverage for flood damage is available from the federal government under the National Flood Insurance Program but is sold by licensed insurance agents. Flood coverage is excluded under homeowners policies and many commercial property policies. However, flood damage is covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. (See Adverse selection)
Forced Place Insurance
Insurance purchased by a bank or creditor on an uninsured debtor’s behalf so if the property is damaged, funding is available to repair it.
Foreign Insurance Company
Name given to an insurance company based in one state by the other states in which it does business.
Intentional lying or concealment by policyholders to obtain payment of an insurance claim that would otherwise not be paid, or lying or misrepresentation by the insurance company managers, employees, agents, and brokers for financial gain.
Number of times a loss occurs. One of the criteria used in calculating premium rates.
A procedure in which a primary insurer acts as the insurer of record by issuing a policy, but then passes the entire risk to a reinsurer in exchange for a commission. Often, the fronting insurer is licensed to do business in a state or country where the risk is located, but the reinsurer is not. The reinsurer in this scenario is often a captive or an independent insurance company that cannot sell insurance directly in a particular country.
Agreement to buy a security for a set price at a certain date. Futures contracts usually involve commodities, indexes or financial futures.
An automobile insurance option, available in some states, that covers the difference between a car’s actual cash value when it is stolen or wrecked and the amount the consumer owes the leasing or finance company. Mainly used for leased cars. (See Actual cash value)
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles / GAAP
Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) accounting is used in financial statements that publicly-held companies prepare for the Securities and Exchange Commission. (See Statutory accounting principles / SAP)
Generic Auto Parts
Auto crash parts produced by firms that are not associated with car manufacturers. Insurers consider these parts, when certified, at least as good as those that come from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). They are often cheaper than the identical part produced by the OEM. (See Crash parts ; Aftermarket parts ; Competitive replacement parts ; Original equipment manufacturer parts / OEM)
Coverage for glass breakage caused by all risks; fire and war are sometimes excluded. Insurance can be bought for windows, structural glass, leaded glass, and mirrors. Available with or without a deductible.
Graduated Driver Licenses
Licenses for younger drivers that allow them to improve their skills. Regulations vary by state, but often restrict night time driving. Young drivers receive a learner’s permit, followed by a provisional license, before they can receive a standard drivers license.
Financial services legislation, passed by Congress in 1999, that removed Depression-era prohibitions against the combination of commercial banking and investment-banking activities. It allows insurance companies, banks, and securities firms to engage in each others’ activities and own one another.
A single policy covering a group of individuals, usually employees of the same company or members of the same association and their dependents. Coverage occurs under a master policy issued to the employer or association.
Guaranteed Income Contract / GIC
Often an option in an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. Contract between an insurance company and the plan that guarantees a stated rate of return on invested capital over the life of the contract.
Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage
Homeowners policy that pays the full cost of replacing or repairing a damaged or destroyed home, even if it is above the policy limit. (See Extended replacement cost coverage)
The mechanism by which solvent insurers ensure that some of the policyholder and third party claims against insurance companies that fail are paid. Such funds are required in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, but the type and amount of claim covered by the fund varies from state to state. Some states pay policyholders’ unearned premiums – the portion of the premium for which no coverage was provided because the company was insolvent. Some have deductibles. Most states have no limits on workers compensation payments. Guaranty funds are supported by assessments on insurers doing business in the state.
A new legal concept that holds gun manufacturers liable for the cost of injuries caused by guns. Several cities have filed lawsuits based on this concept.
A coverage that protects businesses engaged in electronic commerce from losses caused by hackers.
A seller’s market in which insurance is expensive and in short supply. (See Property/casualty insurance cycle)
Anything that either causes or increases the likelihood of a loss.
Contract between two parties designed to release one or both parties from legal claims. Most often, one party agrees not to sue the other party for any expenses, damages, or losses arising from a transaction or activity between the two parties.
Homeowners Insurance Policy
The typical homeowners' insurance policy covers the house, the garage and other structures on the property, as well as personal possessions inside the house such as furniture, appliances, and clothing, against a wide variety of perils including windstorms, fire and theft. The extent of the perils covered depends on the type of policy. An all-risk policy offers the broadest coverage. This covers all perils except those specifically excluded in the policy.
Equal to 365 days of insured coverage for a single dwelling. It is the standard measurement for homeowners insurance.
A percentage or dollar amount added to a homeowner’s insurance policy to limit an insurer’s exposure to loss from a hurricane. Higher deductibles are instituted in higher risk areas, such as coastal regions. Specific details, such as the intensity of the storm for the deductible to be triggered and the extent of the high-risk area, vary from insurer to insurer and state to state.
Identity Theft Insurance
Coverage for expenses incurred as the result of an identity theft. Can include costs for notarizing fraud affidavits and certified mail, lost income from time taken off from work to meet with law-enforcement personnel or credit agencies, fees for reapplying for loans and attorney’s fees to defend against lawsuits and remove criminal or civil judgments.
Incurred But Not Reported Losses / IBNR
Losses that are not filed with the insurer or reinsurer until years after the policy is sold. Some liability claims may be filed long after the event that caused the injury to occur. Asbestos-related diseases, for example, do not show up until decades after the exposure. IBNR also refers to estimates made about claims already reported but where the full extent of the injury is not yet known, such as a workers compensation claim where the degree to which work-related injuries prevents a worker from earning what he or she earned before the injury unfolds over time. Insurance companies regularly adjust reserves for such losses as new information becomes available.
Losses occurring within a fixed period, whether or not adjusted or paid during the same period.
Provide financial compensation for losses.
Agent who is self-employed, is paid on commission, and represents several insurance companies. (See Captive agent)
Individual Retirement Account / IRA
A tax-deductible savings plan for those who are self-employed, or those whose earnings are below a certain level or whose employers do not offer retirement plans. Others may make limited contributions on a tax-deferred basis. The Roth IRA, a special kind of retirement account created in 1997, may offer greater tax benefits to certain individuals.
Inflation Guard Clause
A provision added to a homeowners insurance policy that automatically adjusts the coverage limit on the dwelling each time the policy is renewed to reflect current construction costs.
Inland Marine Insurance
This broad type of coverage was developed for shipments that do not involve ocean transport. Covers articles in transit by all forms of land and air transportation as well as bridges, tunnels and other means of transportation and communication. Floaters that cover expensive personal items such as fine art and jewelry are included in this category. (See Floater)
Insurer’s inability to pay debts. Insurance insolvency standards and the regulatory actions taken vary from state to state. When regulators deem an insurance company is in danger of becoming insolvent, they can take one of three actions: place a company in conservatorship or rehabilitation if the company can be saved or liquidation if salvage is deemed impossible. The difference between the first two options is one of degree – regulators guide companies in conservatorship but direct those in rehabilitation. Typically the first sign of problems is the inability to pass the financial tests regulators administer as a routine procedure. (See Liquidation; Risk-based capital)
An organization such as a bank or insurance company that buys and sells large quantities of securities.
Risks for which it is relatively easy to get insurance and that meet certain criteria. These include being definable, accidental in nature, and part of a group of similar risks large enough to make losses predictable. The insurance company also must be able to come up with a reasonable price for the insurance.
A system to make large financial losses more affordable by pooling the risks of many individuals and business entities and transferring them to an insurance company or other large groups in return for a premium.
A group of insurance companies that pool assets, enabling them to provide an amount of insurance substantially more than can be provided by individual companies to ensure large risks such as nuclear power stations. Pools may be formed voluntarily or mandated by the state to cover risks that can’t obtain coverage in the voluntary market such as coastal properties subject to hurricanes. (See Beach and windstorm plans; Fair access to insurance requirements plans / FAIR plans; Joint underwriting association / JUA)
Insurance Regulatory Information System / IRIS
Uses financial ratios to measure insurers’ financial strength. Developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Each individual state insurance department chooses how to use IRIS.
Insurance scores are confidential rankings based on credit information. This includes whether the consumer has made timely payments on loans, the number of open credit card accounts and whether a bankruptcy filing has been made. An insurance score is a measure of how well consumers manage their financial affairs, not of their financial assets. It does not include information about income or race.
Insurance written in an amount approximating the value of the insured property.
Coverage where the distinction between job-related and non-occupational illnesses or injuries is eliminated and workers compensation and general health coverage are combined. Legal obstacles exist, however, because the two coverages are administered separately. Previously called twenty-four hour coverage.
The process of bringing savers, investors, and borrowers together so that savers and investors can obtain a return on their money and borrowers can use the money to finance their purchases or projects through loans.
An insurer that sells exclusively via the Internet.
Internet Liability Insurance
Coverage designed to protect businesses from liabilities that arise from the conducting of business over the Internet, including copyright infringement, defamation, and violation of privacy.
Income generated by the investment of assets. Insurers have two sources of income, underwriting (premiums less claims and expenses) and investment income. The latter can offset underwriting operations, which are frequently unprofitable.
Joint Underwriting Association / JUA
Insurers which join together to provide coverage for a particular type of risk or size of exposure, when there are difficulties in obtaining coverage in the regular market, and which share in the profits and losses associated with the program. JUAs may be set up to provide auto and homeowners insurance and various commercial coverages, such as medical malpractice. (See Assigned risk plans ; Residual market)
Corporate bonds with credit ratings of BB or less. They pay a higher yield than investment grade bonds because issuers have a higher perceived risk of default. Such bonds involve market risk that could force investors, including insurers, to sell the bonds when their value is low. Most states place limits on insurers’ investments in these bonds. In general, because property/casualty insurers can be called upon to provide huge sums of money immediately after a disaster, their investments must be liquid. Less than 2 percent are in real estate and a similarly small percentage are in junk bonds.
Key Person Insurance
Insurance on the life or health of a key individual whose services are essential to the continuing success of a business and whose death or disability could cause the firm a substantial financial loss.
Coverage up to specific limits for the cost of ransom or extortion payments and related expenses. Often bought by international corporations to cover employees. Most policies have large deductibles and may exclude certain geographic areas. Some policies require that the policyholder not reveal the coverage’s existence.
A technique that consists of staggering the maturity dates and the mix of different types of bonds.
Law of Large Numbers
The theory of probability on which the business of insurance is based. Simply put, this mathematical premise says that the larger the group of units insured, such as sport-utility vehicles, the more accurate the predictions of loss will be.
Insurance for what the policyholder is legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property damage caused to another person.
See Ordinary life insurance; Term insurance; Variable life insurance; Whole life insurance
Maximum amount of insurance that can be paid for a covered loss.
Type or kind of insurance, such as personal lines.
Enables the state insurance department as liquidator or its appointed deputy to wind up the insurance company’s affairs by selling its assets and settling claims upon those assets. After receiving the liquidation order, the liquidator notifies insurance departments in other states and state guaranty funds of the liquidation proceedings. Such insurance company liquidations are not subject to the Federal Bankruptcy Code but to each state’s liquidation statutes.
The ability and speed with which a security can be converted into cash.
Lloyd’s of London
A marketplace where underwriting syndicates, or mini-insurers, gather to sell insurance policies and reinsurance. Each syndicate is managed by an underwriter who decides whether or not to accept the risk. The Lloyd’s market is a major player in the international reinsurance market as well as a primary market for marine insurance and large risks. Originally, Lloyd’s was a London coffee house in the 1600s patronized by shipowners who insured each other’s hulls and cargoes. As Lloyd’s developed, wealthy individuals, called “Names,” placed their personal assets behind insurance risks as a business venture. Increasingly since the 1990s, most of the capital comes from corporations.
Corporation formed to market services of a group of underwriters. Does not issue insurance policies or provide insurance protection. Insurance is written by individual underwriters, with each assuming a part of every risk. Has no connection to Lloyd’s of London, and is found primarily in Texas.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Coverage that, under specified conditions, provides skilled nursing, intermediate care, or custodial care for a patient (generally over age 65) in a nursing facility or his or her residence following an injury.
A reduction in the quality or value of a property, or a legal liability.
Loss Adjustment Expenses
The sum insurers pay for investigating and settling insurance claims, including the cost of defending a lawsuit in court.
The portion of an insurance rate used to cover claims and the costs of adjusting claims. Insurance companies typically determine their rates by estimating their future loss costs and adding a provision for expenses, profit, and contingencies.
Loss Of Use
A provision in homeowners and renters insurance policies that reimburse policyholders for any extra living expenses due to having to live elsewhere while their home is being restored following a disaster.
Percentage of each premium dollar an insurer spends on claims.
The company’s best estimate of what it will pay for claims, which is periodically readjusted. They represent a liability on the insurer’s balance sheet.
Professional liability coverage for physicians, lawyers, and other specialists against suits alleging negligence or errors and omissions that have harmed clients.
Arrangement between an employer or insurer and selected providers to provide comprehensive health care at a discount to members of the insured group and coordinate the financing and delivery of health care. Managed care uses medical protocols and procedures agreed on by the medical profession to be cost effective, also known as medical practice guidelines.
A book published by an insurance or bonding company or a rating association or bureau that gives rates, classifications, and underwriting rules.
Coverage for goods in transit, and for the commercial vehicles that transport them, on water and over land. The term may apply to inland marine but more generally applies to ocean marine insurance. Covers damage or destruction of a ship’s hull and cargo and perils include collision, sinking, capsizing, being stranded, fire, piracy, and jettisoning cargo to save other property. Wear and tear, dampness, mold, and war are not included. (See Inland marine and Ocean marine)
Federal law signed in 1945 in which Congress declared that states would continue to regulate the insurance business. Grants insurers a limited exemption from federal antitrust legislation.
Nonbinding procedure in which a third party attempts to resolve a conflict between two other parties.
A federal/state public assistance program created in 1965 and administered by the states for people whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care.
Medical Malpractice Insurance
See Malpractice insurance
Medical Payments Insurance
A coverage in which the insurer agrees to reimburse the insured and others up to a certain limit for medical or funeral expenses as a result of bodily injury or death by accident. Payments are without regard to fault.
Medical Utilization Review
The practice used by insurance companies to review claims for medical treatment.
Federal program for people 65 or older that pays part of the costs associated with hospitalization, surgery, doctors’ bills, home health care, and skilled-nursing care.
Policies that supplement federal insurance benefits particularly for those covered under Medicare.
Mine Subsidence Coverage
An endorsement to a homeowners insurance policy, available in some states, for losses to a home caused by the land under a house sinking into a mine shaft. Excluded from standard homeowners policies, as are other forms of earth movement.
Total supply of money in the economy, composed of currency in circulation and deposits in savings and checking accounts. By changing the interest rates the Federal Reserve seeks to adjust the money supply to maintain a strong economy, and vice versa.
Mortgage Guarantee Insurance
Coverage for the mortgagee (usually a financial institution) in the event that a mortgage holder defaults on a loan. Also called private mortgage insurance (PMI).
A form of decreasing term insurance that covers the life of a person taking out a mortgage. Death benefits provide for payment of the outstanding balance of the loan. Coverage is in decreasing term insurance, so the amount of coverage decreases as the debt decreases. A variant, mortgage unemployment insurance pays the mortgage of a policyholder who becomes involuntarily unemployed. (See Term insurance)
Mortgage-Backed Securities / MBS
Investment grade securities backed by a pool of mortgages. The issuer uses the cash flow from mortgages to meet interest payments on the bonds.
Multiple Peril Policy
A package policy, such as homeowners or business insurance policy, that provides coverage against several different perils. It also refers to the combination of property and liability coverage in one policy. In the early days of insurance, coverages for property damage and liability were purchased separately.
Municipal Bond Insurance
Coverage that guarantees bondholders timely payment of interest and principal even if the issuer of the bonds defaults. Offered by insurance companies with high credit ratings, the coverage raises the credit rating of a municipality offering the bond to that of the insurance company. It allows a municipality to raise money at lower interest rates. A form of financial guarantee insurance. (See Financial guarantee insurance)
Municipal Liability Insurance
Liability insurance for municipalities.
Mutual Holding Company
An organizational structure that provides mutual companies with the organizational and capital raising advantages of stock insurers, while retaining the policyholder ownership of the mutual.
Mutual Insurance Company
A company owned by its policyholders that return part of its profits to the policyholders as dividends. The insurer uses the rest as a surplus cushion in case of large and unexpected losses.
Peril specifically mentioned as covered in an insurance policy.
National Flood Insurance Program
Federal government-sponsored program under which flood insurance is sold to homeowners and businesses. (See Adverse selection; Flood insurance)
Net Premiums Written
See Premiums written
Auto insurance coverage that pays for each driver’s own injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault varies from state to state. It also refers to an auto liability insurance system that restricts lawsuits to serious cases. Such policies are designed to promote faster reimbursement and to reduce litigation.
A type of accident coverage in homeowners policies.
The idea that people who don’t buy coverage should not receive benefits. Prohibits uninsured drivers from collecting damages from insured drivers. In most states with this law, uninsured drivers may not sue for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. In other states, uninsured drivers are required to pay the equivalent of a large deductible ($10,000) before they can sue for property damages and another large deductible before they can sue for bodily harm.
Assets that are not included on the balance sheet of an insurance company, including furniture, fixtures, past-due accounts receivable, and agents’ debt balances. (See Assets)
Insurers licensed in some states, but not others. States where an insurer is not licensed call that insurer non-admitted. They sell coverage that is unavailable from licensed insurers within the state.
Notice Of Loss
A written notice required by insurance companies immediately after an accident or other loss. Part of the standard provisions defining a policyholder’s responsibilities after a loss.
Covers operators of nuclear reactors and other facilities for liability and property damage in the case of a nuclear accident and involves both private insurers and the federal government.
Nursing Home Insurance
A form of long-term care policy that covers a policyholder’s stay in a nursing facility.
Abnormal condition or illness caused by factors associated with the workplace. Like occupational injuries, this is covered by workers compensation policies. (See Workers compensation)
Insurance that pays claims arising out of incidents that occur during the policy term, even if they are filed many years later. (See Claims-made policy)
Ocean Marine Insurance
Coverage of all types of vessels and watercraft, for property damage to the vessel and cargo, including such risks as piracy and the jettisoning of cargo to save the property of others. Coverage for marine-related liabilities. War is excluded from basic policies but can be bought back.
Open Competition States
States where insurance companies can set new rates without prior approval, although the state’s commissioner can disallow them if they are not reasonable and adequate or are discriminatory.
The cost of maintaining a business’s property, includes insurance, property taxes, utilities, and rent, but excludes income tax, depreciation, and other financing expenses.
Contracts that allow, but do not oblige, the buying or selling of property or assets at a certain date at a set price.
Ordinance or Law Coverage
Endorsement to a property policy, including homeowners, that pays for the extra expense of rebuilding to comply with ordinances or laws, often building codes, that did not exist when the building was originally built. For example, a building severely damaged in a hurricane may have to be elevated above the flood line when it is rebuilt. This endorsement would cover part of the additional cost.
Ordinary Life Insurance
A life insurance policy that remains in force for the policyholder’s lifetime. It contrasts with term insurance, which only lasts for a specified number of years but is renewable. (See Term insurance)
Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts / OEM
Sheet metal auto parts made by the manufacturer of the vehicle. (See Generic auto parts)
OSHA / Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970. OSHA's mission is to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance".
Over-The-Counter / OTC
Security that is not listed or traded on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange. Business in over-the-counter securities is conducted through dealers using electronic networks.
A single insurance policy that combines several coverages previously sold separately. Examples include homeowners insurance and commercial multiple peril insurance.
A system proposed in the 1990s in which auto insurance premiums would be paid to state governments through a per-gallon surcharge on gasoline.
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
An independent federal government agency that administers the Pension Plan Termination Insurance program to ensure that vested benefits of employees whose pension plans are being terminated are paid when they come due. Only defined benefit plans are covered. Benefits are paid up to certain limits.
Programs to provide employees with retirement income after they meet minimum age and service requirements. Life insurers hold some of these funds. Since the 1970s responsibility for funding retirement has increasingly shifted from employers (defined benefit plans that promise workers a specific retirement income) to employees (defined contribution plans financed by employees that may or may not be matched by employer contributions). (See Defined benefit plan; Defined contribution plan)
A specific risk or cause of loss covered by an insurance policy, such as a fire, windstorm, flood, or theft. A named peril policy covers the policyholder only for the risks named in the policy in contrast to an all-risk policy, which covers all causes of loss except those specifically excluded.
Personal Articles Floater
A policy or an addition to a policy used to cover personal valuables, like jewelry or furs.
Personal Injury Protection Coverage / PIP
Portion of an auto insurance policy that covers the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car.
Property/casualty insurance products that are designed for and bought by individuals, including homeowners and automobile policies. (See Commercial lines)
Health insurance policy that allows the employee to choose between in-network and out-of-network care each time medical treatment is needed.
A written contract for insurance between an insurance company and policyholder stating details of coverage.
The amount of money remaining after an insurer’s liabilities are subtracted from its assets. It acts as a financial cushion above and beyond reserves, protecting policyholders against an unexpected or catastrophic situation.
Political Risk Insurance
Coverage for businesses operating abroad against loss due to political upheavals such as war, revolution, or confiscation of property.
Policies that cover property loss and liability arising from pollution-related damages, for sites that have been inspected and found uncontaminated. It is usually written on a claims-made basis so policies pay only claims presented during the term of the policy or within a specified time frame after the policy expires. (See Claims-made policy)
See Insurance pool
Preferred Provider Organization
Network of medical providers which charge on a fee-for-service basis, but are paid on a negotiated, discounted fee schedule.
The particular location of the property or a portion of it as designated in an insurance policy.
The price of an insurance policy, typically charged annually or semiannually. (See Direct premiums; Earned premium; Unearned premium)
A state tax on premiums paid by its residents and businesses and collected by insurers.
Premiums In Force
The sum of the face amounts, plus dividend additions, of life insurance policies outstanding at a given time.
The total premiums on all policies written by an insurer during a specified period of time, regardless of what portions have been earned. Net premiums written are premiums written after reinsurance transactions.
In a reinsurance transaction, the insurance company that is reinsured.
Market for new issue securities where the proceeds go directly to the issuer.
Interest rate that banks charge to their most creditworthy customers. Banks set this rate according to their cost of funds and market forces.
Prior Approval States
States where insurance companies must file proposed rate changes with state regulators, and gain approval before they can go into effect.
Private Mortgage Insurance
See Mortgage guarantee insurance
Securities that are not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are sold directly to investors.
A section of tort law that determines who may sue and who may be sued for damages when a defective product injures someone. No uniform federal laws guide manufacturer’s liability, but under strict liability, the injured party can hold the manufacturer responsible for damages without the need to prove negligence or fault.
Product Liability Insurance
Protects manufacturers’ and distributors’ exposure to lawsuits by people who have sustained bodily injury or property damage through the use of the product.
Professional Liability Insurance
Covers professionals for negligence and errors or omissions that injure their clients.
Property / Casualty Insurance
Covers damage to or loss of policyholders’ property and legal liability for damages caused to other people or their property. Property/casualty insurance, which includes auto, homeowners, and commercial insurance, is one segment of the insurance industry. The other sector is life/health. Outside the United States, property/casualty insurance is referred to as nonlife or general insurance.
Property / Casualty Insurance Cycle
Industry business cycle with recurrent periods of hard and soft market conditions. In the 1950s and 1960s, cycles were regular with three year periods each of hard and soft market conditions in almost all lines of property/casualty insurance. Since then they have been less regular and less frequent.
A November 1988 California ballot initiative that called for a statewide auto insurance rate rollback and for rates to be based more on driving records and less on geographical location. The initiative changed many aspects of the state’s insurance system and was the subject of lawsuits for more than a decade.
An entity that offers insurance to groups of similar businesses with similar exposures to risk.
The cost of a unit of insurance, usually per $1,000. Rates are based on historical loss experience for similar risks and may be regulated by state insurance offices.
The process by which states monitor insurance companies’ rate changes, done either through prior approval or open competition models. (See Open competition states; Prior approval states )
Six major credit agencies determine insurers’ financial strength and viability to meet claims obligations. They are A.M. Best Co.; Duff & Phelps Inc.; Fitch, Inc.; Moody’s Investors Services; Standard & Poor’s Corp.; and Weiss Ratings, Inc. Factors considered include company earnings, capital adequacy, operating leverage, liquidity, investment performance, reinsurance programs, and management ability, integrity and experience. A high financial rating is not the same as a high consumer satisfaction rating.
The insurance business is based on the spread of risk. The more widely risk is spread, the more accurately loss can be estimated. An insurance company can more accurately estimate the probability of loss on 100,000 homes than on ten. Years ago, insurers were required to use standardized forms and rates developed by rating agencies. Today, large insurers use their own statistical loss data to develop rates. But small insurers, or insurers focusing on special lines of business, with insufficiently broad loss data to make them actuarially reliable depend on pooled industry data collected by such organizations as the Insurance Services Office (ISO) which provides information to help develop rates such as estimates of future losses and loss adjustment expenses like legal defense costs.
Real Estate Investments
Investments generally owned by life insurers that include commercial mortgage loans and real property.
Amounts owed to a business for goods or services provided.
Literally means to draw a red line on a map around areas to receive special treatment. Refusal to issue insurance based solely on where applicants live is illegal in all states. Denial of insurance must be risk-based.
Insurance bought by insurers. A reinsurer assumes part of the risk and part of the premium originally taken by the insurer, known as the primary company. Reinsurance effectively increases an insurer’s capital and therefore its capacity to sell more coverage. The business is global and some of the largest reinsurers are based abroad. Reinsurers have their own reinsurers, called retrocessionaires. Reinsurers don’t pay policyholder claims. Instead, they reimburse insurers for claims paid. (See Treaty reinsurance; Facultative reinsurance)
A form of insurance that covers a policyholder’s belongings against perils such as fire, theft, windstorm, hail, explosion, vandalism, riots, and others. It also provides personal liability coverage for damage the policyholder or dependents cause to third parties. It also provides additional living expenses, known as loss-of-use coverage, if a policyholder must move while his or her dwelling is repaired. It also can include coverage for property improvements. Possessions can be covered for their replacement cost or the actual cash value that includes depreciation.
Insurance that pays the dollar amount needed to replace damaged personal property or dwelling property without deducting for depreciation but limited by the maximum dollar amount shown on the declarations page of the policy.
Repurchase Agreement / Repo
Agreement between a buyer and seller where the seller agrees to repurchase the securities at an agreed upon time and price. Repurchase agreements involving U.S. government securities are utilized by the Federal Reserve to control the money supply.
A company’s best estimate of what it will pay for claims.
Facilities, such as assigned risk plans and FAIR Plans, that exist to provide coverage for those who cannot get it in the regular market. Insurers doing business in a given state generally must participate in these pools. For this reason, the residual market is also known as the shared market.
The amount of risk retained by an insurance company that is not reinsured.
The reinsurance bought by reinsurers to protect their financial stability.
A method of permitting the final premium for a risk to be adjusted, subject to an agreed-upon maximum and minimum limit based on actual loss experience. It is available to large commercial insurance buyers.
Return On Equity / ROE
Net income divided by total equity. Measures profitability by showing how efficiently invested capital is being used.
An attachment to an insurance policy that alters the policy’s coverage or terms.
The chance of loss or the person or entity that is insured.
Management of the varied risks to which a business firm or association might be subject. It includes analyzing all exposures to gauge the likelihood of loss and choosing options to better manage or minimize loss. These options typically include reducing and eliminating the risk with safety measures, buying insurance, and self-insurance.
Risk Retention Groups
Insurance companies that band together as self-insurers and form an organization that is chartered and licensed as an insurer in at least one state to handle liability insurance.
The need for insurance companies to be capitalized according to the inherent riskiness of the type of insurance they sell. Higher-risk types of insurance, liability as opposed to property business, generally necessitate higher levels of capital.
Damaged property an insurer takes over to reduce its loss after paying a claim. Insurers receive salvage rights over the property on which they have paid claims, such as badly-damaged cars. Insurers that paid claims on cargoes lost at sea now have the right to recover sunken treasures. Salvage charges are the costs associated with recovering that property.
A list of individual items or groups of items that are covered under one policy or a listing of specific benefits, charges, credits, assets or other defined items.
Market for previously issued and outstanding securities.
Securities And Exchange Commission / SEC
The organization that oversees publicly-held insurance companies. Those companies make periodic financial disclosures to the SEC, including an annual financial statement (or 10K), and a quarterly financial statement (or 10-Q). Companies must also disclose any material events and other information about their stock.
Stock held by shareholders.
Securitization Of Insurance Risk
Using the capital markets to expand and diversify the assumption of insurance risk. The issuance of bonds or notes to third-party investors directly or indirectly by an insurance or reinsurance company or a pooling entity as a means of raising money to cover risks. (See Catastrophe bonds)
The concept of assuming a financial risk oneself, instead of paying an insurance company to take it on. Every policyholder is a self-insurer in terms of paying a deductible and co-payments. Large firms often self-insure frequent, small losses such as damage to their fleet of vehicles or minor workplace injuries. However, to protect injured employees state laws set out requirements for the assumption of workers compensation programs. Self-insurance also refers to employers who assume all or part of the responsibility for paying the health insurance claims of their employees. Firms that self insure for health claims are exempt from state insurance laws mandating the illnesses that group health insurers must cover.
Size of a loss. One of the criteria used in calculating premiums rates.
Sewer Back-Up Coverage
An optional part of homeowners insurance that covers sewers.
See Residual market
An environment where insurance is plentiful and sold at a lower cost, also known as a buyers’ market. (See Property/casualty insurance cycle)
Insurance companies’ ability to pay the claims of policyholders. Regulations to promote solvency include minimum capital and surplus requirements, statutory accounting conventions, limits to insurance company investment and corporate activities, financial ratio tests, and financial data disclosure.
Spread Of Risk
The selling of insurance in multiple areas to multiple policyholders to minimize the danger that all policyholders will have losses at the same time. Companies are more likely to insure perils that offer a good spread of risk. Flood insurance is an example of a poor spread of risk because the people most likely to buy it are the people close to rivers and other bodies of water that flood. (See Adverse selection)
Practice that increases the money available to pay auto liability claims. In states where this practice is permitted by law, courts may allow policyholders who have several cars insured under a single policy, or multiple vehicles insured under different policies, to add up the limit of liability available for each vehicle.
Statutory Accounting Principles / SAP
More conservative standards than under GAAP accounting rules, they are imposed by state laws that emphasize the present solvency of insurance companies. SAP helps ensure that the company will have sufficient funds readily available to meet all anticipated insurance obligations by recognizing liabilities earlier or at a higher value than GAAP and assets later or at a lower value. For example, SAP requires that selling expenses be recorded immediately rather than amortized over the life of the policy. (See GAAP accounting; Admitted assets)
Stock Insurance Company
An insurance company owned by its stockholders who share in profits through earnings distributions and increases in stock value.
Legal agreement to pay a designated person, usually someone who has been injured, a specified sum of money in periodic payments, usually for his or her lifetime, instead of in a single lump sum payment. (See Annuity)
The legal process by which an insurance company, after paying a loss, seeks to recover the amount of the loss from another party who is legally liable for it.
A federal law enacted in 1980 to initiate cleanup of the nation’s abandoned hazardous waste dump sites and to respond to accidents that release hazardous substances into the environment. The law is officially called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
A contract guaranteeing the performance of a specific obligation. Simply put, it is a three-party agreement under which one party, the surety company, answers to a second party, the owner, creditor or “obligee,” for a third party’s debts, default or nonperformance. Contractors are often required to purchase surety bonds if they are working on public projects. The surety company becomes responsible for carrying out the work or paying for the loss up to the bond “penalty” if the contractor fails to perform.
The remainder after an insurer’s liabilities is subtracted from its assets. The financial cushion that protects policyholders in case of unexpectedly high claims. (See Capital; Risk-based capital)
Property/casualty insurance coverage that isn’t available from insurers licensed in the state, called admitted companies, and must be purchased from a non-admitted carrier. Examples include risks of an unusual nature that require greater flexibility in policy terms and conditions than exist in standard forms or where the highest rates allowed by state regulators are considered inadequate by admitted companies. Laws governing surplus lines vary by state.
The simultaneous buying, selling or exchange of one security for another among investors to change maturities in a bond portfolio, for example, or because investment goals have changed.
A form of life insurance that covers the insured person for a certain period of time, the “term” that is specified in the policy. It pays a benefit to a designated beneficiary only when the insured dies within that specified period which can be one, five, 10 or even 20 years. Term life policies are renewable but premiums increase with age.
A method of classifying risks by geographic location to set a fair price for coverage. The location of the insured may have a considerable impact on the cost of losses. The chance of an accident or theft is much higher in an urban area than in a rural one, for example.
Included as a part of the package in standard commercial insurance policies before September 11, 2001 virtually free of charge. Since September 11, terrorism coverage prices have increased substantially to reflect the current risk.
Outside group that performs clerical functions for an insurance company.
Liability coverage purchased by the policyholder as a protection against possible lawsuits filed by a third party. The insured and the insurer are the first and second parties to the insurance contract. (See First-party coverage)
Funds that are held in savings account for a predetermined period of time at a set interest rate. Banks can refuse to allow withdrawals from these accounts until the period has expired or assess a penalty for early withdrawals.
Insurance that indemnifies the owner of real estate in the event that his or her clear ownership of property is challenged by the discovery of faults in the title.
A legal term denoting a wrongful act resulting in injury or damage on which a civil court action, or legal proceeding, may be based.
The body of law governing negligence, intentional interference, and other wrongful acts for which civil action can be brought, except for breach of contract, which is covered by contract law.
Refers to legislation designed to reduce liability costs through limits on various kinds of damages and through modification of liability rules.
The condition of an automobile or other property when damage is so extensive that repair costs would exceed the value of the vehicle or property.
A term used to explain the way information on financial matters, such as financial reports and actions of companies or markets, are communicated so that they are easily understood and frank.
Interest-bearing obligations of the U.S. government issued by the Treasury as a means of borrowing money to meet government expenditures not covered by tax revenues. Marketable Treasury securities fall into three categories – bills, notes, and bonds. Marketable Treasury obligations are currently issued in book-entry form only; that is, the purchaser receives a statement, rather than an engraved certificate.
A standing agreement between insurers and reinsurers. Under a treaty, each party automatically accepts specific percentages of the insurer’s business.
Coverage for losses above the limit of an underlying policy or policies such as homeowners and auto insurance. While it applies to losses over the dollar amount in the underlying policies, terms of coverage are sometimes broader than those of underlying policies.
The result of the policyholder’s failure to buy sufficient insurance. An underinsured policyholder may only receive part of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items covered in the policy.
Examining, accepting, or rejecting insurance risks and classifying the ones that are accepted, in order to charge appropriate premiums for them.
The insurer’s profit on the insurance sale after all expenses and losses have been paid. When premiums aren’t sufficient to cover claims and expenses, the result is an underwriting loss. Underwriting losses are typically offset by investment income.
The portion of a premium already received by the insurer under which protection has not yet been provided. The entire premium is not earned until the policy period expires, even though premiums are typically paid in advance.
Risks for which it is difficult for someone to get insurance. (See Insurable risk)
Uninsured Motorists Coverage
Portion of an auto insurance policy that protects a policyholder from uninsured and hit-and-run drivers.
Universal Life Insurance
A flexible premium policy that combines protection against premature death with a type of savings vehicle, known as a cash value account, that typically earns a money market rate of interest. Death benefits can be changed during the life of the policy within limits, generally subject to a medical examination. Once funds accumulate in the cash value account, the premium can be paid at any time but the policy will lapse if there isn’t enough money to cover annual mortality charges and administrative costs.
See Medical utilization review
A policy under which the insurer pays a specified amount of money to or on behalf of the insured upon the occurrence of a defined loss. The money amount is not related to the extent of the loss. Life insurance policies are an example.
The malicious and often random destruction or spoilage of another person’s property.
Variable Life Insurance
A policy that combines protection against premature death with a savings account that can be invested in stocks, bonds, and money market mutual funds at the policyholder’s discretion.
Viatical Settlement Companies
Insurance firms that buy life insurance policies at a steep discount from policyholders who are often terminally ill and need the payment for medications or treatments. The companies provide early payouts to the policyholder, assume the premium payments, and collect the face value of the policy upon the policyholder’s death.
A policy contract that for some reason specified in the policy becomes free of all legal effect. One example under which a policy could be voided is when information a policyholder provided is proven untrue.
A measure of the degree of fluctuation in a stock’s price. Volatility is exemplified by large, frequent price swings up and down.
Most homeowners policies cover damage from a volcanic eruption.
Number of shares a stock trades either per day or per week.
The surrender of a right or privilege. In life insurance, a provision that sets certain conditions, such as disablement, which allow coverage to remain in force without payment of premiums.
Special coverage on cargo in overseas ships against the risk of being confiscated by a government in wartime. It is excluded from standard ocean marine insurance and can be purchased separately. It often excludes cargo awaiting shipment on a wharf or on ships after 15 days of arrival in port.
Water-Damage Insurance Coverage
Protection provided in most homeowners insurance policies against sudden and accidental water damage, from burst pipes for example. Does not cover damage from problems resulting from a lack of proper maintenance such as dripping air conditioners. Water damage from floods is covered under separate flood insurance policies issued by the federal government.
An insurance or securities product used as a hedge by energy-related businesses and others whose sales tend to fluctuate depending on the weather.
A type of business interruption insurance that compensates for financial losses caused by adverse weather conditions, such as constant rain on the day scheduled for a major outdoor concert.
Whole Life Insurance
The oldest kind of cash value life insurance that combines protection against premature death with a savings account. Premiums are fixed and guaranteed and remain level throughout the policy’s lifetime.
Insurance that pays for medical care and physical rehabilitation of injured workers and helps to replace lost wages while they are unable to work. State laws, which vary significantly, govern the amount of benefits paid and other compensation provisions.
Broad policy coordinated to cover liability exposures for a large group of businesses that have something in common. Might be used to insure all businesses working on a large construction project, such as an apartment complex.
To insure, underwrite, or accept an application for insurance.
See Premiums written
An employer-sponsored retirement savings plan funded by employee contributions, which may or may not be matched by the employer. Federal laws allow employees to invest pre-tax dollars, up to a stated maximum each year.
529 Savings Plans
State-administered plans designed to encourage households to save for college education. Named after a part of the Internal Revenue tax code, these saving plans allow earnings to accumulate free of federal income tax and sometimes to be withdrawn to pay for college costs tax-free. There are two types of plans: savings and prepaid tuition. Plan assets are managed either by the state’s treasurer or an outside investment company. Most offer a range of investment options.